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Differing Parenting Styles

September 21, 2010
Children and Teens
“Staff Tips and Strategies” and a drawing of a family in green

JSSA Adult, Couples and Parents Services

Q: My husband has a completely different parenting style than I do, especially when it comes to discipline. He is strict, and I am more lenient. What can we do to integrate our parenting styles?

A: One of the biggest issues that parents face is how to discipline their children. The issue becomes more difficult when the parents themselves have different ideas on the subject.

In fact, a couple’s ideas about parenting often conflict. Parents may have very different personalities, come from families with very different styles, and have had different experiences in childhood. These variations can make it more challenging to agree on parenting methods.

Parents need to talk about rules and discipline so that each can become comfortable with the way the other behaves. In these discussions, think about your values and your goals for discipline. When negotiating with your spouse over how to discipline, consider variables such as the seriousness of the child’s mistake, the developmental level of the child, and what lesson you would like the child to receive.

Reflect on how you can use discipline to teach children to manage emotions and solve problems. Discipline need not mean merely doling out punishments that make children feel ashamed. Rather, the way you discipline can convey to children that all of us make mistakes, we are able to apologize, repair our relationships, and work on changing our habits. After that, we move forward.

Not all behaviors require an immediate reaction from parents. If you anticipate discord over how to discipline in a certain situation, take some time to discuss the matter with your spouse privately. You might tell your child, for instance, “Daddy and I need to talk about what we are going to do about this, and we will tell you what we decide.” This lets the child know there will be a response and that it is important enough for both parents to weigh in.

Make it your goal to find workable solutions when you and your spouse disagree on discipline. Your children will feel more secure if both parents present a united front. Even if you don’t agree with your spouse, avoid putting the children in a position to choose between one parent’s view and the other’s. This only divides the family and is likely to raise loyalty issues for the child.

When you disagree over discipline, aim to at least unite on consistency and follow through. Once you have decided on the discipline, it’s important for both of you to stick to it. Only when parents support each other can they truly support their children.