Mum vs Dad: Dealing with Differences in Parenting Styles
While most parents have their child’s best interest in mind, they may define ‘best’ in their own different ways.
By Dr Shweta Jha
Parenting a child involves dealing with a host of responsibilities, such as promoting and guiding the social and intellectual development of the child as he grows. It also involves coming face-to-face with and finding solutions to several vexing issues such as matters of discipline and education. Since parenting is such a crucial and impactful element in the life of a child, both mother and father have an equally important role to play.
To play their role well and fulfil their responsibilities, it is vital that both parents stay on the same page and reach a compromise on matters related to parenting. Wide differences and dissimilarities in parenting styles could induce a sense of mistrust, insecurity and instability in children.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you have disagreements with your spouse.
1. Never belittle each other in front of your child.
Whenever a conflict arises between you and your spouse, try to resolve it among yourself without getting your child get involved. Your child should not be the 'counsellor' or the 'meddler' in such situations. Avoid the habit of blaming or complaining about your spouse to your child. He could perceive such behaviour as your weaknesses and may gradually learn to manipulate you by taking advantage of your weakness.
Remember, children lack the experience or the intellect to understand or judge the complexities of a situation. So, it is not a good idea to let them witness parental fights and disagreements. Besides, the habit of complaining about your spouse to your child may also lead to him disrespect and disobey your spouse.
2. Sort out differences amicably
When it comes to parenting, differences in parenting styles of both parents can lead to disagreements. And unless both parents arrive at a decision through mutual discussions, it can spiral into a bigger issue. While it’s normal to have different parenting styles, it’s important to put up a united front when it comes to issues such as morals and values.
Iron out your differences and arrive at a mutually agreed upon solution by staying focused on the common goal, which is the betterment of the child. It’s important that you have open-minded discussions with your spouse. Ask your partner why she wants to discipline the child in a certain way, and why she doesn’t agree with your viewpoint. Ask the same questions to yourself too. What is it about your partner’s viewpoint that you don’t agree with? Why are you against her methods? How different are they from your own? Is there a possibility of finding the middle ground?
The way you handle your differences will serve as an example for your child as well. They will learn that differences do exist and that there are ways of sorting them out amicably.
3. Agree to be different
There is no harm in parents having distinct personalities and attitudes. In fact, having individuals at home with diverse viewpoints is a bonus for the child, as he will meet people with different opinions when he steps out into the wider world.
So, remember to appreciate each other’s opinions and strengths in front of your child, and not get caught in the web of complaints and disagreements. This will help him learn that different people have different opinions and he should find out ways of getting along with them.
Even after putting in your best efforts, if you are still unable to arrive at a common ground, there is no harm in seeking guidance from a counsellor.
The author is Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Sassoon General Hospital and Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune, Maharashtra.
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