When parents have different parenting styles

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So your spouse isn’t on board with respectful parenting? What should you do? Well, my short answer after 5 years of experience is:

NOTHING.

I know that answer isn’t what you want to hear. It’s not even really the answer I want to give. And maybe you think I’ve just given up, and you never will.

The Long Answer

The long answer is that you can be a source of information and a model of what’s possible. You can respond to your spouse with empathy and non-judgement in the same way you do with your children, in essence extending your respectful parenting into your relationship with your spouse. It’s a great goal in and of itself. You can share articles, books, and podcasts in an open and undemanding way, without expectations.

You can model your parenting. But when you have different goals and expectations, it is my experience that it won’t be enough. When controlling behavior immediately and in the short-term is someone’s goal, your way may appear to “fail” too often. When displays of big emotions from a child equals failure to another parent, there is not much you can do to convince them it is actually healthy and the children are learning.

Control is never the answer

What it comes down to is that you can’t control another person. It’s the very basis of respectful parenting. Some people are struggling to see parenting as a long game. They still want control, and are more concerned with behaviors in the short term than long term outcomes. Or they believe short-term control will lead to the long-term outcomes they want, when research says otherwise. They are uncomfortable and triggered and not ready to manage that in themselves, and not ready to see managing themselves as their true job in parenting. They are often parenting from a place of “it was good enough for me,” and not from a place based in child development and the latest in brain science. They are parenting from fear.

It is their path, and their relationship with their child.

Would it be wonderful to have a partner on the journey of peaceful and respectful parenting? Of course. But sometimes the partners we will have in that journey will not be the same people we are co-parenting with.


Originally published at waitingforfireflies.com on November 29, 2018.