There are many clichés about the power of working together. “Many hands make light work,” “Alone we can do little; together we can do so much.” Though it is perhaps an overused expression that we are strong when we work together, the saying is true.

I’ve recently thought a lot about the importance of working together. It’s important that we do so, especially in a time of stress and chaos. By pulling together we get more work done. We aren’t alone. While we must not always agree, we must be willing to develop a plan for the common good and the common goal. Are you still not sure about the power and benefit of working together? Then simply consider the power of horses.

Horses fascinate me. They are graceful, beautiful, and incredibly strong animals. I recently read that one work horse can pull at least their own weight. Two horses working together can pull at least three times and as much as four times their weight if trained. I’ve also read accounts of two draft horses pulling 24,000 pounds. Imagine that … 24,000 pounds!

This pulling together is especially important in the parenting relationship — whether that relationship be between individuals partnered in raising children together, in marriage relationships, or between single parents and their extended families/friends. Families are varied in their appearance and all are incredibly valuable in the lives of children. Regardless of what your family looks like, these three tips can help you create a stronger team — one that can pull the 24,000-pound load of parenting.

Respect each other. ♦ Oxford defines respect as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements; due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others.” More than just behaving in a civil fashion with one another, it is something deeper. Pay attention to that definition — “deep admiration,” “due regard for feelings,” “due regard for traditions.” Respect — real respect — means we should take a moment to consider the feelings, hopes, dreams, fears and backgrounds of others. It means understanding … and honoring the strengths and the weaknesses. It involves a fair bit of empathy and relationship to truly respect another person because sometimes their strengths or weaknesses can push against us … and bring what I like to call “growth opportunities.” But respect is paramount to being able to work together as parents and caregivers. It is only by respecting one another that we can truly pull together … even if we have slightly different ways of achieving the work.

Have a plan. ♦ We have strategic plans in businesses, game plans in footballs, and house plans for structures. It is important that we have parenting plans as well … strategies and agreements about “where” it is we are heading. This can be a difficult thing in parenting. You see, we each have our own individual ideas about what we are wanting and it is quite easy to find fault in the techniques and tools of our partners. We can develop effective ways of parenting together when we have times we regularly touch base with one another about events, schedules, potential potholes, etc. It’s empowering to talk about the problem of the week and brainstorm ways to address it — together. By developing strategy and roles, we understand what each partner in the team will be doing — perhaps one person will have a difficult conversation alone with the child and the other person agrees to monitor behaviors. Perhaps one person does all the carting around this week and someone else helps out next week. By assigning roles and responsibilities, we save our energies … and avoid overwhelming the children with multiple corrections, multiple instructions and multiple expectations. If it’s a complicated problem, it can help to write down the strategy and plan, and to remember that this is a living plan that can be changed as the situation changes.

Have fun together.♦ We should be mindful of our tendency as humans to talk only about the problems instead of celebrating some of the successes. Life can be stressful and let’s face it, parenting is hard. There is ALWAYS some new challenge or issue that must be addressed. We can focus on the problems instead of the successes. Take time to celebrate the successes. And while I’m on the topic, be careful about timing of bringing up challenges. I’m sure more than one of us have come in from work before only to have our parenting partner run down the list of all that must be done and all that is wrong. It’s a habit we get in because we ourselves are stressed, and in that moment we are leaning on our partner for support. But this can be energy draining.

It’s important to remember to point out the success, the “what-went-rights,” and enjoy our successes in the day, too.

Take care of each other.♦ It’s important to take care of each other and recognize our partners need a break. Sometimes our partner will notice and sometimes we have to ask for the break. Uplift and support one another and be flexible.

Pulling together, we can pull this 24,000-pound load of parenting. Working together, we can make these children … and our families … strong.

Tina Bartleson is the executive director of the Exchange Club Family Resource Center, which provides in-home parent education and mentoring to families with children 0-12 years. She has 29 years experience working with families and may be contacted through www.exchangeclubfrc.org.

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