You got married because you had fun together, you laughed together, you traveled and shared a love of adventure. Life together seemed guaranteed to be smooth sailing.
Then you had children.
And now you’re running into road blocks in your relationship because your ideas on parenting are not lining up.
He says: We argue all the time! She coddles and spoils the kids. She lets them do whatever they want. She’s raising hooligans!
She says: He’s far too critical and hard on the children. Who knew he’d be such a dictator as a father!
These differences in parenting styles have created a great divide in your relationship as a married couple. Date nights are non-existent these days and you’ve lost track of how long it’s been since there was intimacy.
I often find in my work with couples that conflicting parenting styles can cause trouble in the marriage. The good news is there is a remedy to this problem. Here is my 4 step process to resolving this conflict and getting the spark and connection back in your marital relationship.
4 Step Process to Resolving Conflict with Differing Parenting Styles
- Take a look in the rear view mirror. This first step is about looking back at the way each of you were raised. Take a peek back in time to when you were a kid and when your partner was a child. Get curious about how you were both raised. Seek to understand how each of you were parented, what you liked and didn’t like about the way your parents dealt with you. Each of you might consider doing some journalling independently to explore the feelings you have as you reflect on your respective childhoods and then have some connective conversations where you share and discuss.
- Learn the 3 parenting styles and where you currently are on that continuum. There are four styles of parenting and sometimes parents overlap.
- Authoritarian is also known as “strict parenting.” This style of parenting is seen when a parent is rigid about the rules, demands cooperation and respect, is punitive in order to teach children lessons. This is one extreme on the continuum.
- Permissive also known and “indulgent parenting” is when parents allow their children a lot of latitude with little to no structure. This is the other extreme of the parenting style continuum.
- Authoritative parenting style is one in which a parent has reasonable expectations of their children and understand how to provide support for their children as well. This type of parenting creates the healthiest environment for a growing child, and helps to foster a productive relationship between parent and child
- Work to meet in the middle. Rather than hang out on the extremes of the parenting style continuum, be willing to work together to find the middle ground somewhere in the realm of the authoritative parenting style. It might require working with a professional to unpack your own childhood history and resulting beliefs about parenting and then learn new parenting skills.
- Come together as a partnership and fan the flame. Parenting children is probably the most challenging job any of us will every have in our lives. But nurturing the marital relationship is also very important. It’s healthy for children to see their parents investing time and energy into the marriage. And it’s critical for the health of your union to ensure you are feeding the relationship. Commit to being kind and loving to one another in your every day communications. Schedule and honor weekly date nights. Hire a babysitter and go do something fun together. While it’s important to set aside time to discuss parenting issues, date night should not be the time for those conversations. Date nights should be time to lean into one another as a couple and remember why you came together in the first place. These regular connections in which you are dedicating time, space and energy to one another and your relationship aside from the parenting issues will actually help you to move out of the conflict zone and into the arena of harmonious partnership. If you are concerned the strain on your relationship is such that date night is not going to work, it’s probably time to seek some relationship counseling with a professional.
Nothing brings up our own issues like giving birth to little humans and having to be responsible for their safety, teaching them how to behave properly, supporting them in school and social situations and shaping their character. And they don’t come into the world with an instruction manual. Plus, just when you think you’ve figured it out with Child #1, you welcome Child #2 into the world and discover nothing that worked with Child #1 is working with Child #2! All of this responsibility and challenge can put pressure on the marital relationship.
You don’t have to go this alone.
You don’t need to end up in divorce court because of conflicting parenting styles.
In my career a therapist I have observed that most parents benefit from parenting coaching. Occasionally I find a pair of parents who have read all the great books and work together very effectively in raising their children in ideal ways. But most of the time parents really need some help.
I pair parenting coaching with relationship coaching, conducting sessions with couples all over the country via video-conference technology. Many parents who live locally come to my office to meet with me in person. If I can be of service to you and your family feel free to contact me for a free 20 minute phone consultation.