Okay everyone, let’s begin by opening our Parenting Manuals to page 104…
Wouldn’t life be so much easier if our children came with some sort of manual? You could study the topic of parenting as much as you’d like before your child arrived. Countless parenting books provide advice for every stage of a child’s life, but “one book to rule them all” simply cannot be found on any bookstore shelf. So, if there isn’t one absolute right way to parent our kids, why does it seem so easy to clash with our partner when it comes to parenting styles?
It’s common for two people with differing, yet complementary, personalities to find their differences are no longer complementary when they become parents. Many beliefs and personality traits that can come into play while parenting don’t appear until there’s an actual child to parent. This can lay ruin to even the best-laid parenting plans. Though commonplace, it can be a frustrating issue to deal with, and at its worst, it can cause children to become confused and stressed about what the real rules are and whose side they should take.
If you’re a parent and you find yourself in this situation, have no fear – you don’t have to be stuck in the “good guy v. bad guy” parenting rut. If you can agree on nothing else, try to agree to make each other look good in the eyes of your children. It’s important to not put children in the middle of parenting disagreements by using statements like “Your dad (or mom) just doesn’t listen.” This kind of speak turns the other parent into the bad guy and involves the children in a problem that’s not theirs to solve. If you have an issue with your partner, it’s best to take the issue directly to them to discuss, and be sure to do so away from the children.
Speaking of agreeing, sometimes the best thing you can do is agree to disagree. Chances are even if you have differing parenting styles, you still share the same parenting goals. Discuss what those goals are and how each of you would like to accomplish them. Discuss what you each feel are fair rules, routines, and consequences. You won’t agree with your partner on everything, but with some effort, compromises can be made to maintain harmony in the household. Be flexible and keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best approach.
Don’t expect perfection out of one another. Even if you implement everything mentioned above, you or your partner are going to make a bad parenting call. Someone will lose their cool and yell, or be too lax on a rule that was previously set and agreed upon. That’s okay. Criticizing or accusing won’t help anything, and it goes against the goal of supporting one another. Through it all, it’s important to remember it’s a partnership. The support you give one another is crucial to the health of the entire family.
If you feel you’ve done all you can to work through your differences and still find yourself at constant odds with your partner, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help. Differences in parenting styles don’t have to ruin your relationship. Couples counseling or family therapy can be a great resource to provide ways to better communicate with your partner and with your children.
Mallory Moser is a freelance writer and mother