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Health & Parenting

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When Parenting Styles Clash

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD

You give your kids what they want for dinner, but your spouse tells them they have to eat what the adults are eating. You don’t want your kids playing with toy guns, but their other parent wants to lead the charge in a big game of cops and robbers. Do you wonder about the mixed messages you’re sending your kids?

Relax. Your different styles could be a good thing. As long as both parents regularly discuss your positions, decisions, and concerns, you can raise well-adjusted kids,

“I like to talk about having parents being on the same chapter, because being on the same page is a little much to ask,” says Kyle Pruett, MD, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and co-author of Partnership Parenting.

“I think the problem comes when parents aren't able to compromise,” says family therapist Lisa Dunning, author of Good Parents Bad Parenting. “They're so rigid: 'My way is right. Your way is wrong,' and they're not willing to work on a happy medium.”

Here’s some advice for parenting together with different styles.

Make Some Decisions in Front of the Children

It’s OK for you and your partner to disagree respectfully about small matters when the children are around. It's helpful for them to listen to you find solutions together, using calm voices and facts, rather than emotions.

“One thing we need to teach our kids is how to problem-solve when we disagree,” Dunning says. “A lot of kids don't know how to compromise because they don't see their parents doing it.”

Agree to Disagree on Small Issues

You can't control every situation, so learn to accept the fact that things will go differently when your partner is in charge.

“Moms may say, 'No sledding on that hill, ever,' or 'No skateboarding,'” Pruett says. “Dads often allow a little more risk-taking. It's more important for parents to agree about [bigger] safety issues like seat belts and holding hands while crossing the street.”

Support Each Other in Front of the Children

Know which issues each of you aren't willing to compromise on, like safety and curfew, and agree to be flexible about other ones.

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