when mom & dad don’t agree
By: Erica Vaughn
Parents must work together and be unified in their approaches. When parents are unified, children feel secure and loved. The partnership between the parents is strengthened as well. Conversely, when parents aren’t unified in their parenting, their children can feel insecure and confused. Ultimately, this can yield resentment amongst the parents. Once resentment builds, it is hard for either parent to approach the other in a way that is conducive for an effective parenting partnership.
How parents choose to parent their children has lasting effects on the children’s development. Children who are supported by their parents in an environment with high accountability and high warmth are less likely to participate in risky behaviors when they are older. Therefore, it is essential that parents do their best to work as a team. This does not mean parents must have the same style of parenting, but it does require that each parent has the same goals for their children. Additionally, each parent must respect the other and value the differences that their partner brings to the table.
There are 4 types of parenting styles. They are:
- Authoritative – Authoritative parents put a significant amount of effort into their relationships with their children. Rules and expectations are enforced, but parents consider their children’s feelings. They often include their children in establishing rules and expectations. They are proactive about solving problems.
- Permissive – Parents who are permissive tend to not set firm rules or expectations. Children of these types of parents often do not have any consequences enforced. They are often more focused on being their children’s friend rather than a parental figure.
- Authoritarian – This style of parenting is punitive. Authoritarian parents often prefer that children have little say in family rules and expectations. They also tend to disregard their children’s feelings.
- Uninvolved – Parents who are uninvolved do not take any role in parenting their children. They do not spend time getting to know their children, and they are not involved in their school day. Children with uninvolved parents are often allowed to do whatever they want, with whomever they want. Usually parents who are uninvolved are struggling, or overwhelmed, with other aspects of their lives.
It is important for each parent to understand what kind of parenting style fits them, and their children, best. Research shows that authoritative parents tend to raise confident children who can make smart choices. It is possible for one parent to be a different style than the other, but it is most helpful when the parents are unified in their styles.
Unified parenting fosters an environment that models healthy communication skills. By modeling healthy communication, parents teach their children how to build, and maintain, healthy relationships. In instances where parents find themselves in disagreement, the disagreement does not, necessarily, indicate a parenting problem if handled in a respectful way.
When parents disagree, they should:
- Refrain from disagreeing in front of their children – In moments where a parent disagrees with the decisions of the other parent, it is vital that they do not discuss the situation in front of their children. By disagreeing in front of the children, parents can confuse the children, or a parent may feel undermined. Parents should wait until they are alone to discuss the situation. Together they can figure out how the situation could have been handled in a more effective manner. The discussion must be open and neither parent should make accusations; each parent’s perspective should be respected and valued.
- Recognize that each parent has an important role in the parenting relationship – Each parent brings their own perspectives, experiences, and strengths to the family. Each perspective must be considered and appreciated. Confidence is increased when each parent feels that their voice is heard, and valued. This improves the strength of the parenting relationship, thus making them a more effective parenting pair. Research shows that parents who are unified in their parenting styles tend to create a secure attachment for their children.
- Communicate and listen to their partner – The parents should set aside time to voice their concerns. As mentioned, this should take place away from the children. While one parent is speaking, the other should be actively listening. To show that they are actively listening, they should: use nonverbal communication (example: leaning forward, using eye contact, nodding), asking questions when clarification is needed, and waiting to share opinions and thoughts until the parent speaking is finished. Most importantly, the concerns that are discussed should be remembered, and worked through, long after the discussion is over.
- Talk about their goals for the children. – Once parents can sit down and discuss their main goals for their children, they often find that they agree. Typically, disagreements happen when it comes to how to achieve their goals in their day-to-day expectations. If the goals are always the priority, the daily expectations can always be adjusted, re-evaluated, and sometimes, eliminated. Daily expectations that disrupt the effectiveness of the parenting relationship should always be less of a priority than the overall goals of the parents.
- Enjoy date nights! – It is important that parents put effort into maintaining a healthy partnership. Taking the time to care for their relationship allows them to connect and unify. This leads to each parent feeling valued, thus fostering a strong, healthy, partnership. Spending time together as partners, and not as “parents”, allows them to see each other in a way that rekindles the joy they felt prior to becoming parents.
Parenting is complicated. When each parent feels that they are part of a team, parenting becomes much more manageable. Parents should focus on the same goals, and respect the perspective that their partner brings to the parenting relationship. By parenting this way, their children will grow up feeling happy and secure. They are also modeling how to successfully maintain a cooperative, and respectful, relationship. However, just like with any other relationship, parents may disagree about decisions that are made. It is important that each parent is given the opportunity to voice their concerns, and together they should work to find a solution. Ultimately, if they prioritize their goals for their children above all else, they will successfully raise children who are able to thrive!
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