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Help! What to Do When Parenting Styles Clash

Jules Ker has worked as a behavioral health therapist for 12 years. She treats children, adults, and couples.


The Four Different Parenting Styles

Parenting is hard work. It can be made even more difficult if you and your partner disagree on how to parent your child/children. This clash of differences is typically due to variations in parenting styles. Our parenting style is influenced by the type of parenting that we received when we were younger. Sometimes we follow the same pattern exhibited by our parents, and other times we go in the opposite direction. Before you learn how to work together with your partner to improve your parenting, it's important you know the different styles.

1. Authoritarian: This type of parent feels that children should follow the rules 100% of the time, no questions asked. There is no room for negotiation and they do not take their child/children's feelings into consideration. Authoritarian parents are more likely to give consequences that seem harsh and are often not connected to behaviors exhibited by their child/children. These types of parents tend to be seen as being the strictest parents.

2. Authoritative: Similar to authoritarian parents, authoritative parents have clear rules. However, authoritative parents are more willing to make exceptions to the rules when necessary. Consequences are more reasonable and connected to the child/children's behavior. Authoritative parents are willing to accept some influence from their child/children when it comes to parenting. This is the parenting style all parents should strive for.

3. Permissive: Permissive parents have few, if any, rules. They rarely intervene when issues arise in the home. If they attempt to give out a consequence, they are likely to back down quickly when their child puts up a fuss. This type of parent has little control over the household. The children are often the ones running the show and everyone knows it.

4. Uninvolved: Just like permissive parents, uninvolved parents let their child/children do whatever they want. The difference is that this type of parent also does not care about the emotional needs of their child/children. An uninvolved parent doesn't care how their child's day was and does not bother to attend sporting events or other activities their child might be engaged in. These parents are seen as being the "coldest" type of parent.

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How to Parent in Harmony

Having a different parenting style than your partner doesn't mean there always has to be conflict connected to parenting-related issues. You and your partner can learn to work together as harmoniously as possible. Here are several guidelines to help.

  1. Sit down with your partner and identify rules for the household. The rules should address the behaviors that are the most concerning and they need to be specific. For example, if you have a rule that prohibits aggressive behavior you better identify what types of behaviors are considered aggressive. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list - you can always add to it later - but rather a starting point for establishing order in your home.
  2. Once you have created rules you need to pick consequences for rule violations. The consequences need to be things that are actually enforceable. You also need to decide how long each consequence will last. A consequence can last for just a few hours or for a few days, depending on the severity of the violation. It is not advisable that any one consequence should last longer than 3 days. Consequences that last too long are ineffective because your child loses motivation to earn back the lost privilege as they figure they will never get it back anyway. In addition, giving a long term consequence means you have fewer tools to help enforce any further rule violations that occur during the timeframe that the lengthy consequence is in place. You will likely see better results - i.e. more cooperation, less rule violations - from your child/children if you take away a privilege, give it back to them in a few hours/days, and then take it away again as soon as another violation occurs (yep, that might mean they loss their phone again five minutes after they have just gotten it back).
  3. The rules and consequences should be written down and posted as a reference for everyone in the household, your children and self included. If you or your spouse deviates from the pre-established list, do not discuss it in front of the children. Furthermore, you can not retract the consequence handed out by your partner, even if it is different from what the consequence was supposed to be. Instead, discuss the issue with your partner later on when the children are not present. This discussion should not be used as a finger pointing session to show who is the better parent but rather to remind each other that specific consequences were already established and should not be altered without discussing it with each other first.

If, after you have tried the above suggestions, you continue to experience difficulties connected to parenting, consider searching for a licensed professional in your area that can help provide some assistance with parenting. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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