When Parenting Styles Differ


“No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I’m not talking about the kids. Their behavior is always normal.” 

Parenting can be challenging at the best of times, but it becomes particularly difficult when two parents have different approaches to issues involving the children. Often one parent is more strict; perhaps a disciplinarian. This parent may have a no-nonsense approach, expect immediate compliance, and have swift consequences for non-compliance.

The other parent may have a softer approach, preferring a lot of discussion, and giving many chances. This parent may dislike displays of anger, not wishing children to feel intimidated by a parent. Each parent may be critical of the parenting style of the other.

Typically, in a case like this, each parent attempts to compensate for the perceived shortcomings of the other. The disciplinarian might become harsher, feeling the children are being spoiled by the other. The “softer” one becomes even more lenient, to make up for the rigidity of the other.

The end result is the parents fight a lot about how they are handling the children, and the children are confused. They may even begin to believe the parents fights are their fault.

The way out of this dilemma is for the parents to sit down and decide what their goals are for their children’s behavior. Often the goals are quite similar. Then they need to talk about ways these goals can be accomplished. There likely are effective strategies that are different from the two currently being utilized.

They need to agree on rules and consequences, so the children have some consistency. Ideally, having a family meeting to discuss all of this contributes to bringing the children on board as they are part of the process.

If parental struggles continue in the arena of child management, it is time to seek outside help. This negative dynamic is harmful to the children, and ultimately can even undermine the marriage.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.

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