What do you do as parents with different parenting styles?
I am not writing this post with all the answers because in all honesty I do not have them but instead, I’m sharing how my husband and I have managed as two parents with different parenting styles.
My husband and I have different backgrounds as do most parents who are raising children. We each have a different upbringing, different life experiences, different educations, and different beliefs. Of course, with all those differences we also have similarities but it’s the differences that sometimes create parenting challenges.
Here’s the thing, while we do have different parenting styles and a different approach to discipline, I would absolutely never question if either one of us has our children’s best interest at heart. My husband often reflects on his upbringing and childhood experiences to make decisions and I tend to rely on my mother’s instinct, my education or “textbook” knowledge, and my teaching experience but we know that ultimately we have to negotiate what works best in our family.
Our toddler is the king of pushing boundaries and challenging us so we’ve had countless opportunities to practice our parenting skills but we continue to look at it as a “work in progress.” There are times I think my husband’s reactions are too tough and there are times he thinks I’m too lenient. I’m the first to admit, my approach is far from perfect and I do not always respond to behavior the way I wish I would have and my husband has said the same.
So here we have it, this is what we have learned as parents with different parenting styles.
There is no single, best approach to discipline. This is the hard part of parenting. There’s not a step by step guide to how we should react in every situation. Yes, there is an abundance of helpful resources and research that guides us. But each little person is a perfectly wrapped gift of uniqueness. This leads me to another realization.
Conversation and reflection. The first time my son had a complete meltdown leaving the playground left this mommy fumbling through my parenting approach. After reflection and a conversation with my husband, we were more prepared for how we would handle the situation in the future.
Open-mindedness and compromise. We have experienced how hard this can be. This is always a work in progress in our household. There are times we disagree how a situation should be handled. It helps to talk through situations and to compromise. We each also understand the nonnegotiables – if we see the children hurting someone or putting themselves in danger. These behaviors always have consequences. Some rules are exactly that – rules. The children must hold our hand when we walk across the street. We live in a busy residential area so this is necessary for us.
Choose our battles. We are also learning with two boys in the house to choose our battles. For example, sharing toys – there were times when our toddler would take toys from the baby and the baby didn’t care so we didn’t necessarily always intervene. Now that the baby is getting a bit older, he’s starting to “voice” his opinion when a toy is taken. I think toys must have some sparkly appeal when in the other one’s hands because that is the toy they both want. We realize it’s not always a “negative” behavior but we talk about sharing and realize this is something they will learn.
Stages. This is such a BIG one for me to remember and wish I could tell my “first-time” momma self. My husband and I have agreed we were “stricter” with our first son. Now with two, we have realized sometimes a behavior is a stage. We’ve learned that a one-year-old “throwing food” for example at the table, although v e r y frustrating goes away. We, of course, don’t celebrate the behavior but we remove the food, say “no” and take a deep breath. In all honesty, sometimes it saves sanity to realize “this too shall pass.” We had a two-year-old who relentlessly threw his milk cup. I mean all.the.time. and we tried what seemed like everything to make it stop but then one day, the behavior just ended. Sometimes when something “passes” it’s hard to even remember it happening. This crazy parenting stuff! And when in doubt, talk to your pediatrician. They can be reassuring and offer suggestions on what may be a developmentally appropriate response.
Support each other. My husband has my back and I have his. This is something we’ve tried to practice but just now we are starting to see our toddler try to play us against each other. He may cry for mommy when daddy makes him do something or vice versa. When I discipline him, he cries for daddy. My husband and I support each other and want our boys to respect and listen to both of us.
Have a private discussion. We try not to have the parent conversation in front of the children – we leave this conversation for after the kids are in bed. Sometimes, I see something that was a trigger for the behavior and we discuss how to avoid such a situation in the future. For example, hubby loves to wrestle but we’ve learned the hard way, if wrestling goes too far, then Eli gets out of control loses sight of “play” and gets too rough. We’ve made the mistake of having the conversation in front of the kids but we know it’s not the best way. The kids can sense the tension and everyone’s anxiety level escalates. Plus, our 3-year-old is getting very wise. He understands our conversation and will exasperate the negative behavior.
As our family is growing, we also are growing as parents. This is so important for me to remember. As parents, we are not perfect, we make mistakes, and ultimately it’s that both parents are on board with doing the best they can. Sometimes, we don’t have all the answers and that’s ok. We are learning to take it one day at a time and to keep moving forward. We try to forgive quickly and celebrate the positives!