How to Navigate Parenting When You and Your Partner Don’t Agree

partners sitting on opposite ends of the couch

Having children is a total game-changer for a couple—even for the couples who feel they are prepared. It brings us to new, uncharted heights of love, while also presenting us with new obstacles to work through. And for couples who approach child rearing differently, there are even more challenges to overcome.

Each parent has a style. Age, gender, personality traits, upbringing, beliefs, knowledge, and mental and physical health all impact the way in which we raise our kids. And our parenting style has profound effects on our children—from their self-confidence to how they engage with others. How we interact with our children and how we discipline them will undoubtedly influence them for the rest of their lives, which is why it’s vital to make sure our style of parenting supports healthy development.

Researchers have identified four main types of parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved.

Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting involves a lot of effort put into creating and maintaining a positive relationship with the child. Authoritative parents establish and enforce rules, and explain the reasoning behind them. They make it clear that adults are in charge, but also validate their children’s feelings and display affection regularly. With authoritative parenting, positive discipline strategies are used to reinforce good behavior in children, like praise and rewards. This style of parenting is considered the most developmentally healthy and effective one, where children are more likely to become responsible, successful, happy, and confident adults who are comfortable expressing their opinions and feelings. Most experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend this approach.

peaceful parenting family playing together
Read more about Raising A Connected Family Through Peaceful Parenting

Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting is more of a “kids should be seen and not heard” approach, and one that doesn’t take any feelings into account. Authoritarian parents exert high levels of control and aren’t very warm or affectionate. They will often say, “Because I said so,” believing children should follow rules and be obedient in all situations. They are not interested in negotiations, and often use punishments instead of discipline. Meaning, rather than teaching a child how to make better decisions, they’re more focused on making them feel bad for their mess-up. While children who grow up with authoritarian parents tend to follow the rules the majority of the time, they are more likely to develop self-esteem issues because they don’t feel their opinions or feelings are valued. They can also become hostile or aggressive, focusing on the anger they have for their parents.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting usually involves the setting of rules, but little enforcement. Consequences are rarely given out, and the attitude that “kids will be kids” is often an explanation in times of bad behavior. Permissive parents are forgiving, show a lot of affection, and usually take on more of a friend-role than a parent-role. This parenting style is also associated with offering rewards in order to end a tantrum. Research shows that kids who are raised by permissive parents are more likely to exhibit more behavioral problems and struggle academically, as they don’t respect authority or rules.

Uninvolved Parenting

Uninvolved parenting is associated with very few rules, as well as minimal interaction and little to no time or energy put into meeting children’s basic needs. Uninvolved parents tend to have little knowledge of what’s going on with their children and don’t display much interest in their lives. It should go without saying that this type of parenting can be detrimental to a child’s wellbeing and development. It may cause children to struggle with knowing how to behave or interact with others. They are likely to have self-esteem issues and perform poorly in school. 

When parenting styles clash, children can be confused about how to act and what to expect in response to their action. Differences in parenting styles can also lead to increased conflict between partners. If you and your partner have different parenting styles, here are some tips to keep in mind: 

  • Know it’s normal. Even the healthiest partnerships involve parenting disagreements. It’s about how you work through them.
  • Communicate. Share your ideas, your opinions. Talk about how you were raised, and what you’d like to do the same and what you’d like to do differently. Be respectful with one another and be willing to make compromises. Validate each other’s feelings and keep an open mind. Discover ways your parenting styles complement each other. For example, a permissive parent may help an authoritarian parent be more warm and fuzzy. And an authoritarian parent may help a permissive parent in establishing boundaries.
  • Support each other. We all make mistakes, and we all have strengths and weaknesses. Being able to identify what we’re good at, as well as what we may need our partner’s help with, will foster a team-mentality and promote healthy family dynamics. Differences in parenting styles don’t have to ruin your relationship. Make a solid effort to listen to your partner, compromise on what’s important, and remind each other that you are in this together.
  • Refrain from arguing (in front of the kids). When your partner does something you disagree with, resist the urge to criticize. Wait until your children aren’t present, then attempt to calmly talk about what happened. Unless your child is in danger, don’t undermine your partner. Support their decision in that moment—even though it’s not one you would have made—and discuss it at a later time. When kids witness fighting between their parents, it can cause insecurity, anxiety, and fear.
  • Get help (it’s never too late). If you and your partner have different parenting styles and find that it’s interfering with running a healthy, happy household, a therapist or counselor can often help. Inviting someone impartial into the equation can help you learn how to communicate in healthier ways with one another and provide tools for working together toward a common goal—your children’s wellbeing. And you don’t need to be new parents in order to seek help. As long as you still love and trust your partner, you can find ways to make positive changes for your family. But you need to be willing to put in the work. 

If you and your partner have different ideas, beliefs, and parenting philosophies, you may run into more disagreements than parents who don’t. However, it doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed to fail or that your children will suffer. If you’re able to balance your contrasting viewpoints with healthy, open communication, you will likely come out stronger in the end. In addition, you’ll ultimately demonstrate to your children the importance of problem-solving, compromising, partnerships, and respecting others’ differences. 

Remember, you both love your children; you both want them to be happy, healthy, and kind. You have a common goal, and it’s an important one. Don’t let conflicting ideals drive you off course. You each have so much to offer—don’t lose sight of that.