Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Husband's Parenting Baffles Spouse

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I disagree on a lot of points regarding parenting. I am actually surprised by some of his views, but I get it -- two people don't necessarily believe all the same things. My issue is that he makes his declarations about how things are going to be in front of our kids without any discussion with me. So, for example, if I am feeding my kids something and he just read that this particular food is not the best, he will reprimand them for eating it as I am serving it. I'm not talking about anything horrible. My husband is into holistic things, and as he learns something he wants to apply it immediately. I have asked him to talk to me about it first, but he never does. What can I do to get him to co-parent with me rather than create a scene on a regular basis? -- Frustrated, Denver

DEAR FRUSTRATED: There's nothing wrong with learning new information and wanting to apply that knowledge to your life. How you do it seems to be what's in question.

When you and your husband are not in the midst of a disagreement, ask him if you can chat. Tell him that you respect his hunger for knowledge about healthy living and eating and that you are interested in what he is discovering. Then, make it clear that you believe it is important to the health of your family that the two of you, the adults, discuss his ideas and agree on a plan of action before anything is conveyed to the children. Tell him that otherwise your children will be receiving conflicting messages on a regular basis and their trust in each of you will erode along with their understanding and clarity on what is best for their lives. Tell him you know he wants the best for them. Suggest that this includes the best way for the two of you to work together. Being a united front is far more effective than spontaneous, inflammatory course corrections.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A boy in my son's class just got a new iPhone. He is in third grade! My son came home jockeying for one for himself. He figured that if his friend could have one, so should he. It is so difficult to teach my child about what's age-appropriate when his peers seem to get whatever they want, whenever they want it. How do I manage his expectations? -- At a Loss, Washington, D.C.

DEAR AT A LOSS: Your job is to teach your child your family's values. You have to be careful not to place a judgment on other families and their choices, but feel free to tell your son that you do not think it is wise to give a child that young such a fragile electronic. Also, explain your policy on phones at his age, whatever that is.

Know that throughout your son's life, especially while he is young, you will be setting his vision for how to live. This will constantly include helping him accept that not everyone makes the same choices, and that is fine. He needs to find comfort in the decisions that your family makes.