What to Do If You and Your Partner Have Incompatible Parenting Styles
Relationships are tough. Parenting is hard. Combine the two and you hit bumps in the road large enough to rival the rugged rainforest trails that break your axle and burst tires. There are no two people who can agree on everything. Not even, and even more so, how to raise a child so that he becomes a full-fledged member of society.
Despite a lot of conversations in the months leading up to our son’s birth, my husband and I kept up on everything from circumcision to sleeping together and how old he should be before playing Super Mario games. He is authoritarian, I am relaxed. He is less inclined to keep things in place, I am more inclined to sit back. I believe that attachment to parents is a legitimate business, although the first year he told me to put the baby in the crib so I could get some sleep.
In the beginning, we quarreled. We both wanted the best for our son, but as young parents, neither of us had the faintest idea of what it really looked like. So we had a falling out. Sometimes it was intense, as is often the case in those early days. But when we got used to our roles as parents and the new turned into a normal phenomenon, we were able to find common ground on most issues and compromise on what we could not agree on 100 percent. Now I think we have made a pretty good team, but it always takes work.
Here’s what I learned and what you can do if you and your partner have mismatched parenting styles:
There are several ways to raise a child. “Just because something isn’t your style doesn’t mean it’s not a good enough way,” says Katherine Perlman, licensed clinical social worker and author of Ignore This! : How selective glancing the other way can reduce behavioral problems and increase parental satisfaction . “ Be flexible where you can.”
Modern parenting has bombarded us with all sorts of parenting philosophies to choose from: free range, helicopter, affection, tiger, panda , slow, RIE. Sometimes such strong identification with these labels can make it difficult to compromise. I had a strong affection for my parents with my eldest son, and if my husband did something that did not fit this model, I worried about him. Conversely, he felt that my approach was overwhelming and tiring for both of us. This caused a lot of problems until I finally realized that I didn’t need to follow an attachment approach to parenting. I had to give up a little control and believe that we are both doing our best.
Know That Different Parenting Styles Can Benefit Your Child
Sometimes when parents disagree on various aspects of the job, it doesn’t really matter and can really be beneficial. “When parents have different parenting styles, most of the time it’s not a problem,” says Perlman. “As long as they agree on a few non-negotiable rules and consequences, everything can work fine. One may be strict and the other lighthearted. One may be stupid and the other serious. It would be great to have such a variety in the family. “
However, Pearlman says the divisions escalate as things heat up. “The problem arises when parents do not support each other or strongly disagree with the rules in the house,” she explains. “If one parent tries to impose something and the other refutes it or ignores the consequences, this is problematic. When parents are not on the same wavelength, children learn to work with the system. They turn one parent against the other for their own benefit. “
Take a look at great values first
The answers to the questions in this University of Minnesota parenting style assessment can help you and your partner determine what each of you considers most important. Knowing what other parents value will make it easier to find a middle ground.
When you’re not in the heat of an argument, Pearlman invites you to talk about the rules that matter most to you. A strict bedtime can make a huge difference to one parent, while table behavior can be a topic of discussion for the other. It can be helpful to talk about your parents and what they did or didn’t do in your upbringing that you would like to emulate or avoid. Studying the evolution of your parenting style can be helpful in determining where you are willing to compromise and where the stumbling block is.
Then try to find a middle ground
Be aware that differences of opinion are especially common when it comes to “controversial” parenting issues, such as breastfeeding or sleeping together. The writer Lauren Wellbank told me that breastfeeding was a hot issue in her family. “My husband kept asking me when I was going to stop breastfeeding,” she says. “My first goal was six months, and when I reached it, it was a year. As my daughter’s first birthday approached, my husband kept asking me when I was going to stop. I kept explaining to him that I was not going to wake up the day after her birthday and say, “Okay, kid, you’re ready!” “
Wellbank and her husband talked a lot about the topic to understand what really bothers him. It turns out that he didn’t know anyone who had breastfed their baby for over a year, so he didn’t know what it would look like and was afraid it would be weird. After learning more about continuous breastfeeding and seeing that this was something Wellbank wanted, he gave up on the idea. After she fed them with her daughter until she was two years old, out of tenderness, he began to call her “the protector of the breast.”
Find places where each partner can relax to accommodate the other’s desires. Are you a supporter of your children, saying yes ma’am and no ma’am, but your partner thinks these are outdated manners? Maybe decide that “please” and “thank you” will work. Your partner thinks kids should have a to-do list on weekends, but do you think they need to play more in life? You may be able to limit your main activities to Sunday afternoons. Making small concessions now makes it easier to compromise on big things.
Seek help from an unbiased guide
When there are areas that are important to both of you, but you disagree on how to deal with them, find an outside teacher, consultant, or even a book to help you find a compromise. By using an objective side to help you overcome your disagreements about your parents, you can avoid biases and preconceived notions about certain issues. A family therapist or other facilitator can facilitate discussion about why things are important to each parent and how to solve problems as a team.