As a parent and family therapist in Washington, DC and Bethesda, MD, this issue of contrasting parenting styles comes up a lot. Even in my own house, my daughter has come up with fitting terms for her parents. One of us is the “Mominator” and the other is the “Marshmallow.” Those terms speak for themselves as to our parenting styles. Yet, with these two different approaches, we have been able to make it work and you can, too. Here are some helpful tips.
- Draw the Lines
Have discussions with your parenting partner (without children) and talk about what your most important rules are that both parents want for the household. Once you have established what rules you can unite on, both parents, despite parenting style, can follow. This will present a united front on rules to the children and if those rules aren’t followed, despite which parent is in charge, the children know there are consequences. Once you have agreed upon the most important rules, then both parents know where there is wiggle room.
- Know Your Strengths
When there are different skill sets within a set of parents, use each parent’s strengths and match them with various child activities/duties. For instance, if one parent shows lots of patience around homework, assign that parent to homework duties. Another example, if one parent is able to get the child to bed without much resistance from the child, have that parent manage bedtime.
- Allow for Differences
Remember, different doesn’t equal bad. Many times parents squabble with one another because the parent interacted with the children different from how he/she would do it. Before, you lash out in a criticism, think to yourself, “Does this go against our agreed upon important rules?” If not, let it slide.
- Isolate the Issue
Finally, if there is something your parenting partner does repeatedly and you find that it is getting in the way of productive parenting, find a mutually agreed upon time with your partner and discuss it. Don’t address your parenting issue in the moment, in front of the child. This will only create resentment and confusion.
It is okay to have differing parenting styles in the household. These differences make for a more well-rounded rearing and can be building blocks to your relationship as a whole.