This usually comes up in the context of teaching about gospel topic such as the law of chastity, modesty, priesthood, leadership, authority, obedience, one true church, history (really I could go on and on). I have also seen it arise over whether one spouse wants a child to participate at all in church activities or in a youth program.
Full confession, this happens a lot in our house.
My husband has difference political, social, and religious views than me so we get to have this come up in many fronts.
I realized recently that one thing that tends to get me acting defensive, attacking or even just feeling annoyed is when I think my husband is confusing the kids. Which is the same as saying – I don’t like how he is teaching them or what he is teaching them. When I think this I jump in right then and there and counter what ever he is saying. It’s not helpful (at all).
When I find myself in that space where I wish he would just shut up or I am tempted to start pontificating – here is what I do instead.
I have to have a little conversation with myself that goes something like this.
You are annoyed because you think he is going to confuse the kids. You think they are going to one day disagree with your choice to step away from church. You think that they will walk the same path of frustration and conforming you did and unnecessarily. Or maybe you are afraid you might be wrong here and they will be confused or make choices that may be challenging for them and you.
Take a deep breath. He is their father and gets to teach his kids what ever he wants. I get to teach them what ever I want too. But right now it’s his teaching/interacting time and not mine. I have plenty of opportunities to interact and share my ideas and opinions.
I wouldn’t want him to counter everything I say to them and I can give him that same gift. Even if he does counter what I say, that is not how I want to show up in this marriage and in this family. I do not want to create a him versus me dynamic here. The kids are not choosing his philosophy or mine, they are choosing their own.
I want my kids to develop their capacity to think critically. I want them to make choices from a place of empowerment and consent. That means, I want my kids to have lots of view points presented to them. I want them to think and make their own decisions and they can’t do that without hearing several viewpoints and knowing they can choose for themselves without any repercussions from me.
This type of conversation with myself. It helps me calm down and often prevents me from sabotaging an otherwise enjoyable evening with my family.
Let me point out the key aspects of my little chat with myself -that you can use when creating your own little chat with yourself, tailored to you and your issues:
We both get to teach whatever we want to teach the kids. We are both adults who have that autonomy. I do not want mine hedged and I don’t want to hedge him.
Kids are smart and they get to make their own decisions anyway (just like I did).
I honestly answer this question – How do I want to show up in this marriage? It’s not as someone who is petty or tit for tat, I want to be supportive and generous. I would rather be happy then right in this regard.