How to get along when you have different parenting styles
One family? Two different parenting styles? Does there have to be a winner? Hopefully not.
I often hear from parents about their struggles over different parenting styles. It can cause immense frustration for the parents and confusion for the kids! They can often be opposite in their approach. So while one is reactive the other might be more patient, one might be highly organised while the other is forgetful. Oftentimes each partner’s strengths can balance out the other.
But with parenting, it’s a different matter. When it comes to children, parents can have fairly fixed views as to how they want to raise their child. One might insist on establishing consistent, firm rules right from the start. While the other may be more spontaneous and just deal with situations as they arise. Consequently, one is often seen as the “strict” parent while the other is the “fun” parent, afraid to upset the kids or reluctant to ruin a good time.
Many couples differ on the best way to raise their children. Much of parenting tendencies are based on how we were raised, what we observed in our own and in other families, and what we’ve been taught. So unless both parents grew up in similar environments it’s likely they will have different ideas about how parenting should be.
You both may need to discover your most influential parenting styles and work on getting yourselves on the same team. Of course, every parent has their own unique way of raising their children and don’t necessarily fit into one style. Most of us are a combination.
Authoritarian parents tend to exert a great deal of control over their children and they don’t explain rules to children. They tend towards punishment instead of positive reinforcement to encourage a particular behaviour. Authoritarian parenting is often effective short-term however children don’t tend to learn appropriate behaviour for themselves.
Permissive parents allow their children to maintain control most of the time. Often there are no set routines, boundaries or expectations of behaviour. Children may be allowed to make their own choices even when they aren’t always capable of making good, responsible decisions on their own. Permissive parents may feel at a loss on how to control their children and allow the negative behaviour to continue even if it is harmful.
Authoritative parents make sure their children follow through on what is expected in a loving way. The focus is on positive reinforcement for good behaviour. Punishment is more of a teaching opportunity to allow the child to understand why their behaviour was not desirable.
Remember there’s no one right way to parent. What’s most important is that you work together as a team. Here are 6 tips
1. Communication is key
Good communication with your partner is essential to address any parenting disagreements. Create a list of parenting techniques that you both agree on and a list of techniques that need to be resolved. Then work through your list together and agree on an approach to try out. You can always come back and revise it. Be sensitive to your partner. Use good communication skills. Stick with ‘I” statements
2. What are your values
What values are most important to you. Do you value respect, kindness, family time, honesty, giving things a go. Values are important because they guide our decisions. Take the time to determine your top 5 values and compare to your partner. If one partner’s list of qualities doesn’t exactly match the others and you don’t agree, collaborate on a third list of traits and qualities you both value (kindness, affection, loving).
3. Work together as a team
Children need consistency and parents need to back each other up. Since one parents reaction to a specific situation may be different from the others, work out a solution together that you both can agree on. The challenge is to recognise each other’s strengths and to complement each other – not try and convince each other yours is the “right” way. No matter what you decide, if you decide to stick together and be consistent, you can make it work. The worst thing you can do to your kids is be inconsistent or let them play one parent against the other.
4. Accept differences between you
Just because parents have different parenting styles it need not spell disaster. It’s ok to have divergent styles. Kids benefit from different perspectives and they don’t have to have the same relationship with each parent. The message to the kids is that – your parents are two different people, but as your parents we’re a team.
5. Consider each child’s unique temperament, personality
Think about what works best with your child. Parenting requires an ongoing commitment to review and adjust your approach based on your child’s development and temperament.Compromise is good and necessary, and the best interests of the child should always receive top billing. Discuss your goals for raising your children, and how each of you would come to those goals.
6. Seek Professional Help
Seeing a family therapist is a great way to learn how to work together to compromise and learn new ways to be a better parent. Seeking the advice from a registered counsellor that is trained in family mediation can be rewarding.