Conflicting Parenting Styles | psychology today

Conflicting Parenting Styles |  psychology today

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It’s normal and healthy for two people to have different views on parenting. Each parent brings their own personality and work life experience, so it makes sense that they have different parenting styles, attitudes, expectations and perspectives.

You may be absolutely right about what your child needs most, but in the long run, the only thing that really matters is that your child feels loved and supported by each of you. It’s even better if they feel that you and your partner are a team working in their best interest, rather than conflicting bosses they can call on separately depending on their goal. Whether you live together or not, things will be better for everyone if you find a respectful way to work together for the benefit of your child.

No matter how much you’ve learned about good parenting, and no matter how wrong your partner is, you probably have something to learn from their perspective. If nothing else, it’s a great exercise in conflict resolution to work out your differences so you can move forward in some sort of peaceful coexistence. Perhaps you decide to share responsibilities, with one of you handling all decisions about meals and bedtimes, and the other becoming the recognized authority on school decisions. If you can find ways to share responsibility for your child’s well-being, you will provide excellent models for collaborative problem solving.

But what about children with special needs?

Differences in parenting styles may seem more pressing and problematic if you have a child with special needs. If your child is emotionally unstable, for example, you might see the importance of reliable schedules, but your partner might suggest spontaneous activities that result in missed mealtimes or bedtimes that can be guaranteed to trigger one of the tantrums. your child’s rage. As far as you’re concerned, a little extra fun isn’t worth hours of intense emotional upheaval.

If you have a fiery or difficult child, it’s easy to think that parenting style really matters, because it does. If you’re working hard to be an effective parent (you’re going to therapy, reading, or attending a parenting group) and have learned some good skills, then of course you want your partner to too. You can see the benefits of doing it this way, and you know the costs to your child and the whole family of doing it wrong.

Pretty good is better than perfect

Very often parenting conflict arises because one parent wants to provide perfect parenting and (based on therapy, readings, personal stories, or discussions with experts) knows something about what works. the best. But even if you know what’s best, perfect parenting isn’t what matters most, even in a special needs situation. In Imperfect Parenting: How to Build a Relationship With Your Child to Weather Any Storm, I write about the ways that “good enough” is actually better than perfect for your child and your family. This is truer than ever, when there are so many other reasons for anxiety.

I understand your frustration when your partner remains stuck in old ways. I share your anguish when they say things like, “My parents punished me if I cried or complained. It worked for me and it will work for our child. You know things will be better if your partner can learn to listen to your child and respond with kindness and understanding rather than punishment. And while you’re right about that, being right isn’t the most important thing here.

While I, too, want your partner to learn more enlightened parenting habits, that might be asking too much right now. Unless you are concerned that your partner will mistreat your child, do what you know is fair with your child and do your best to be as patient and loving with your partner as you would like them to be with your child. Your house will be more harmonious and it will be good for all of you.

Another reason for opting for good enough but not perfect solutions is that people who strive for perfection tend to blame themselves or others when things don’t go well. Blame never helps. It only causes more problems, sometimes to the point of jeopardizing relationships.

And speaking of putting relationships at risk, sometimes arguments about parenting aren’t about parenting at all, but really about deeper issues. If you and your partner are having a lot of conflict related to parenthood, take a close look at the relationship itself. If you are frequently in conflict, you may benefit from family counseling.

Recommendations for moving forward for your child’s well-being, regardless of your partner’s parenting practices

  1. Do what you know is best for your child. Be a fairly good (not perfect!) parenting role model.
  2. Prioritize family harmony. Your child needs a quiet environment more than ideal parenting techniques from both parents.
  3. Be kind and patient with your partner. They do their best. You may not want to hear this, but you probably even have something to learn from them.
  4. Choose your fights. Let the little things slide and only intervene with your partner on the big issues, where you think your child is damaged. When this happens, tell your partner privately what you think and why it’s so important to your child’s development that you both do it your way.
  5. Think long term. Eventually, your partner will realize that your way is the best way to go.

Essential reading for parents

And don’t listen to the experts

Like all experts, I have some ideas of what might work for you, but I can’t tell what’s best for you and your family. Only you can know. As I write in Imperfect parenting, “Your family situation is unique because it brings together your varied and dynamic resources, experiences, attitudes and temperaments. This means that your challenges and your solutions are unique to you.

NOTE: This article is the result of a conversation with ADHD Warrior Mamas, the ADHD VillageThe flagship program for moms raising children with ADHD.