Parenting With Different Styles

By: Judith Wimpee

When couples marry and decide to have children, they're sometimes surprised to find their partner has very different ideas on how to raise and discipline their children. How we choose to parent usually comes from how our own parents behaved towards us. We often want to do the same thing, or in some cases, the complete opposite.

When you and your partner have different styles of parenting, it's usually uncomfortable watching each other parent. In fact, it may be so uncomfortable that you overreact and try to interfere with, or change, the other's style. However, it's not necessary, nor wise, to rescue your child, or to try to control your partner.

Often times, when parenting styles are different, it's natural to want to change what you see as a flaw or shortcoming in your partner's style. For example, if you think the other parent is too strict, you may become more permissive; or if the other parent is too lenient, you may try to be more strict. Trying to make up for the other parent's style is usually not the best choice. Not only can it damage your partnership, but it can also offer your children a new way to manipulate you.

If you criticize or judge your partner, he or she may become defensive, much less open, and also unavailable to new or different ideas. In general, it's better to find ways to work together. If you must criticize, never do it in front of your children. Set aside a time for the two of you to discuss each others' differences. For example, talk to each other about your parenting styles, and why you chose them. Try to find things that you can agree on, and also try to compromise on as much as possible.

Reading the same parenting books may also be helpful. Discuss what you liked or didn't like, and try to find some common ground. Afterwards, you may discover that compromise and acceptance of different styles is easier to do than you previously thought.

Another suggestion is to continue to communicate with your partner. Try to recognize when they use good skills and techniques (even if they might not be the ones you would have used). Also, be sure to acknowledge when their way works well, especially when your way may not have been the most effective.

Raising children to be caring, fair, independent, and self-confident adults is one of the main goals in parenting. Demonstrating the ability to be open to new and different ideas, and treating each other with respect, will go a long way in the example you set for your children.

Judith Wimpee, MA is a psychotherapist serving the Highlands Ranch, Littleton and South Denver, Colorado area. She can be contacted at (303) 595-5454 or at

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