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When Your Parenting Styles Don't Match

Katlyn Joy |24, March 2014


When you talked about becoming parents, chances are you didn't envision arguments in the hallways while a one-year old screamed from a crib. He says, "Don't go in there! He needs to learn to go to sleep without us." Whereas she says, "He needs us! You can't spoil a baby!"

The reality is very few couples have identical upbringings, meshing visions of family perfection, or opinions that dovetail. We rarely meet and marry clones of ourselves, after all. How boring would that be?

However, fights over parenting issues can be one of the more divisive issues in marriage. So you do need to find a way that works for both of you to raise your children. Here are some tips:

Talk, talk, talk and talk some more.

Talk in advance. Talk about kids before you have kids. Talk about potty training while the baby is still a drooling diaper baby. Talk about education before preschool is an option. Talk about dating before your kid even notices the opposite sex. Share opinions and reasons for those opinions without being disrespectful of the other. Listen with an open heart and mind before formulating a counter argument. If you can't come to common ground, set a time to return to the discussion and table it for now. This works especially well when you discuss things in advance. If things grow heated, take a time out.

Find something to agree with.

This is not being a kiss-up or a manipulator. This builds your alliance. Look for ways that your feelings intersect on topics. He wants Junior to never possess a feminine toy, and you want a gender-free playroom. Sounds like no room for agreement, right? What if you both express a desire for your child to play with toys that build imagination rather than drain batteries? That's a starting point for harmony on the topic. Go from there.

Find a compromise you both are comfortable with.

If that's not really possible, defer to the one who feels the strongest. Why? Because you cannot agree on every single thing, and the point is to be a strong couple and good parents; not win arguments. And chances are, next time you'll be the one with the stronger opinion, so your turn will come.

Glean wisdom from other sources.

You are newbies. You have hypotheses, thoughts and feelings. What you don't have is perhaps the most vital, and that is experience. While you can draw on your own family experiences, good and bad, you can also observe successful family models and see what works for them, and why. Not every happy family has a formula that can merely be duplicated by any other family, but there are some general nuggets of wisdom to be found. You can also read books, articles and websites of people who seem to have some real solid family common sense.

Be willing to revisit topics when necessary.

Suppose you both came to the decision that homeschooling is the best for your family, but a year into it, you are ready to enroll yourself in boarding school. It simply isn't working the way you imagined. Sit down and discuss your true feelings and thoughts and brainstorm options. Do you need to scrap it and enroll in public school? Take a second job and go for the private one? Or maybe you went with a program that doesn't fit your family or your child's learning style? Most parenting decisions have to be amended or altered along the way as children grow and circumstances change.

Recognize that the differences between you likely make for the strongest possible family construction.

If one of you is a nurturing push-over, and the other a rigid disciplinarian, together you are a dynamic team that covers all the bases. The important thing is not to lock yourselves into those roles solely. Don't make Mom be the bad guy all the time just because she's better with rules and puppy eyes don't melt her. Don't make Dad do all the good night hugs and kissing of boo-boos because he is a natural at that stuff because he had lots of younger sibs. You need to blur the lines around your separate identities as parents. You are a united front; you blend your strengths and bolster your weaknesses together.

Related Articles

Four Styles of Parenting

Parenting after Divorce and Remarriage

The Worst Parenting Advice Ever

How to Deal With Unwanted Parenting Advice

Tips to Soothe Your Crying Baby


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