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Parenting: When parents have different styles

Differences between parents about how to parent are common and, if not too extreme, can actually be good for kids. It helps them and you learn to be flexible. However, it can be very frustrating when you and your partner seem to disagree all the time about how you should raise your children.

If there are major differences in approaches, it can be confusing for a baby and worrying for a child. You may find, too, that as your child grows, he plays one of you against the other, which gives him too much power in the family.

Here are some suggestions for working out the differences with your partner:

  • Take some time for you and your partner to talk calmly about your differences, with no kids around. Talk about your values and views of parenting. What is it you're trying to achieve? Talk about what was good and bad about how you were raised. Discuss how you want to raise your child.

  • Be prepared to make some compromises.

  • ALWAYS avoid arguing over child-rearing in front of your child. It's much better to postpone a decision, talk about it privately and then tell your child what you have both decided.

  • Try to recognize and accept that some differences are okay. Give each other the freedom to do things, without criticism. Remember, you're both working toward the same goal: raising a happy, healthy, confident child.

  • Don't hesitate to get some help. One thing that may help you both is learning more about parenting. It's a job that comes without training, yet it's just about the toughest job in the world. Many communities offer parenting courses. Talk to other parents, or talk to a family counsellor. Read some of the books recommended on this website. If you are in Canada, and you wish to speak to a counsellor about this, contact Parent Help Line, 1-888-603-9100.

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