When our oldest child was three and we had another one on the way, my husband and I started noticing that we had different parenting styles. Timeouts weren’t working, our daughter wasn’t listening, and we couldn’t get on the same page about how to handle it.
Before I had kids I assumed that I would parent like my parents did. I was raised with certain morals and expectations growing up and I assumed that my children would be raised in a similar way. What I never thought about was how my husband and I would have different parenting styles based upon our own upbringings—and I never imagined how those differences could affect our relationship with each other.
If I had to summarize our differences, I would say that my husband is an “authoritarian” parent, but I am an “authoritative” parent. He believes that if you fail to follow the rule, there should be an automatic punishment or correction. On the other hand, I believe we can talk about the rule being broken and maybe have a correction or discipline to correct it. With my style of parenting, there are more exceptions. But my husband is more black and white when our kids do something wrong.
I’ve found that our ideas of parenting often affect the response our children give to our parenting styles. Our children know that Daddy means business if you disobey and do not follow rules. With Mommy, they’ve learned that there are usually second and even third chances. They know they may be able to bargain punishment by promising not to do it again or by saying that they didn’t know.
Our different parenting styles can cause friction in our marriage. I don’t always believe in his form of discipline, and it’s hard not to interfere in front of the children. But if I jump in and say, “Why are you doing that?!” I know that that would take away his credibility as a parent.
So instead we try to enforce each other by backing each other up, and not interfering with the other parent’s discipline or praise. If we disagree about a parenting decision, we will talk to each other without the children being present. That’s the hard part—learning to keep my mouth shut until after the kids are out of earshot. But it’s just not fair to them if we argue in front of them, especially about a punishment. I’ve also found that it can be helpful to write things out instead of talking in person. It gives distance, time to cool down and think.
The most important thing is that we put up a united front and show our kids that we are on the same team: “I have your dad’s back, he has my back.”
And as we’ve worked at creating that united front, I’ve come to actually appreciate some things about my husband’s parenting style. In some ways our different styles as a mom and a dad help us to balance each other out and give our kids what they need. For instance, his black and white parenting style doesn’t leave a lot of room for the kids to develop their own spin about what the punishment means. With him, they know when they do something wrong. And while they may act like they don’t like him now because they think he is mean, in reality he is teaching them right from wrong. And I’m hoping that someday they’re going to be grateful for that.
Because I do believe that fathers show a form of authority that is important for their kids. Most children respect a father or father-like person for how they represent that authority. The reality is that my husband is a very important part of the foundation of our family; he is strong and flexible, able to handle any destruction that would come to our family and children. And I need him right there beside me to back me up when the kids are disobedient and the house feels like it’s gonna come crashing down. I need him to back me up in those moments, especially when I feel like I’ve given too many second chances.
Parenting has not always been the walk in the park that I imagined it would be, and it’s led to arguments between my husband and me. But in the end, I’m very grateful that along this crazy and beautiful journey, he’s right there beside me helping me figure out how to raise our kids into the loving and responsible adults we hope they become.
Flickr/ Angela Sevin