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Different parenting styles? Start here

It’s quite common to have contrasting approaches to parenting. After all, you and your partner have each been influenced by your own upbringings, as well as various cultural and community norms. But when your parenting styles clash, it can cause problems, both for your relationship and your child. And if you’re co-parenting with an ex partner, many of these tips will apply as well. 

Here’s a quick primer on four things you can do to reduce conflict and provide consistent messages to your child — even when you have varying points of view.  

Identify your parenting styles

There are many popular parenting styles and approaches. Recently, some of the most popular are:

  • Responsive Parenting (also called gentle parenting) focuses on tuning into a child’s needs and emotions. The focus is on creating a positive relationship between parent and child and helping your child learn to navigate their emotions.
  • Attachment Parenting focuses on responsiveness as well, and promotes the idea that early brain development is fostered by consistently offering your child ways to connect to you.
  • Authoritative focuses on teaching concepts like scaffolding, and high expectations for behavior.

Of course, there are many more styles out there, including some that involve harsh punishments or neglect. Where do you and your partner each fall? By understanding each person’s style, it can help you start a productive conversation about where each of you is coming from and how you might be able to meet in the middle. Because finding harmony, like most things, involves compromise.  

Collaborate on the approach

Regardless of which parenting style works for you, your children will blossom with consistency. Your partner (and/or family members involved in your child’s care) and you can collaborate on various strategies for common concerns like what to do for tantrums, bedtime battles, and big feelings. It’s tough for children to manage any hard situation when the response from each parent is wildly different. Children thrive on consistency, as it helps prevent them from feeling confused or insecure — or from trying to “divide and conquer” the two of you by using parental differences to their advantage. 

Maintain a unified front

It’s important to back up your partner, as long as they’re being safe. If they do something you disagree with, talk to them in private later instead of arguing in front of your child. The latter can undermine their authority and can cause anxiety and misunderstanding for your child. We all get thrown into parenting situations that we fumble over, and it’s okay to go back to your child and apologize for a hurtful or inappropriate response. While we can’t have a do-over, we can spend time repairing and learning. 

Schedule weekly check-ins

New parenting decisions will always be surfacing, so it might be a good idea to have a regular time each week for re-evaluating the approach or coming up with new ones. As your child grows older, for example, you’ll need to hash out where you stand on things like smartphones, social media, or dating.  

Also, your child’s evolving personality may bring about new parenting conflicts. To avoid letting your differences stress your relationship, try to always see your partner as your ally. Even when they make parenting mistakes, you can choose to extend your forgiveness and support. After all, wouldn’t you like them to do the same? How you parent together is something visible to your child as they get older, and they benefit from knowing you value and spend time on the process.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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