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How Do You Deal With Parenting Differences?

If you and your partner have different parenting styles, it's important to learn to compromise, communicate, and present a united front. This can ease a lot of stress for you and your family.
If you and your partner have different parenting styles, it’s important to learn to compromise, communicate, and present a united front. This can ease a lot of stress for you and your family.

You may talk to your partner about having kids and how you’ll raise them. But until you have children, you don’t know exactly how you will parent. It can be stressful if you and your partner have different parenting styles. Learn how to meet in the middle and present a united front to your children.

Understanding parenting styles?

Authoritative. A parent who is authoritative sets definite limits for their children. They are nurturing and supportive and they prioritize teaching their children about safety and boundaries. These parents listen to their children and maintain two-way communication.

Permissive. A permissive parent is also warm and caring but much more relaxed with rules and limits. They don’t set firm boundaries, and when they do, they don’t enforce those rules.

Uninvolved. An uninvolved parent is not warm and caring toward their child. They don’t respond to the child’s wants or needs and don’t make an effort to be available. Children of these parents often feel rejected.

Conflict over parenting differences

You may be one or a combination of parenting styles. When parenting styles differ, you each have an opposing idea about how to raise your children. If you and your spouse are very different, it can lead to frequent conflict.

Minor differences may not cause too many problems, but major differences can be confusing for you and your children. The best way to deal with parenting differences is to communicate and compromise.

Parenting through a divorce. If you and your partner split up, that leaves a lot of room for miscommunication and conflict. Do your best to maintain communication on parenting issues and have your children follow the same set of rules at each home. This may include:

  • Healthy eating
  • Bedtimes
  • Discipline
  • Curfews

Improving conflict resolution in parenting differences

Find a balance. Parenting is made up of many types of decisions. You have to decide how you treat your children, how you talk to them, and how you handle discipline. When you see an issue arise, handle it the best you can and talk about it later.

Don’t argue in front of your children or leave them alone so you can talk behind closed doors. This can be confusing and cause your child to have anxiety. Instead, make time to talk about your parenting differences later and decide how you’ll handle a similar situation in the future.

Follow through. Once you handle one conflict, you have to follow through on what you decide together. This helps you to present a united front to your children. It also helps your children know what to expect – even when they test boundaries and push limits. When you follow through on your parenting decisions you prevent your children from going to one parent or the other hoping for a more desirable decision.

Use active listening. It is important to truly consider the other parent’s point of view. Why do they feel the way they do? Instead of thinking about what you will say next, focus on what they are telling you. If you need to clarify something they said, ask questions.

Stay calm. Disagreements can lead to high emotions. It’s easy to allow your emotions to take over. You feel passionate about parenting your children. If you feel yourself getting angry, walk away. Take time to calm down before trying to find a compromise.

Focus on the issue at hand. Parenting disagreements make it easy to bring up other issues. You may think of another time you disagreed about what to do for your children. You may even want to bring up issues unrelated to parenting. Avoid making the parenting difference a bigger issue than it is. Handle the single conflict you face, and worry about other issues another time.

Things that hinder conflict resolution in parenting differences

Criticism. When you bring something up to your partner with the sole intent of pointing out personal faults, you hinder conflict resolution. Criticizing your partner can leave them feeling defensive.

Defensive feelings. If your partner is bringing up concerns about the way you handled a parenting decision, don’t take it personally. You and your partner both want what’s best for your children. Resist feeling defensive about your decision. Instead, listen to their concerns. Think about what you can do differently next time.

Sarcasm. Parenting is very serious. You’re both trying to raise strong, smart, independent children who know right from wrong. Sarcasm can make your partner feel like you don’t care about the parenting differences you’re trying to address.

Passivity. To avoid conflict, you may want to just agree with your partner and move past the disagreement. But this doesn’t help if the issue continues to come up. Difficult conversations can feel uncomfortable, but ignoring them won’t make them go away.


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