Why parenting on the same page is so important and how to do it.


Dear Adele,

My husband and I often disagree on how to approach a parenting issue. He was raised in a permissive environment and likes to parent in a relaxed, easy, ‘few limits’ way. I was raised in a stricter home where rules were made clear and enforced. I think these backgrounds are responsible for our differences, but it is driving me crazy. How should we deal with this without making one of us look like the bad guy?


The Enforcer


Dear Enforcer,

Your situation is not unique, Enforcer. All of us bring to parenting the experiences and education we have had in the past. From this we establish a parenting style. There are four major styles that most people fall into: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. When parenting partners get together, clashes in the ways they manage children are bound to occur, especially if they have been raised differently and have dissimilar approaches.

For example, the authoritarian parent wants homework done every night at a specific time, while a permissive parent lets the child do it or not when he or she feels like it. The authoritative parent discusses rules around the ingestion of sugary snacks between meals, while the permissive parent allows the child open access to the food cupboard. An uninvolved parent never asks the child to clean up their room, while an authoritative parent discusses cleanup expectations and supervises the child carrying them out.

Of course, fights and disagreements can result over everyday situations like these.

To figure out what to do, one needs to understand that children do best with boundaries, limits, and clear expectations that are consistently applied. If the discipline is not consistent and presented with a united front by all the caregivers, the youngsters will divide the adults and be the source of conflict in the home. As well, the kids will not develop behaviours that you want in a predictable manner that prepares them for well socialized functioning in family, school, and community settings going forward.

The adults in the family, including caretakers, need to find a way to present a united front to the child. Just how to do that is the hurdle for parenting partners. Below are a few tips on how to get on the same page.

1: Share how each partner was raised and what values and beliefs are held. Talk about how problems were handled so you can understand the issues that you agree upon and those that set you apart. Discuss topics where differences in approach might exist.

2: Work out limits, rules, and consequences that both parties can accept. This should be done in private, away from the listening ears of the child.

3: Avoid having one partner make all the decisions. Compromise on some issues so a united front can be attained. Remember, kids usually benefit from the strength of all parenting styles.

4: Get help from a therapist in developing a united approach to parenting discipline challenges. Ottawa’s local Community Service Centers offer some free and sliding scale counselling with excellent professionals to assist you. Private psychologists, mental health professionals, and parenting experts are also available for a fee. Parenting courses can also be helpful.

5: Support the decisions about parenting of the partner even if you disagree. There will be times decisions must be made before consultation is possible. Best to not undermine the partner but discuss the differences later when you are alone.

6: Be consistent.

A few quotations related to this topic follow which might inspire you:

“Our kids are counting on us to provide two things: consistency and structure. Kids need parents who say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they say they are going to do.” —Barbara Coloroso

“The thing about parenting rules is that there aren’t any. That’s what makes it so difficult.”— Ewan McGregor

“Life is a crazy ride. It’s a privilege to go through it with a partner.” — Kristen Bell

Sincerely, Adele

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