What to do when your parenting styles clash

Parents aim to raise happy and healthy kids, yet how may cause conflict. Learn how to make it all work.

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You’ve withdrawn junior’s gaming privileges as she was rude. But on returning home from work, you find that your husband has allowed her to play before dinner.

Daddy said I could!” your daughter exclaims. “You over-reacted,” your man tells you in front of your child. “What she did was no biggie ― I wouldn’t have punished her for it.”

But what is “no big deal” to one parent may be a huge deal to the other. As parents, you want to raise your children to the best of your ability. If your spouse shares your parenting style, the job is naturally easier.

But what if both of you can’t see eye to eye over matters like how much computer time the kids should have, what time they should go to bed or even if you should be physically punishing them?

“Some parents are more patient while others are more aggressive in their approaches towards their children. This leads to differences in parenting styles.”

Many of us raise our kids the way we ourselves were brought up, says psychologist Daniel Koh from Insights Mind Centre. Because of our family history, we tend to follow or reject the style used by our own parents when they brought us up.

However, your spouse was likely parented under another method or style. So, this will unfortunately give rise to conflict. But how much would a clash hurt a couple’s marriage and their children’s emotional well-being?

Dr Lim Boon Leng, who practises at the Centre for Psychological Wellness, notes, “Some parents are more patient while others are more aggressive in their approaches towards their children. This leads to differences in parenting styles. At times, cultural norms and pressure from societal expectations also affects our parenting styles.”

Marital strife triggered by differences in raising kids can cause a marriage to break down. Common examples of parental conflict include discipline, for example, when one parent uses the cane and the other prefers not to, as well as cases where one parent is harsh and the other is more permissive.

Koh says parents should be careful how they handle such situations. “Children will be confused as to who they should listen to, while some may feel trapped about having to take sides. The child may feel guilty about making one parent angry. Distress, anxiety or depression may then result from this uncertainty.”

Dr Lim added that when their parents have conflicting opinions, some children have been known to take advantage of the situation and go to the one who has a more lenient approach. So, parents should watch out for this.

 

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At this point, you should find out just what kind of parenting style you fall into. Experts generally refer to the work of developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind, whose research on parenting styles threw up four types. You could either be the:

*Authoritarian or strict parent You set rules and expects your child to adhere to them.

*Authoritative parent You’re demanding while being responsive and supportive. This is considered the most effective and beneficial parenting style.

*Permissive or relaxed parent You don’t expect or ask too much of your child.

*Neglectful parent You’re uninterested and unwilling to be active in your child’s life.

Conflict over raising children may cause friction in your marriage and is one of the greatest causes for divorce. However, if you and your spouse have different parenting styles, all is not lost.

“Present a united front and unified voice with your spouse. Support each other in front of the kiddos.”

You can both still be effective parents if you can find a balance. Here are tips offered by our experts:

1. Find common ground. Then set out achievable goals that benefit all rather than one individual’s gains.

2. Parenting is not about who wins or loses. The ultimate goal is to help your child.

3. Once you have a combined parenting plan, stick with it. Be consistent. Consistency is the key to effective parenting.

4. Children are flexible. They will respect and learn from the person they know they can rely on and trust to be there for them.

5. Communicate openly, sort out your differences and make compromises.

6. Present a united front and unified voice with your spouse. Support each other in front of the kiddos ― even if your significant other has made a big decision you don’t agree with, let him know in private. This way, your child only sees that both of you are in agreement and she can’t go to one parent behind the other’s back.

7. Understand your child. Different children may require different parenting styles at different times.

8. Do not let anger take over. If you find yourself sabotaging or bad-mouthing your spouse in front of your children, don’t be afraid to seek help.

Your parenting style may never fully be in sync with your spouse’s, but your child can still thrive. Work to find a balance in parenting, and try to get on the same page when it comes to the most important matters.

Remember ― your kids can adapt to different styles of parenting. But if you find yourselves frequently in conflict even after trying the suggestions, talk to an expert who can help you resolve your differences. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.

 

Photos: iStock

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