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When Mom & Dad Have Different Parenting Styles

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When Mom & Dad Have Different Parenting Styles

For some people, the holidays mean that both parents are home and more highly involved in parenting than usual. This can be great, and… it can also cause difficulty when parents have different parenting styles.  (so common!)

Here’s a trick that can help:  remember who is driving the bus. (*)  Every parenting moment of every day doesn’t require total consensus… sometimes we can take turns instead, especially with small-to-medium-sized matters.   And don’t worry–children are perfectly capable of learning and following different sets of rules–they already do!  (home vs Grandma’s vs school, etc.)

An example of “remembering who is driving the bus”:  If my husband is in the kitchen setting a limit on how much candy our older daughter can eat, and I think he ought to relax about it because it’s Christmas Day… my best choice is probably to just let it go.   He is driving that bus!   One piece of candy is Small Stuff when compared to the consequences of parental conflict and undermining.

Undermining, by the way, is when one parent does or says things that sabotage the other parent, especially around limits.  In the Christmas candy example above, if I had yelled into the kitchen that my husband should “Just relax and let her have the candy!”, I would have been making it much harder for him to keep the limit he was setting, not to mention practicing poor communication.  I would also have been making myself look like the ‘nice parent’ and he the ‘mean’ one.  All of these things are so unhelpful in maintaining positive, healthy, parent-parent and parent-child relationships.

When the issues are bigger, and more important, then it is usually not feasible to just ‘let it go’–instead you’ll need to talk about the differences–in private, respectfully, and with lots of listening.

But consider experimenting with the ‘who’s driving’ theory for some small stuff this week.  … just give it a try, and see what you can let go of.  When you let the other grownup drive the bus, you might even find that being a passenger has its perks.

(*)  Thanks to Carol Ramsey, Austin mom and blogger, for this catchy phrase.

Katie Malinski Katie Malinski LCSW is a licensed child and family therapist and parenting coach. In addition to her one-on-one work with families and children, she presents dynamic parenting workshops on a variety of topics, including: Beyond Birds and Bees, Parenting Through Divorce, Typical Parenting Conflicts, and many more. Learn more about Katie at www.KatieMalinski.com.
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