It Starts with Allowing Yourself To Be Influenced
Several years ago a group of scientists invited me to speak to their support staff at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, Panama. I was given the topic of how to have influence with your children. As part of my presentation I shared an interesting finding by Dr. John Gottman in his research on successful marriages. He essentially discovered that happy marriages are made up of spouses who allow themselves to be influenced by each other. Dr. Gottman noted that for the most part, women already do this; they tend to naturally allow themselves to be influenced by their husbands.
However, men are a different story. I then encouraged all of the men in the audience to consider allowing themselves to be more open to influence by their wives. What happened next stunned me. Immediately after saying this, all of the women in the audience erupted into cheers and gave me a standing ovation! When my presentation was over I was almost hugged and high-fived to death. Allowing yourself to be influenced by your spouse is the first point I want to emphasize; especially as it pertains to resolving parenting conflicts.
This means being open enough to consider their thoughts and ideas on parenting, even if you strongly disagree. This plea for openness and allowing your spouse to influence you is particularly made with men in mind because, as I just noted, we men do not do this very well.
Please note: I am not talking about abuse – if your spouse is physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive to your children, then you must at all costs protect them.
But, She’ll Go Hungry!
Now, for a real life example. When my oldest daughter was in the first grade, the cool thing was to bring a homemade lunch to school. I totally cannot relate to this because when I was a kid, you were considered a dork if you showed up with a brown paper bag, which I did daily. But I digress. Jessica was very excited about making and bringing her lunch to school, and carefully prepared her lunch the night before.
She put the various food items in a brand new lunchbox and placed it in the refrigerator for the following day. The next morning she got up, had breakfast, and took off for school. Unbeknownst to Valerie or me, she left her lunch in the fridge. Just before noon that day, I received a phone call from Jessica at school. Our conversation went something like this:
Jessica: Hi Dad! Please bring me my lunch, I left it at home. Hurry, I’m hungry!
Me: Ok. See you soon honey!
Five minutes later, all was well. Later that night, the routine was repeated: lunch made, carefully placed in the fridge, anticipation set. Unfortunately, the next morning was similar as well, with a nice lunch sitting in the fridge long after she left for school. The only difference; later that morning Mom answered the phone instead of Dad. Valerie and Jessica had a similar conversation that I had the day before. With one exception. That conversation went something like this:
Jessica: Hi Mom! I forgot my lunch at home, and I’m starving. Can you please bring it to me?
Mom: I’m so sorry honey, we are not going to bring your lunch to you every time you forget it. It looks like you’ll be going without lunch today, and I hope you remember to bring it tomorrow.
Jessica: Can I talk to dad for a sec?