It’s a surprise to no one that there is no “one size fits all” approach to parenting.Some parents are often on different pages when it comes to raising their kids. Couples may discuss if, and when, they want to have children or how many children they’d like to have. Yet, many couples overlook the critical discussion of how they want to parent. It’s a discussion that may be overlooked until the couple is face-to- face with their child, trying to figure out the best way to parent. 

We all have different upbringings, families of origin, beliefs, values, personalities and disciplinary experiences that contribute to our parenting styles. Parents sometimes will follow the ways of their parents, either consciously or unconsciously, while others make an effort to do the opposite of their parents. With these differences, it may often feel like you and your spouse are not on the same page or even in the same (parenting) book. This often leads to conflict, disconnection and sometimes even resentment. Though not uncommon, given the lack of parenting philosophies being discussed prior to marriage.  

What do we do, then? How do we create a united parental front, while still having different or even opposite parenting styles? When experiencing these differences, can we come together to understand our partner’s viewpoint better while still authentically parenting with our own style? 

Before we get into the how, let’s outline the four parenting styles, based on the work of Diana Baumrind. Do you see yourself and your partner falling in one or more of these parenting styles?

Four different parenting styles

  1.  The Permissive Parent
  2. The Authoritative Parent
  3. The Neglectful Parent
  4. The Authoritarian Parent

The Permissive Parent

  •     Child-driven, highly responsive, low demandingness
  •     Rarely establishes or enforces rules
  •     Overindulges child to avoid conflict
  •     Attempts to keep kids happy even at their own expense
  •     Lets children decide for themselves with less direction given

The Authoritative Parent

  •     Solves problems together with children
  •     Sets clear expectations and rules while allowing flexibility
  •     Communicates openly and frequently with natural consequences
  •     Highly responsive, high demandingness
  •     Takes children’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions into consideration

The Neglectful Parent 

  •     Uninvolved or absent parent
  •     Indifferent to child’s social-emotional and behavioral needs
  •     Provides little guidance or attention
  •     Low responsiveness, low demandingness
  •     Struggles with their own self-esteem

The Authoritarian Parent 

  •     Parent driven
  •     Sets strict rules and punishment with little consideration of child’s needs
  •     One-way communication, less regard for child’s emotional and behavioral needs
  •     High demandingness, low responsiveness
  •     Often says “because I said so” when questioned

We all bring emotional history from our upbringing into our parenting styles. Each parenting style will have a different effect on your child’s behavior. Parents’ goals are typically aligned with each wanting to raise a well-rounded, emotionally sound, successful child. Yet, oftentimes, we have different degrees on how we measure our child’s success and the means to achieve it. How we handle our child’s behavior may at times magnify these differences among parents. Couples may feel alone in parenting or unsupported by their partners when parenting styles do not align. 

Misalignment is common and there are ways that you and your partner can address when your parenting styles are not aligned. We have 4 strategies to help you manage your differences in parenting to create a more united, harmonious parental front.

What can we do when our parenting styles do not align? 

-Use communication skills such as assertive communication, reflective listening, and using “I” statements. These skills can provide a few healthy forms of interaction to create a united parental front. 

-Have a weekly check in with each other to share what is working and how your parenting approaches need to be tweaked. 

How can we make sure our parenting styles aren’t perceived as “good cop/bad cop?” 

A parent’s innate parenting style or the amount of time at home with the kids can also result in a real or perceived “good cop/bad cop” scenario. It’s important to remember that you both have the same goal in mind: ensuring your child/ren are loved and well-cared for. 

-Resist correcting your partner in the moment, allow them to “mess up” without criticism.

-Approach your partner after the heat of the moment, rather than during a disagreement.

What does a united front look like? 

-Offer your partner verbal support in front of your children, agreeing to discuss any differences at a later time or date, behind closed doors. 

-Simplify routines (bedtime, feedings, discipline) to accommodate both types of parenting styles. Find a compromise or meet in the middle.  

How are we able to achieve an understanding among our differences? 

-Listen to your partner’s reasoning and deeper meaning behind their parenting choices. Set aside any personal agenda to take in their perspective.  

-Give up “winning” when attempting to compromise. 

Final thought: Relationships between child and parent may look very different. Secure attachment and well-being can be achieved through different parenting types. So, even if you and your partner have different parenting approaches, you are still able to create a united front to remain on the same page with your partner. 

If you need more help managing different parenting styles, you might benefit from couples or individual counseling. If you would like to schedule an appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started.