Parenting children is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet! Being responsible for the safety, emotional security, and future stability of another person is a heavy burden. It’s no wonder we all have varying opinions on the right way to do it. You have likely encountered parents whose opinions and processes are wildly different than your own. But, what if those different opinions are coming from your parenting partner? If you and your spouse or significant other have different ideas about the right way to parent, you are certainly not alone. Fights over parenting are one of the most common problems in long-term relationships.
Having different parenting styles does not have to tear you apart though, it can actually be beneficial if you can figure out how to navigate the situation. Every parent wants the best for their children, but what does that look like for your family, and is there any research to support a specific parenting approach? Let’s take a look at the most common parenting styles, the effects they have on child development, and how to reconcile a difference of parenting opinion.
Step Away For Some Stress Relief
Even when different parenting styles prove to be problematic, take time to remember why you came together in the first place. Adventures From Scratch: Date Edition offers over 50 ideas for incredible date nights, along with tear-out “I Love You” cards and other interactive elements. And when you’re ready for family time, check out Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition for some amazing adventures the whole crew can enjoy!
Types Of Parenting Styles
Raising children with a partner who has a different parenting style is stressful. But, what are the different parenting styles? Which style is best and is there any proof? Sure, everyone has their opinion about what is best, but is there any research to back it up? While you can find as many ten different parenting styles in some blogs and articles, most research is conducted based on the Baumrind model. Diana Baumrind classified three different parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, and Permissive. The fourth category of Neglectful, or Uninvolved, was later added by Stanford researchers Maccoby and Martin.
The authoritative parent has relatively strict rules and consistent discipline for breaking them. They also display high levels of affection for their children and are concerned for their emotional health. The authoritative approach is often to referred to as the “tender teacher.” These parents have high expectations for their children but within reason of the child’s capabilities. They are generally responsive to needs and nurture children with warm and loving care. Correction focuses on reasoning with the child and does not use frequent rewards or coercion. They are highly involved in the activities of their children but allow them to make mistakes and are not overbearing. According to the American Psychological Association, children raised in this environment are self-assured, energetic and curious, achievement-oriented, and have a good level of self-control. The authoritative parenting style is consistently seen as the ideal by developmental psychologists and researchers.
The authoritarian parenting style is sometimes described as controlling and “rigid” These parents have very strict rules and high expectations of their children. There is less concern for the child’s feelings or at least less concern is shown to the child. These are the “because I said so,” parents. There is usually no attempt to consider the child’s will in situations, and no attempt to explain. Children often feel confused as they receive harsh punishments for minor infractions, but receive little to no instruction on what they did wrong and what not to do in the future.
The permissive parenting style shows plenty of affection but is not big on rules. These parents choose to ignore improper behavior in a child or appease the child with gifts. They attempt friendship with their child instead of the disciplinarian role. Children are not always monitored and have a low-levels of responsibility. These parents are also referred to and indulgent parents. Their expectations for their children are low in the areas of self-control and maturity. They may often say, “he’s just a baby,” then “oh, he’s just a little boy,” then “well, boys will be boys.” They rarely take responsibility for their actions or the actions of their child. Their priority is good communication with their child and self-regulation, and they put less emphasis on responsibility and self-control.
Neglectful parenting style is also known as “uninvolved” These parents have no clear rules and very low responsiveness. The children are left to their own devices with no expectations of them and no response to their actions, whether they exhibit exceptional or delinquent behavior. This parenting style can take many forms, but often the child’s needs are often not met. They may not be well bathed or dressed. They are often exposed to language and media that are inappropriate for their age.
The Impact Of Parenting Styles
According to researchers at Iowa State University, each of the parenting styles discussed above is thought to have profound effects on social competence, school performance, psychosocial health, and behavior. While there are always outliers and cases of unique children, child psychology experts report a generalized list of attributes for children under each of the four parenting approaches.
According to research since the 1960s, when Baumrind wrote her theory, the authoritative parenting style has been seen as the most effective. Children of authoritative parents rank high in self-esteem, self-control, and adaptive reasoning skills. They generally think for themselves but have high respect for authority, though they may not understand authoritarian adults that refuse to reason or explain themselves. While there are always outliers, generally these children have good social skills and few behavior problems. The parent’s ability to blend respect for the child and attention to social norms more often than not produce a self-reliant child that performs at the highest levels of school and society.
According to Good Therapy, children of authoritarian parenting style are often “too obedient.” The exceedingly high level of parental control bleeds over into adulthood. Children of authoritarian parents often need high levels of instruction, even as adults. They have little to no problem-solving skills and a lack of spontaneity. According to Dr. Maryann Rosenthal children raised in this style are often, “timid and have low self-esteem.” These children are achievers and often do well in school, as they think before they act, and are obedient and self-motivated. However, these children often declare that they are very unhappy and lonely. Some research links this dominant parent style with increased behavior problems as an adult, including a high level of substance abuse.
Research shows that children raised with permissive parents have an increased risk of behavior issues. They are generally not self-motivated and may have trouble conforming to the rules and expectations of school. Psychologists report correlations between permissive parenting and a high level of social skills and self-esteem. However, research shows a high level of entitlement and behavior issues that include impulsiveness, a lack of self-control, and domineering behavior. Children of permissive parents report low levels of depression, compared to children raised under authoritarian parents.
Children raised with the neglectful parenting style consistently rank the lowest in all four areas. They have low academic achievement scores. They report mental health issues like depression and loneliness. These children struggle with social skills and have difficulty conforming to social norms. Child development experts correlate uninvolved parenting with higher levels of substance abuse and suicide. This type of parenting is thought to be dangerous for children and produces a lifetime of difficulty.
It is important to note here that not all children fall into these categories perfectly. Every child is different and many will outperform or underperform the expectations of the category due to their personality or the influence of others in their lives. It is also worthwhile to note that most parents do not fit solely into one category. Parents will often shift their approach over the course of the child’s life or based on each child’s temperament.
Parenting With Two Different Styles
As you might imagine, parents very often have differing ideas on which approach is best for their children. While research points to the authoritative approach as the most healthy, that doesn’t work for everyone. Honestly, it takes a lot of work, consistency, and devotion. Not all parents have the ability to perform at that level for long periods of time. Parenting styles are influenced by genetics, personality, and the way that parent themselves was raised. It is also influenced by the social norms of the parent’s culture, religion, and mental health.
If you find yourself in a situation where you do not agree with your partner’s parenting style, you are not alone. In the case of abuse, the relationship needs to be ended, and you should take your children to safety. Barring that, the problem can usually be resolved with some work and communication. Having two different parenting styles can actually be beneficial for children if parents can work together.
How To Know You Have A Problem
According to the experts at Rabinowitz Counseling, if you are constantly fighting in front of your children about your differing opinions on discipline it can cause confusion and distress in the children. The deterioration in your relationship can cause a decline in the quality of the parent-child relationship as well, as the children feel they must choose between parents. If you find that your children are consistently asking for one parent over the other, you might have an issue. Young children often favor their mother in certain situations. That in itself does not signal a problem, but if your children consistently pick one parent over the other because that parent will give them what they want, then you might have an issue.
If you and your partner are consistently fighting over discipline, chores, rules, or behavioral expectations in your children, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean it is time to throw in the towel. You may just need to make some adjustments.
Keeping It Together
Like pretty much every aspect of a relationship, raising children under two different parenting styles takes an immense amount of communication. When you are both calm, schedule a time to sit down with your partner. Calmly discuss the aspects of parenting that concern you, without pointing fingers. Instead of saying, ” I hate the way you…” Spin the conversation to the tone of, “I would like to see ____ happen in our household.” Create a list of the areas in which you are struggling and work together to form a parenting plan that you are both happy with. Discuss details of how you will handle common situations in your house. If there is a behavior that your child exhibits on a regular basis, discuss how you will handle this issue next time. Once you have developed a plan. Stick to it!
If the conversation gets too heated, step away and come back to it later. The goal of this is to form a plan with your life partner that puts your two on the same team. You both love your children and want the best for them. Remember you are not enemies. You are in this together, and the goal is not to win a fight. The goal is to find a way to raise your children that takes into account proper child behavior, emotional safety, and age-appropriate guidelines that you can both get on board with!
Keep It Behind Closed Doors
If you and your partner do not agree on essential aspects of raising your children, you must refrain from fighting over these issues in front of the kids. Children are extremely sensitive to their parent’s emotions, and seeing parents fight not only induces fear and stress in children, but it also causes them to feel the need to choose a side. Discord between the two of you can confuse the child, as they are not sure what the rules are and how to abide by them. Present a united front when in the presence of the children and support your partner’s decisions. After the kids are sound asleep or out of the house, express your opinion and work it out.
Acknowledge The Benefits
You chose your partner for a reason. There are likely a million things you love about them. Remember that the person you love has a background. They were likely raised in the same way that they are attempting to raise your children. So, their style of parenting may produce exactly the kind of person that you fell in love with. Having a mix of parenting styles in your home can be beneficial if done within reason. Seek to find a way to blend the best of both of your styles into something you can both live with.
Parenting is hard. There is a lot to learn, and just when you think you might have it under control, your second kid comes along with a totally different temperament and set of behavior issues. It is a continual learning process. Take the time to do the research. Find a mentor in another parent that you admire. Read a few different books on parenting. You may find that what you thought you wanted to be as a parent changes once you see the research. Take the time to learn about your children and discern their reactions and behavior. Every child is different and will respond differently to your parenting style. Don’t give up. Continue to learn!
Nurture Your Relationship
The core of your household is the relationship between you and your partner. You started this thing together, remember. Children often find security in the relationships of their parents. While your tendency, especially when fighting over parenting styles, is to focus on the children, consider the possibility that you might need to work on your relationship with each other. There are likely underlying reasons for your frustration with each other. Take time to talk about things other than the children. Go out together and spend time as a couple. Nurture the love that started your family and renew your bond! You were a team before the children, and you will be one after they are raised. Make sure this core relationship stays strong for the sake of yourselves and your kids.
If the problem is beyond your ability to talk it out, get some help! Seek out a child development specialist and allow them to help you develop a plan. Many parents just don’t know that there is any other way to do it. We all tend to raise children in the way that we were raised, or we do the complete opposite because we hated our parents. Either way, our childhood seeps into the way we raise our own children, and we just don’t see any other way. A trained third party has the ability to see the situation with a new set of eyes and offer unbiased suggestions on how to handle the situation.
According to the experts at VeryWellMind, we must be careful about parental research. The studies are correlational, which means that they can discern relationships between parent styles and child outcomes, but they cannot make definitive predictions on cause and effect. While parenting style is certainly linked to specific behavior patterns, other aspects may affect the outcomes such as child temperament, the influence of other role models on the child, and cultural expectations. There is no one style of parenting that is universally considered correct.
Raising children together when you have different parenting styles is not easy. As co-parents, you may have to have some really difficult conversations. However, it is possible for you, in most cases, to come to a reconciliation. View your partner as just that—your partner in this situation. They are not the enemy, they are your greatest ally and together, you can raise some awesome kids. Commit to taking on the challenge as a team!
Sometimes you just need to get away and spend some quality time as a family. Check out our guide to “The Most Family-Friendly Things To Do Over Winter Break” for some great family adventure ideas!
Take this holiday time to create incredible memories with your family. Our list of “20 Memory-Making Christmas Activities For Your Family To Try” will help you find that holiday tradition that is just right for your family!
Frequently Asked Questions
If you and your partner have different parenting styles, and it doesn’t mean you can’t parent together. Remember to communicate, make decisions together, and recognize how your styles can be beneficial.
1. Staff, G. T. (2018, June 15). When parents clash: Managing differences in parenting style. GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/when-parents-clash-managing-differences-in-parenting-style-0616187
2. Muraco, J. A., Ruiz, W., Laff, R., Thompson, R., & Lang, D. (2020, May 18). Baumrind’s parenting styles. Parenting and Family Diversity Issues. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://iastate.pressbooks.pub/parentingfamilydiversity/chapter/chapter-1-2/#footnote-304-3
3. Rabinowitz, L. (2021, July 6). Help our different parenting styles are causing a rift in our marriage –. Couples Counseling In Baltimore. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://baltimorecounselor.com/help-our-different-parenting-styles-are-causing-a-rift-in-our-marriage/.
4. American Psychological Association. (2017, June). Parenting styles. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/act/resources/fact-sheets/parenting-styles.
5. Taylor, M. (2021, November 4). Different types of parenting styles. What to Expect. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://www.whattoexpect.com/family/parenting-styles/.
6. Rosenthal, M. (2009, August 4). The Four Parenting Styles: What Works and What Doesn’t. The attached family. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from http://theattachedfamily.com/membersonly/?p=2151.
7. Cherry, K. (2020, April 14). How different styles of Parenting Impact Children. Verywell Mind. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/parenting-styles-2795072.