This article first appeared in the October 2004 issue of Smart Parenting magazine
Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, our reigning champion, weighing 115 pounds, wearing a cute pink tank top with floral embroidery —- Chiara’s* mom! And in this corner, the challenger, in smart khaki pants paired with a button-down top with rolled up sleeves and leather Italian shoes, weighing in at 180 pounds —- Chiara’s dad!
Although they have never resorted to fisticuffs, Allen and Cara Magpayo* admit that their arguments have indeed reached alarming proportions. The usual topics? “Things like where we will send our three-year-old to school,” Allen volunteers.
“Actually, my question was if she was ready to go to school in the first place,” Cara points out. “I felt that three was definitely too young. She should still stay home, play and watch cartoons. I did not want to pressure her to learn.”
But Allen reasoned that he himself was three when he was enrolled in a Montessori class. “And look at how I turned out!” he smiles.
“Yeah, arrogant and hardheaded,” retorts Cara. There are also smaller things to debate about, like Cara will not allow her child to just play in the streets in their subdivision, while Allen encourages the yaya to bring her outside.
Allen accuses Cara of coddling Chiara, but Cara says that she merely has her daughter’s best interest at heart. Their verbal sparring is sometimes witnessed by their now five-year-old child, who readily takes Cara’s side.
How to fight fair If marriage is supposed to be a partnership, and partnerships are supposed to be give-and-take relationships, then why is it that making decisions and reaching compromises seems just as exhausting as a 10-round bout in the ring?
Arguments are definitely part of married life, and important decisions certainly warrant serious discussions between husband and wife. But outright clashes on parenting issues might put a big dent in an otherwise harmonious relationship, and according to our experts, affect your relationship with your kids as well. Before things get out of hand and your arguments reach proportions worthy of a pay-per-view feature on a major cable sports channel, read on and pick up a few expert tips on how to fight fair and reach heavyweight decisions easily.
1. Remember that everyone is unique. “It is but natural that our preferences will come out, even in parenting,” explains Annie Faustino, a pastoral worker at the Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation. “A married couple is composed of two different persons with their own personalities and family backgrounds, so naturally, mayroong mga differences in opinion,” she adds.
2. Put up a united front. There are times when we disagree, says Annie’s husband, Gary, “but we never openly disagree with each other in front of the children.” For one thing, it’s a sign of disunity. “If I don’t agree for my daughter to go to a party and Annie agrees, she would be seen as the hero, and I would be the villain,” says Gary, a counselor at Couples for Christ. “We have to work well together.”
3. Hold a powwow. It is important to have a war room, says Annie. “If ever we disagree on something, we’d discuss it, but not in front of the children. ’Yung kaming dalawa lang. Tapos ’pag nag-agree na kami, then we talk to the children about the decision.”
This show of unity has a positive impact on the kids, she adds. “What the children see is that we are united in our decision. Kasi kung hindi, it will be taken against us, maybe not directly or openly, but they will see a weakness. And as authority figures, we don’t want that to happen.”
4. Back your partner up. “There are issues that Annie might feel very strongly about, such as the boys cleaning their room,” says Gary. Although it is a non-issue for him, because he feels that boys will be boys, it is an issue for her. “So, of course, I will support her kapag nagalit siya kasi masyadong magulo ’yung room. But then, it is either I soften her position or I talk to the boys in a way that they understand where she is coming from.”
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Know the stats Before entering the ring, a seasoned fighter does his research on his opponent. Similarly, it helps a lot to know where your partner is coming from, to reach a compromise.
Apparently, Cara’s mom was very hands-on in rearing her children, while his own mother was a full-time working woman. “We became independent at an early age, because we had to be,” says Allen.
Cara agrees: “Allen was the type na naiiwan lang sa yaya o sa kapitbahay, and he became a survivor. I think that that is what he wants our child to be like. I will take that into consideration, of course, but I simply cannot imagine leaving my daughter with the neighbors while I am working!” Their settlement: to get a trusted yaya, and to enroll their daughter in a playschool, not a formal academic institution.
The Faustinos, who have five children, also came from different backgrounds. Gary’s father was a military man, but he confides that he is more lenient with the kids. “When I was growing up, I had to do work around the house. I learned how to mix cement, do a little carpentry, do electrical work. I would even go into those dark canals. With my kids, it is their option whether to help or not. Sometimes I ask them, pero kung ayaw nila, hindi ko pinipilit. If I ask them to wash the car, I give them an incentive, like 10 bucks each.”
Annie’s family of origin is more the soft-spoken type. But Gary thinks that the reason why she is the stricter one is because of her family’s high standards. “My parents were very trusting,” Annie recalls. “I took it upon myself not to break that trust. And now, I feel that ganu’n din ang gusto kong mangyari with my kids.”
Win-win decisions For a couple to disagree is not uncommon. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but the Faustinos point out that instead of bickering over an issue, the couple can simply agree to disagree.
“What is important is not really the avoidance of disagreements, but being able to process them, and come up with a solution. That is a healthy relationship,” says Gary.
He cautions though that if couples are not able to handle it, then the marriage is going somewhere “and it isn’t toward happiness.” Adds Annie: “In our case, he gets to keep his opinion. I hold on to my opinion, so walang puwersahan.”
And if only one party makes all the decisions? “That is not healthy either,” Annie says. That is because the other person is not able to express his opinions.
When to get help Third-party intervention should come in only when it is really needed, says Gary and Annie Faustino, who both work for the Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation. Often, it is best that the couple should try to resolve their differences between themselves first, they say. “But there are times when a counselor has to step in,” Gary says. These are:
- There is a breakdown in communication. CLASSIC LINE: “I can no longer talk to you as an adult!” Gary explains, in this situation, “either one flares up or one simply shuts down and refuses to talk.”
- You push your preference. CLASSIC LINE: “I don’t care what you think!” Sometimes there comes a point when you cannot agree to disagree. “He has one point of view, she has another. If you cannot see the other’s point and you would like to insist on your preference, then that is another case for counseling,” says Annie. Unless the partner can swing the communication in a way that the other person will be open, then you might need a third party also.