Conflicts over parenting styles can come as a surprise to couples. You have had a blissful relationship thus far. You can count on one hand the number of times you disagree on anything. Then you have a baby together.
You have a child together and then you suddenly realize all the different ways in which you are different from each other. You seem to have completely opposing views on how to raise your children.
If you feel like your different parenting styles are causing problems or ruining your marriage, you are not alone. Ideally, before you have a baby, you should go through those contentious topics together. That is why I created my workbook for couples – Can we do this baby thing? However, if you have already started down the road of parenting, there are ways to navigate the parenting conflicts that arise.
6 Common parenting disagreements
Some of the most common parenting disagreements tend to be over the following:
- Which parenting style is best for the kids. One parent may have been raised using a specific parenting style and so is only familiar with that. They may find it difficult to get onboard with any other style of parenting. Conflicting parenting styles, particularly in a relationship or marriage where communication is an issue, can cause strife.
- How to discipline the children. Ways to discipline the kids is a common reason for contention between parents. One parent might prefer more lenient forms of discipline than the other.
- How to divide up the household chores. Deciding who is in charge of which household chores and when can also cause some friction between parents.
- The most important values to teach to the children. This is not restricted to religious values but applies to moral values in general. Each person comes to the relationship with different elements to their value systems even if they are very similar.
- How to split the holidays between extended families. This is a bigger issue between parents than a lot of people realize. Spending more time with one family than the other or choosing one family over the other during the holidays can cause disagreements between parents.
- How best to feed the children. One parent might decide that the best diet for the kids is a gluten-free one, for example, while the other parent believes that the children should be offered all types of meals.
These are all topics that parents frequently have major disagreements over. They all seem like trivial or minor topics until they occur with children in the mix and the stresses of parenting to contend with at the same time. Conflicts over parenting can have a surprising level of impact on the family dynamic as a whole and also on the individuals within it.
What happens when parents disagree over a major aspect of parenting?
- The focus is no longer on the kids. The focus shifts to the rift that is being created between the parents and the point or origin of the disagreement is lost.
- Children can blame themselves for the conflict. Kids can sometimes draw the conclusion that they are to blame for the disagreements between their parents at home. If they see a pattern of disagreements arising between their parents each time a decision has to be made about themselves, they may think it is their fault.
- The kids get confused. With the conflicts over parenting styles, the children become confused over which way they are supposed to behave, which principles are right.
- The parents drift apart in their romantic relationship. Of course, it is easy to see how this happens. If you are fighting with your husband over parenting disagreements, it is likely that your romantic relationship is not doing too well. Particularly if these disagreements have been going on over a long period of time.
What happens when a parent undermines the other parent?
When one parent undermines the other in front of the kids, the kids can lose respect for the undermined parent. It also reinforces the idea that the parents are not a team. The kids could get the idea to manipulate this situation to suit themselves.
The undermined parent will also feel that they are not part of a team and may start to feel like their parenting is largely made up of challenging the other parent or trying to get their own way rather than focusing on the child.
How to resolve parenting conflicts
- Continually bring the focus back to the well-being of the kids
- Make time for your relationship as a couple so that you do not lose sight of each other
- Prioritise the family unit as well. The children are important and your relationship as a couple is vital. However, so is the relationship among all of you as a family. Make time for it.
- Get to understand how you were both raised. This may give you an understanding as to why your partner has the parenting values that they have
- If you find that your parenting conflicts are largely due to a lack of or breakdown in communication, seeing a counsellor as a couple may be the answer to understanding each other better
RELATED: How to use online counselling to save your marriage
What is the most negative parenting style?
In my view, the authoritarian parenting style is the most problematic one. Children raised in this way do not get the opportunity to be free thinking or independent minded. They also tend to have self esteem issues because their parents do not spend time uplifting or encouraging them.