How to discipline with different parenting styles

You said what to the kids!? Here's how to discipline your kids (without fighting!) when you and your partner have fundamentally different parenting styles.

By Liza Finlay
How to discipline with different parenting styles

Photo by Andresr/iStock

Your five-year-old kicks your toddler. You want to let the battling brothers sort it out on their own; your partner wants to send the naughty kindergartner to his room. A fight ensues and soon you wish you could go to your room too.

Sound familiar?

When you and your spouse have different approaches to parenting it can feel like the Great Wall of China has arisen between you. Child discipline can be divisive. And arguments over child-rearing can make the most even-tempered adult seem childlike. We quibble and quarrel with our mates like school-aged siblings.

Why? Because we care. Because it’s important. Because it matters more than pretty much anything — to both parents.

Sure, this is a hot-button issue, but you can turn down the heat by remembering that your spouse is in complete agreement about the importance of parenting and parenting right. You two may disagree about what that looks like, but appreciating that you share the best of intentions will bring the feud's fever pitch back to the normal range. See, you’ve already found some common ground!

Here's what else you can you do when you and your partner aren’t on the same parenting page:

  • Get on the same page. Stop the power struggle and settle this on neutral ground. This isn’t a game of Tug of War so drop the rope and let an expert weigh in. Start from scratch and consider building solid strategies by taking a parenting course — together.
  • Limit disagreements by carving out turf. If laundry is your chore, it’s up to you to decide how to handle the clothes strewn across the kids’ floors. If hockey practice is his drill, he can dictate the terms of the 5 a.m. drill. And remember, you didn’t marry your mirror image. Play to strengths. If he’s better with tantrums and you’re better with picky eating, divide and conquer.
  • Agree to disagree. Unless his parenting practices cause bodily harm, battling over discrepant approaches is not worth the strain it puts on the marriage. Learn to let it go. Remember, the relationship your spouse engenders with the kids is not your affair and you can’t control it. So unless his or her parenting practices are truly threatening your child’s development, leave it alone. It’s their business, so let them work it out.
  • Form a united front. Even if his authoritarianism, or her permissiveness, makes your skin crawl, keep the conversation calmly to yourselves. Allowing the kids to sense your disquiet only compounds the problem. And besides, compromise requires cool heads and calm.

Want to talk to other parents about this issue? Check out our forums!

This article was originally published on May 07, 2012

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