Getting to the Root: Conflicts over Parenting
Fair Fighting Issue #1: Parenting
Parenting is one of the top conflicts that couples have for so many reasons. There are lots of emotions, histories, and insecurities that can play into how we parent our children. So how do we come to a common ground, when one couple’s idea of parenting is vastly different than the other?
There are three main categories of parenting style.
Authoritarian is when a parent emphasizes obedience over independence. Permissive parenting is when a parent allows the child to indulge in most things, providing basic safety guidelines, but not much else. And authoritative parenting is a blend of the two other styles, providing a clear structure and consistency.
Authoritative parenting generally garners the best relationships between parent and child, however it is generally the least natural style for most people. When parents are at different ends of the style spectrum, it can be good to try to work together to come to the authoritative middle ground.
Asking these questions can help to get this conversation started:
What do we want our child to learn in this situation?
What are our family values here and how are they represented?
How would this have played out with both of our parents?
The last question is important, because many of our parenting decisions are a direct result of how we were raised. Some parents actively turn away from the style of their parents, while others may not realize they are passing along the same parenting cycles and decisions as their family of origin.
Work to Balance
When opposite styles come into play, the best approach is often working to balance one another. Listening to one another to determine why each of you are concerned, and working backwards into a solution can often be helpful.
Are you hoping that your child can learn to navigate playground politics on their own? Is your partner convinced that little Abby is not a good friend for your daughter and saying they can’t play anymore?
Try to find the common value that is the center of the conflict.
When you can find no other commonalities on an issue, you can always agree that your child’s health and safety are a priority and start there. The opposite parenting styles can balance one another well, if you learn to listen and respect your spouse’s style.
What are the things that your partner does well? What do you wish you did better? Neither one of you will always get it right, so giving the benefit of the doubt and allowing room for learning as you go can go a long way to alleviate some of the conflicts.
When your relationship with your spouse and your child is suffering and you can’t seem to make headway on compromise or understanding, it may be time to bring in a professional. You never want to hold a relationship hostage when you could be making progress to build it back up.
Whether working individually in sessions, or together as a couple, a licensed counselor can help you to see your blind spots, and to find the words to say to make progress with your partner.
Brooke Williams, MA, LPC, is a counselor licensed to practice in South Carolina. She specializes in making relationships thrive – whether working on marriages, parenting, friendships, or conflict in the workplace. You can read more about her here.