Resolve child-rearing differences

All parents love their children and intend to provide them with the best opportunities for a happy, healthy and productive life. Yet, all individuals have their own distinct personality, family history, ideas and parenting beliefs that may not match their spouse’s. How can couples manage their varied parenting perspectives to best serve their children?

A compatible parental child rearing philosophy and practice is obviously most beneficial to youngsters. Dr. Sara Gable and Associates found that, “Harmonious marriages tend to be associated with more sensitive and supportive parenting and with more favorable child outcomes, such as attachment security and interpersonal competence.”

Conversely, In “Developmental Psychopathology and Family” E. Mark Cummings wrote, “Scores of studies have documented the relationship between marital discord, child adjustment and children’s distress by exposure to marital conflict.” Earnest Jouriles and Christopher Murphy reported a connection between acting-out behavior in boys and parental disagreement. Drs. James Peterson and Nicholas Zill found that “parental conflict was associated with children’s behavior problems independent of parent-child relationships.

There are many reasons why even harmonious pairs may find themselves at odds about the best way to parent their offspring. Those who valued their own upbringing may attempt to emulate their parents’ style, which may be different from their spouse’s equally effective but different way. Those who did not appreciate the way they were brought up may lean toward an opposite practice, such as moving from strict parenting to a very lax approach.

Parents’ individual personalities, values and principles may also vary and yield relationship discontent, arguing, accusations, frustrations, hurt and conflict about the best ways to raise their children.

In other homes, a parent may yearn for a strong alliance with his/her child and thus be inclined to be a more permissive parent, which may cause the mate to feel excluded, distance the couple and may contribute to marital distress.

Another common cause for misalignment of parental rearing practices may be the couple’s style on the strict-permissive continuum. If mates insist on having their way, they are likely to create a strained atmosphere, causing tension that is harmful to their child’s emotional safety and comfort

Children observe and comment on the differences between their parents’ rearing styles. Naturally, youngsters are more likely to favor the more permissive parent over the stricter one being unaware that tighter boundaries may serve them better in life.

Couples are very aware of their personality inclinations and innate child-rearing preferences. Some use these variances as a source of conflict, while others respect each other’s style and spend time creating a mutually agreed upon parenting formula that will best enhance their youngsters’ present and future lives.

Good parents also understand how their conduct, decision-making, marital harmony and congruency of parenting can help their children feel understood and secure as they mature.

To be a good parent:

  • Be respectful of your mate’s personality and parenting style.
  • Kindly negotiate with your partner a parenting plan that you can execute in unison for your child’s health and wellbeing.




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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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