Most parents-to-be assume that their parenting styles will be similar. The truth is, you never know what your parenting style is until you become a parent. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll both see eye to eye on every single issue that comes up.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having different parenting styles might be good for your child. Your relationship with each child is going to be different, so it makes sense that you and your partner will have different approaches. However, there are sure to be some instances where your differences in parenting styles can lead to real conflict. When this occurs, it’s good to have a productive and healthy approach to reach a resolution.
1Have a conversation
The first step is to nail down exactly where the problem lies. Does one parent have a stricter interpretation of limits that the other? Does one parent have a harder time following through on discipline? Does either parent undermine the other’s decisions? It’s best to have this conversation between yourselves when you have each other’s full and genuine attention.
Make sure you verbalize what you want without criticizing your partner. Try using “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. For example, “I don’t think the kids should have screen time right before bed” and not “You always let the kids watch TV, even right before bedtime.”
2Compromise where you can
It’s a good idea to focus on issues that you both consider priorities. Think of this as a “choose your battles” approach. If something is just a bit annoying, but not a deal breaker, perhaps it’s best to tackle that at a later time (if you need to at all). When your priorities are in direct conflict with each other, try to find ways to compromise. Keep in mind, you can always attempt your proposed compromise, and if it doesn’t work, you can try something else.
3Do some research
It can help to have some background information when you feel very strongly about a specific issue. There are many different ways to approach limitations and discipline for your child, so it helps to know what options are “healthier.” Your partner is more likely to listen to you when you can explain why an issue is so important. Having statistics (or the recommendations of your pediatrician) to back you up, can help make your case.
4Understand that upbringing affects the approach
Maybe your partner has a harder time being an “enforcer” of the rules because his parents were particularly strict on him when he was growing up. Our experiences play a huge role in how we approach parenting our children, both positive and negative. It’s crucial to be empathetic towards your partner and try not to rush to judgment.
5Let it play out
If the issue is more of an annoyance than a safety issue, sometimes it’s most useful to let the scenario play out. For example, one of you is trying to enforce a sleep schedule. You know that it will take FOREVER for your kid to fall asleep if they miss a particular window of time because they get overstimulated. Your partner consistently comes home and gets your child riled up, missing the sleep window in the process. Why not agree to let your partner do their thing, with the understanding that they will be responsible for bedtime. They may not realize the reasoning behind certain ideologies until they’ve lived it themselves.
6Present a united front
Make every attempt NOT to undermine your partner in front of the kids. It’s disrespectful and invalidating. Additionally, it can confuse your child or make them feel like they need to choose sides.
7Don’t argue in front of the kids
While some productive conversation is fine, a real argument should not happen in front of your kids. It can scare and confuse them, in addition to modeling poor relationship interactions. If things start to get intense, it’s best to have those discussions in private.
8Get help when you need it
When arguments between you and your partner over parenting decisions become increasingly common, it may be best to seek out help. A professional can help you both work through the issues. You may become more understanding and connected in the process. Having someone “in the middle” allows for both of you to ensure that you are heard, leading to meaningful resolution.
Parents that resolve issues in a productive way will teach their children the same. Their children are likely to feel more secure and have less anxiety. When you can resolve issues in a productive way, children will learn that even happy couples experience conflict (and that’s okay).