Conflict in child rearing can cause chaos in a marriage and in fact is a major cause of divorce. Not only that, but the way we parent profoundly affects our children’s behavior. So what happens when Mom and Dad just can’t agree on how to raise the kids?

A lot of new parents swear they’re not going to do certain things their own parents did, whether this is forcing a child to finish a plate of food or letting her cry herself to sleep at night. The problem, though, is that each parent brings to the nursery the habits and examples, good and bad, of their own childhoods, which can result in two conflicting or even entirely opposing styles of parenting in one family.


Learned behaviors aren’t the only things that affect how two people coparent.

“Psychologists and social workers have identified four primary parenting types. These are Autocratic (or Authoritarian), Permissive (or Indulgent), Child-centered, and Uninvolved. The social backgrounds parents come from also play a big role in differing parenting styles. For example, a parent who comes from a middle-class background is more likely to be soft in disciplining a child, whereas a parent from a working-class background is more likely to be punitive. Other factors include the parents’ degree of religious conviction, whether they were raised in a rural or urban location, attended a private or government school, and their level of education.


And there’s yet another element to take into account. We have two personality types: one when we’re relaxed, and the other when we’re under pressure. When we’re relaxed, we’re able to be more conscious of, and proactive in, our responses. However, when we’re under pressure we operate in a more unconscious and reactive way, which is when our primary programming and how we saw our parents behave starts to emerge. That’s why we often feel guilty after losing our temper and saying things we regret, because we’ve just witnessed ourselves acting in the destructive and hurtful ways that we might have felt our parents did, and we’re trying to do things in a better way.

With all this to consider, how can you work out a parenting style that suits you both and keeps the whole family happy? It’s the first and most important tenet of marriage, and it applies every bit as much here too. The real challenge and solution lies in a couple’s ability to communicate effectively with each other and therefore to support each other in being the best parents they can be. Men and women are there to be each other’s monitoring system; to ensure optimal behavior for the good of the relationship and the family. Issues are inevitable in life, and our ability to deal with them, to resolve them through proper communication, is what ultimately makes us better and stronger human beings to the benefit of ourselves and our children.


ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL

I can’t overemphasize the importance of adapting different parenting styles, in order to accommodate the different circumstances, personalities, needs, expectations, and psycho-social developmental of the children. Every child is unique, and children develop differently, even when they’re exposed to similar parental styles.

Some children are more robust than others and will take as much as they can get, so sometimes we have to set stronger boundaries for them to feel secure. Others are more compliant and will cooperate with a more relaxed approach. The ideal is two parents who are working together on understanding the subtle differences in their children and how to position themselves in an optimal way.

EDUCATE YOURSELF…

Times change and they’re changing faster now than ever before. Today’s parents need to be eager to learn new ways of parenting, taking into cognizance the ever-changing and turbulent external environment, driven by technological advancement, especially in information and communication technology and social media.

Don’t guess what’s going on in your child’s life based on your own childhood experiences. Read trustworthy and up-to-date literature, and talk to other parents.


…BUT TRUST YOUR GUT

Not all families are the same and therefore what’s deemed as good or bad in one family might not hold true for another. Don’t get caught up in what the experts are saying about raising children the ‘right’ way.

Working together, review your own parents’ parenting styles, to understand where your “instinctive” parenting styles come from and then identify areas of conflict that need to be resolved. The right way of parenting is what works for the child and parent, and therefore for the family.

PRESENT A UNITED FRONT

Parents must remain flexible in socializing and rearing their children, and in co-parenting it’s important for them to operate in a collaborative partnership. So, playing “good cop, bad cop” is just setting yourselves up for relationship hassles. It could be a father who just wants to be the nice guy, and the mother feels like she’s always having to do all the hard stuff of disciplining the kids. When these matters can’t be resolved, they become a source of ongoing conflict and division between parents, which is also not good for the well-being of the family system.

A child who constantly has to deal with two different parenting styles quickly learns how to play one off against the other. This teaches manipulative behavior that can have negative

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