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Parenting 101: OK to disagree, but not in front of kids, advises expert

By Georgia Rogers

Nov 18, 2006

Articles on success in marriage often stress the importance of communication, teamwork and caring about a loved one as much as you care about yourself. Those same factors, it seems, are critical in the parenting process.

The advice comes from certified parenting expert Barb Grady, whose workshop, “Mom’s Way, Dad’s Way? What to Do When You Disagree,” provided practical tips to help parents work together as partners.

“As a mother and father, remember that you’re on the same team.  Support one another,” Grady advised. “It’s OK to parent differently, but disagreeing in front of children can promote manipulation and guilt.”

“When you disagree about how to handle a situation, the disagreeing parent should say nothing at the time and talk with his/her spouse later. Call a ‘time out’, leave quietly and let the other parent deal with the child,” she said. 

“That way, the child is getting a ‘yes’ from both parents. Kids need to see that you support and respect one other.”

East Valley Positive Parenting sponsored the discussion at Desert Cross Lutheran Church in south Tempe.

Established in 1980, the group is an educational organization for stay-at-home parents, families new to the area and people interested in honing their parenting skills. It offers classes, workshops and seminars, along with social events and organized playgroups that allow children and parents to get to know each other and form lasting relationships.

One of the best ways to prevent parenting disagreements from happening in the first place is for dads and moms to discuss how they were raised and what they liked or disliked about their own parents’ handling of different situations, Grady noted. 

Developing basic parenting plans and family goals is not much different than the kind of goal-setting that occurs in the workplace.

“This is all about the values that you as parents want to instill in your children,” Grady pointed out to the couples attending the workshop.

“That requires real listening and communication. Set attainable, realistic goals like family days or other times when everyone can be together.  Scheduling ‘date nights’ as a couple is very important so you have uninterrupted time to talk together.”

Grady also discussed something called the gatekeeper concept, where the parent who spends the most time with the baby or child develops a “do it my way” attitude toward caregiving by the other parent.

“When a mom feels compelled, for instance, to instruct the dad on how to pack the diaper bag every time she goes out by herself for a few hours, that’s gate keeping,” Grady said. 

“It creates a sense of assumed disability in the other parent, which can cause frustration and fear.”

Acknowledging what each parent is doing right and showing frequent appreciation for each other’s parenting abilities is a more positive, constructive approach, she said. 

Communicating what each one needs in terms of parenting support is another vital element.

Above all else, convey an “attitude of gratitude” to each other as parents and people, Grady suggested. 

That will better prepare today’s children for their future roles as parents.

In addition to being a regular EVPP instructor, Grady works as a counselor at Gateway Community College and owns Tempe-based Parenting Plus, which offers individual and group counseling services for adults and children.

A former teacher, Grady also has extensive experience as a school counselor and has been a parent for more than 20 years.

To learn more about EVPP, visit its Web site at or contact Dawn Crouse at

(602) 769-9207. 

For more information on Parenting Plus, go to or contact Grady at (480) 829-9383 or



Photo by David Stone


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