“But Mommy said I could!” Managing Parenting Differences

By Olivia Pitkenthly
Managing Parenting Differences

Take a look around your neighborhood, playground or child’s school, and you will see a variety of parenting styles. The “helicopter” parent who monitors every step the child makes, not only knows the names of her friends, but also her friends’ parents, and makes sure the child stays fed and hydrated every hour on the hour. There is also the “free-range” parent who allows the child to run free with minimal supervision, shoes optional, trusting the child will make the right decisions and take care of herself. These are two extreme examples of parenting, and neither one is right or wrong. But what happens when the helicopter parent and the free-range parent are parenting the same child? Read on to learn more about managing parenting differences.

Again, these are extreme examples, but differences in parenting decisions occur in every family.  Here are five questions to ask yourself the next time you and your parenting partner are at odds.

Do you have an audience?

If you find yourself disagreeing with a decision your partner has made, look around to see who is watching or listening. While subtle disagreements are OK for your kids to see, a full discussion of differences can be confusing for a child. Plus, it is almost impossible to have an adult conversation around your children without interruption. Instead, excuse yourselves to a separate room and discuss it privately.

Is this worth arguing about?

You want the kids to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. Your partner allows them to stay up an hour past their bedtime to finish a movie. Sure, it is not ideal, but it rarely happens, so is it worth addressing? Probably not. Keep your battles to ones that REALLY matter to both of you.

Where is my partner coming from?

I mean this literally. Take a look at your partner’s childhood, how his parents raised him and how these experiences have impacted his own parenting style. Is he making the same decisions his parents would have made, or is he doing something different? Have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your own experiences, too. Deeper understanding of each other will increase your intimacy.

Am I being a team player?

You and your partner are on the same parenting team. Work together instead of against each other. For instance, if you and your spouse are disagreeing about healthy eating choices for your kids, figure out a compromise, such as reserving sweet treats for after dinner or a weekly ice cream date as a family. Come together to work on the issues.

Am I giving my partner enough credit?

There are plenty of times when I cannot figure out what to do next and my husband takes charge. And let me tell you, he does great. Sometimes he can communicate better with my son than I can, and other times I am more successful. We give each other a high five after a good parenting day, recognizing the other’s hard work along with areas in which we might need a little more practice.

Remember, our kids do not come with a manual on how to be the perfect parent — we are all just winging this parenting thing. So, forgive yourselves, learn from mistakes and do not forget those high fives!


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