The news broke Tuesday…Angelina and Brad are done! Whether you like them as a couple or not, whether you were originally on ‘team Jen’ or ‘team Ange’, and regardless of your opinion of Brad – i’m sure you’re familiar with the power couple with the seven kids. I doubt many people saw this one coming, but apparently it’s because of a conflict of parenting styles…
The reality is, though, that many couples have different parenting styles. (I know on some things my husband and i definitely do.) In any ‘co-parenting setup’, there are going to be conflicts. Parenting is such a passionate activity, one that we put so much time, energy and love into, and it’s only natural that we’re ‘protective’ and even ‘defensive’ of our personal preferences and opinions.
A Quick Reminder
1. You and your partner have different backgrounds – you are each going into the relationship with your own history, and your own experiences of childhood. Speaking to each other openly and honestly can help you to understand each others reactions, and avoid arguments.
2. You and your partner both want what is right for your child – even you can’t see it, or don’t agree with the approach, your partner loves your child just as much as you do. Parents feel a great deal of responsibility for their children, and this can cause parenting decisions to be extremely emotionally charged.
3. There is a chance that neither of you is 100% correct (in fact, this is probably the case) – instead of arguing about who is right, you could try and work on a third, alternative option together. It could be a combination of the two approaches, a compromise, and should result in both parents feeling ‘heard’ and ‘happy’.
4. We need to ‘parent’ our children daily, if there is a serious problem between parents, it needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later – children are a lot more perceptive than we realize, and can pick up on tension. Even if your strategy for dealing with the ‘issues’ is to not deal with it at all (as opposed to fighting), the children will still notice and will still be affected. It is important to sit down, talk and come to an agreement as soon as possible.
Types of Parenting Styles
There are 4 generally-agreed upon parenting styles. However, it is important to note that this does not mean that you have to be stuck in one. Many people find that they drift into another parenting style every now and then, and that’s perfectly fine. Each parenting style can have a different affect on your relation ship with your child, and may have an affect on the type of person they become.
1. Authoritarian Parent – An authoritarian parent is a parent that lays down rules and expects their child to follow them – no questions asked. Authoritarian parents do not believe in creating/making use of opportunities for the child to learn through problem-solving challenges or obstacles, and these children are usually given an answer along the lines of “Because i said so…” if they question something that they are told. If a child does something in a different way to which the authoritarian parent wanted them to, the parent tends to view this as ‘being naughty’ or ‘breaking the rules’, and is more likely to use ‘punishments’ as opposed to ‘consequences’. Children that grow up with authoritarian parents may develop self-esteem problems, and may have lingering anger issues, even into adulthood.
2. Authoritative Parent – An authoritative parent also has rules that the child is expected to follow, but there are exceptions to the rules. These parents are more considerate of the child’s feelings, and tend to have good, open dialog with their children, explaining to them the reasons for the rules, and even discussing or debating one or two of the finer points. Authoritative parents also have a different approach to discipline and rewards. Consequences are designed to teach children a better way to do something the next time, and parents may even choose to use rewards for good behavior. Children with authoritative parents tend to be happy, well-rounded children. They grow up to be responsible adults that know their value and feel comfortable being themselves.
3. Permissive Parent – A permissive parent has very few, if any, rules for their children. A permissive parent may try to justify their lack of rules by saying things like ‘let them be kids’ or ‘you’re only young once’. Children with permissive parents may not have a set curfew, may have very few expectations surrounding their school work and may be allowed to spend excessive amounts of time doing whatever they feel like doing. A permissive parent may try to be their child’s friend, as opposed to their ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’. These children often have problem at school, low self-esteem and general feelings of sadness.
4. Uninvolved Parent – An uninvolved parent is a parent that fails to provide the basic care for their child. It could be said that these parents expect their children to raise themselves. There are generally few, if any rules, and these children often don’t receive any guidance. They may not be taught right from wrong, and as a result, may develop behavioral issues. These children tend to have low self-esteem, and high levels of anger. The uninvolved parents may have mental illnesses, or the neglect may be due to substance abuse.
Many couples nowadays fall somewhere between the second and third group., although there are many parents on both ends of the spectrum too. And almost all of us swing between two (or three) groups, at least a little bit. The difficulty is when you’re in group 2 (authoritative), for instance, and your partner’s in group 3 (permissive). Or you’re in group 3(permissive) and your partners in group 1(authoritarian).
So, you and your partner don’t agree… is it going to affect the children?
If you were hoping that your child wasn’t picking up on the tension, sorry! Those little guys are very perceptive. Kids tend to notice when there’s a problem, even if we try and hide it from them! There are definitely going to be a few negative effects for the children if there is a lot of conflict in the house between you and your partner. Consider the following….
- There are two sets of ‘rules’, and this can be extremely confusing for children. They are not going to know who to listen to, and are going to end up feeling trapped in the middle.
- Children learn to manipulate the situation on both sides to suit themselves. They can do this by playing the parents against each other. The child might not realize it, and may think that it’s all just innocent, but of course, this is harmful in the long run as it models dishonest, manipulative relationships and lacks real appreciation and empathy.
- Children may feel like they have to ‘be there’ as support for both parents, and can end up feeling torn as the parents disagreement grows.
- If parents argue a lot, or there is a lot of conflict in the home, a child will pick up on it, and may develop anxiety or depression.
- These children may grow up to be adults that are weary of marriage, or of having children.
- Children that have grown up in homes with conflicting parenting styles, and a lot of conflict because of it, tend to suffer from adult depression or anxiety, and may battle with developing healthy relationships of their own.
Luckily, there is also the opportunity for positive impact by parents with different parenting styles. If a child witnesses conflict between his parents, but then sees them come to a compromise, the child learns the value of ‘give and take’ in a relationship. The child will also learn the importance of flexibility and compassion, and see that, even though two people don’t agree a hundred percent on something, it is possible to work together and find a solution. The important thing is the way in which you handle the differences of opinion.
- Remember that you both have your own histories, and try to be sensitive to each other and each others reaction. Something that may be a non-issue for you could have a specific memory attached to it for your partner and may elicit a stronger reaction from them.
- Sit down and discuss things openly – Pick a couple of points of interest that you both agree on as ‘top priority’. These could be topics such as discipline, decision making, nurturing, pocket-money or chores and participation in family activities. Discuss how you feel about these topics, and decide where you are willing to compromise.
- Decide on the most important morals and values that you want to pass on to your children, and then agree on how you’re going to go about achieving that, even from within the different parenting styles. For example, if you decide that you want your child to be honest and have a healthy self-esteem, plan activities that will allow for that. You could agree to use lots of praise and recognition for jobs well done, and create plenty of opportunities for your child to develop talents that they will be proud of.
- Try to identify the areas that cause the greatest conflict. Do you and you partner argue about pocket-money? Or is school work the main bone of contention? Once you know where the real problems lie, you can try and come up with a compromise.
- If you are still experiencing conflict (more than the normal levels), consider asking for help from a third party. Sometimes, a mediator can help both parties see things in a new light, and bring a little perspective.
The most important thing to realize is that, if the conflict in your relationship has gotten to the point where it’s affecting the children, it’s time for something to change. Sit down, talk about it, talk to someone else if necessary. If you don’t your children, or at the very least, your marriage, is probably going to pay the price.
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