There is no doubt that raising children can really test even the strongest relationships. Partners frequently have different standards of behavior and expectations for their children that can be the cause of considerable tension. In particular, variations in approaches to handling misbehavior can be the source of discomfort and anxiety for one or both parents, especially if the variation is significant.
If one partner believes in the old adage 'spare the rod and spoil the child' while the other parent prefers to reason with children when they misbehave there is likely to be conflict -or else one partner may give in to the other.
These differences are often difficult to resolve as they generally result from deeply held beliefs about how children should be raised. They also probably reflect the type of child-rearing that parents experienced in their own families. The pull from the past are very hard to ignore.
But despite the potential for conflict parental differences are healthy and provide a sense of balance to family life, particularly if one parent's approach complements the other.
They certainly tend to concern parents more than children who are usually quick to work out the differences in approaches from a young age. Most children know which parent to ask for an increase in pocket money and who to stay away from at bed-time. The important issue is how the differences are handled by both partners.
|The following guidelines may help parents deal with their different approaches to raising children:
- Avoid disagreeing with your partner in front of children, unless you are concerned for their safety or well-being. There are many times when you may differ with the way your partner handles a situation, but openly disagreeing shows a lack of consideration and respect. Express your concerns in private about how your partner handled a particular situation or discipline issue. Often parents are bereft of ideas when dealing with difficult children so suggest some alternatives rather than criticize your partner's approach.
- Reach agreement on household or family rules. While children's behavior standards may vary between partners, there needs to be some agreement on the rules that govern family living. It certainly makes parenting easier when guidelines on a range of issues from bedtime to household tidiness are applied with consistency.
- Identify areas where there are obvious differences in approaches and reach some type of compromise. If one partner has strong views about a particular issue consider letting that person take over in that area.
- Decide as a couple how you will deal with important issues and take a united front when handling significant behavioral difficulties. In particular, children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder need to be handled consistently by both parents.
- Avoid becoming involved in disputes between your partner and the children. Often direct interference in a disagreement will only intensify a situation or lead to a new dispute between you and those involved. Sometimes your partner and the children will benefit from having neutral party in the family who they can consult for advice or even to vent their anger.
- Resist the temptation to overcompensate for the extremes of one parent. Frequently, if one partner is too strict the other will be excessively lenient and allow the children too much latitude. Or if one partner is too critical of children the other may paint a bright picture of children's efforts rather than give realistic feedback. It is better to ensure that children have at least one parent who adopts a reasonable and consistent approach.
A Dialog between Parents
"Just follow through for once in your life when you speak to the kids," Tom implored his wife as his seven year old daughter openly disobeyed her mother and took another ice block from the freezer. "They take no notice of you at all. Be firm. Show them you mean business and stop making useless threats when they don't do what you want," he continued to his wife Melissa.
"Please let me handle the children in my own way. I manage to survive during the week when you're not around," Melissa hissed back at her husband.
Tom continued pointing out his partner's short-comings as a parent in front of the group of friends who they had invited for lunch. Melissa gave her husband an icy stare as she quietly left the room, infuriated by her husband's insensitivity.
Melissa could have used some back up from her partner, instead she received a dressing down. If Tom continually undermined his wife it is little wonder that the children took little notice of her.
Working out the differences requires open communication between parents as well as a willingness to accommodate the other person's point of view and way of doing things. This is hard as many people devote an enormous amount of time and energy trying to make their partners think and act more like them.
While it may be desirable for both parents to have the same approach, this is difficult to achieve. It is more important to be consistent with your own parenting so that children can predict your reactions to their behavior, understand your standards and feel comfortable with you as a person.