Parents divided by parenting styles

One parent decides to discipline a child by spanking it. The other parent gets upset because he/she does not believe in corporal punishment.

“Your dad’s mad!”

Having two parents with differing attitudes on raising children can be frustrating for both parents and also confusing for the child. I remember one mother telling her child, ‘Don’t listen to your father, he’s crazy,’ because she did not agree to the discipline that her husband had administered.

Thus, different parenting styles may sometimes result in one parent undermining the other’s authority. Children are quick to learn which parent to listen to. Clever children will take advantage of the parental disunity and play one parent against the other.

It’s quite obvious that two people of different backgrounds will not see everything eye to eye. A parent who was raised by disciplinarians will likely be a bit harder on the children than a parent raised in a laid-back family. Understanding these background differences will help parents deal with the situation.

Digging early foundations

The best time to find out one’s partner’s parenting style is not after the child is born, but before. A couple hoping to have a child may discuss the following questions: How will we discipline our children?  Will we spank the child or give ‘ time-out’?  What about taking away privileges? What part will religion play in our child’s discipline?’ ‘When the baby cries at bedtime should we pick it up? And so on…

Discussing specific parenting issues before the child is born will minimise conflicts when the child is born.

If conflicts arise because of differing parenting styles then both parents should show a united front. Unless one style of discipline borders on child abuse, each parent should seem supportive of the other parent’s decisions and avoid ‘undoing’ the discipline. Disagreements can be discussed in private, away from the child. No parent should challenge another when the children are around. Arguing about different styles, especially in front of the children is a lose-lose situation for all involved.

Parents obviously need to communicate and reinforce decisions through their actions in finding a common ground on how they are going to discipline their child. They have to compromise and agree on specific disciplinary actions in response to a child’s misbehavior.

Differences in opinion will always occur when differences in parenting styles happens. Tempers will flair. Emotions will run high. However it’s helpful to remember that both parents want the best for the child even though their methods of raising the child might differ.

Read more by Sipho Yanano

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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