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Different Parenting Styles Can Still Work

You’re more lenient in your parenting style, but your spouse is more exacting about following rules.  Are opposite parenting methods too confusing for your child? You might think so, but...

You’re more lenient in your parenting style, but your spouse is more exacting about following rules.  Are opposite parenting methods too confusing for your child? You might think so, but differing parenting styles can work if each parent keeps the door to communication open and presents a unified and respectful partnership.

 “I like to talk about having parents being on the same chapter, because being on the same page is a little much to ask,” says Kyle Pruett, MD, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and co-author of Partnership Parenting.

“I think the problem comes when parents aren't able to compromise,” says family therapist Lisa Dunning, author of Good Parents Bad Parenting. “They're so rigid: 'My way is right, your way is wrong,' and they're not willing to work on a happy medium.”

Compromise is the key. Not everyone is going to see things your way 100% of the time. There are going to be differences in perspective and approach, and that’s ok.

Parents model the outside world. People disagree over all sorts of things and so will parents. It’s healthy for a child to see how parents are able to work through their differences as long as each is respectful of the other. When there is a disagreement and children are present, learn how to express your concerns in a calm voice. Be willing to listen to your partner’s side of the argument and be willing to change your mind. Give in a little and gain a lot. Parenting shouldn’t be about ego, it should be about doing what is best for the child. Finding the line where compromise is the better solution can be admirable.

There are going to be certain issues that you are not willing to compromise on, and that’s all right. You just need to make sure that those issues are well communicated to your spouse, issues like safety and curfews.

If your partner has made a decision you don’t agree with, let him know in private; don’t disrespect the other parent to your child. That’s where confusion in parenting styles can cause harm. Disrespecting the other parent in front of your child is not only confusing; it’s harmful to the stability of the family.

“It's very important that parents do not criticize or blame the other parent,” says family psychotherapist Fran Walfish, author of The Self-Aware Parent. “Kids need to know parents support each other, love each other, and are a united team.”

“If Johnny needs to go to bed early, and the other parent thinks, 'I don't agree,' and behind Dad's back says, 'Come out and watch a little TV,' it undermines the other parent's authority to the kids,” Dunning says. “It will cause problems in parenting and eventually the relationship of the couple.”

What if your child asks you about your different parenting styles? That’s actually a good thing. It’s an opportunity to talk about differences of opinion and how people have to learn to agree that there are certain topics that they will disagree on. It doesn’t make one parent more right than the other, it’s just a difference of opinion that needs to be respected. A child can learn early in life that there will be times when everyone does not agree but you can stand up for your beliefs in a considerate and thoughtful way.

What if your differences are so great that eventually you separate or divorce? If a separation is contentious, it doesn’t change the fact that your children will be watching and learning how you handle difficult situations. They should still be the center of your attention even tough your world is changing all around you. It’s good to maintain some of the same rules in each house, such as homework and bedtime routines. That may not be possible if you lose the support of your ex, so concentrate on the things you do have control over. Remind yourself that you can only control what happens in your household, and make sure your children know what you expect from them.

“It's best for the parents to be honest with the children, saying something like, 'At Mommy's house, bedtime is earlier than at Daddy's,'” Walfish says.

Children need somewhere where there is consistency and calmness. They need a role model who can deal with unpleasant situations while keeping them front and center.

Different parenting styles can work if children see that each parent brings something unique to the family relationship.

Source: Lisa Fields, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/when-parenting-styles-clash

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More

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