Happy couples are the ones who complement each other. They learn to adjust to each other’s individual personalities. It so happens that an introverted and shy wife ties a knot with a very social and talkative husband. The observant, calm, and cautious nature of the wife complements the chatty and outgoing personality of the husband, and holistically they constitute a balanced family.
These individual differences and preferences on the part of the couples can potentially become a challenge if they tend to disagree on the way they want to parent their child. For example, if an introvert mom feels that she wants their child to be cautious and careful in making friends and the extrovert dad considers social and communication skills vital in personality development, these differences can lead to parenting conflicts.
It is imperative to understand that you and your partner are two different people from different backgrounds. With thoughtfulness and discussion, you can learn to arrive at a mutually accepted parenting philosophy. Otherwise, constant disagreement can have lifelong adverse effects on the personality of your child.
Let us explore why people have different parenting preferences and how couples can amicably resolve their parenting conflicts.
What are the different dimensions of parenting?
When referring to parenting, people often think it is basically about disciplining and controlling the behaviors of children. In reality, parenting covers different dimensions of parental behavior.
- Parental ideology: It involves aspirations for the future personality of their child.
- Parental responsiveness and supportiveness: The extent to which the parents try to nurture individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion in their children by respecting and accepting their needs and abilities.
- Parental demandingness or control: How parents consciously make efforts to make the child a part of the family and expect them to follow laid down family rules.
We look at all these dimensions holistically when we talk about parenting preferences.
Why do people have different parenting preferences?
When spouses disagree on a parenting approach, different factors contribute to it. Few key factors that play an important role in defining parenting preferences, styles, and practices:
- Cultural values: Child rearing practices are highly influenced by the cultural values in which the parent grew.
- Childhood experiences: Many a time, parents tend to follow the parenting practices of their own parents.
- Mental health: Parents facing psychological distress can treat their children with hostility or aggression.
- Parental stress: Stress arising due to a lack of resources can significantly influence parenting practices.
- Personality traits: The personality traits of a parent are directly related to the way they treat and relate to their children.
- Childhood trauma: Exposure to traumatic childhood experiences, e.g., physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, can be an important determinant in child rearing practices of a parent.
- Marital satisfaction: A good relationship with the spouse plays a vital role in adopting mutually agreed upon parenting practices.
- Self-efficacy: An individual with higher self-efficacy can feel more empowered as a parent to motivate their children to reach their full potential.
- Substance abuse: This is a crucial factor that affects the style of parenting. It can also become a risk factor leading to maltreatment of children.
How to deal with common parenting disagreements
Having parenting disagreements with your spouse is quite normal and expected as you are different people. These disagreements can become a serious issue if they take the form of disputes. The following strategies can help you in handling these parental differences with maturity.
1. Discover your parenting style
Research suggests that there are different parenting styles, e.g., authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, etc. Often the disagreement between parents arises because they have different parenting preferences.
You can both sort out these differences amicably if you learn about your parenting style. Once you have a profile of each other’s parenting preferences, you get a deeper understanding of your perspectives towards parenting.
This knowledge empowers you to deal with your parenting conflicts with maturity. In fact, you can even learn how different parenting styles among couples can complement each other.
2. Set family rules
Sit with your spouse and lay down a set of family rules which have to be adhered to by everyone. These rules can be about acceptable behaviors, schedules, and responsibilities.
Suppose you have rules like children clean up their play area by themselves, no ball game inside the room, or dinner before 8 pm. In that case, every family member should abide.
Having family rules helps avoid unnecessary disagreements and brings in the sense of discipline in day-to-day life.
3. Do not argue in the presence of children
You and your partner might have different approaches towards disciplining children. For example, you might want to limit the screen time for your child while your partner thinks there is no harm in letting the child use technical gadgets.
When parents disagree on discipline methods and get into an argument in front of the child, it will adversely affect him. Your argument will not only shift your focus from disciplining the child to the disagreement, but will send your child the message that you’re not parenting as a team.
Whenever you think that you have reached a point of disagreement due to incompatible parenting styles, do not argue in the presence of the children. Instead, try to discuss your way out in private.
4. Do not make your partner look strict
You might feel familiar with the statements like, “Your dad will get so angry when he comes back” and, “Do not let your mom know about your grades, or you will be grounded.”
Having your partner look like a villain or the strict one is not a healthy practice. Sometimes a parent with a weaker personality tries to do it to get approval from the children. While in some instances, parents feel that playing good cop–bad cop is an effective strategy.
Give your child an impression that you are parenting as a team. Otherwise, he will miss out on a healthy and warm relationship with the parent who is personified as the strict one.
5. Focus on the big picture
Parenting practices have a long-term impact on the personality of your child. They might involve day-to-day disagreements, but in the long run, this will determine what your child becomes in the future.
Sit with your spouse and discuss how you want to see your children as adults. If you want them to evolve into responsible and contented adults, you need to devise your parenting strategies accordingly. Do not let your issues distort the self-image of your child.
Focusing on the big picture will help you resolve your parenting conflicts and arrive at a consolidated parenting strategy.
6. Communicate and celebrate
As parents, you do not need to win one another over to each other’s parenting preferences. Rather, it would be best if you won as parents by making your child grow into a confident individual. Communication not only helps in resolving the differences but also allows to discuss challenges and celebrate success.
Always keep your communication channels open. Sit together daily to reflect upon your parenting journey. Strategize and prioritize your course of action based on the progress and responses of your child.
Celebrate your success as parents and don’t forget to make your children a part of this celebration. Have a big dinner when your child completes a volunteer service project at a retirement home or go out for a long drive when your kid makes his bed for 7 days in a row.
7. Be empathetic towards one another
Our parenting preferences commonly stem from our own childhood experiences. If we feel that something worked well for us, we are inclined to apply those rules to our own children. We also tend to protect our children from experiences perceived as traumatic by us in our childhood. By keeping this fact in mind, empathy plays a vital role in understanding your partner’s stance on a specific parenting practice.
I know of a family where the mother is from Canada and the father hails from Uganda. They have quite different perspectives when it comes to raising their older children. The mother believes that children should have the liberty to decide on moving out when they feel they are ready. On the contrary, the father wants his kids to live with the parents even after getting married since they have large family homes in Uganda where extended families live together.
Instead of getting into an argument about their different perspectives, they have learned to be empathetic and accepting of each other’s opinions and beliefs. They have left it to their children to decide what works best for them.
8. Support each other
A significant factor that hampers disciplinary efforts is the lack of consistency and support from the spouse. If the mom is making efforts to teach her child self-regulation for controlling behavior outbursts, then lack of support from the dad can undermine the entire process.
Do not undermine your spouse’s efforts as long as these are for the good of your child.
7. Seek professional support
If you feel that your parenting disagreements have taken on the form of a constant dispute and that you’ve failed to resolve these issues despite conscious efforts, you should consider seeking professional help. Family counseling and parenting support groups can help you in overcoming these challenges.
Having different parenting styles and preferences is quite normal. Try to make the best of these differences by letting any clashing parenting styles in a family complement each other. Be empathetic to each other, accept and respect the difference of opinion, and try to reach a joint parenting strategy as a team.