What to Do When Parenting Styles Clash

And tips to navigate the holiday experiences as a team


Published:

We all come to parenthood with a certain set of expectations and assumptions about raising kids. We assume our partner shares our healthy outlook. That is, until we find ourselves butting heads in the midst of a heated child-rearing dilemma. How do you navigate a parenting-style conflict without confusing our kids and harming the relationship with your partner?

 

Discuss Your Upbringing

 “In a perfect world, we would have these conversations when we are dating,” says adolescent and family therapist Melissa Perry. How we raise our kids is often dictated by how our parents raised us — or how we wish we’d been raised. As a couple, discuss each other’s childhoods. For example, what was your parents’ disciplinary style? How did they interact with you? Listen to understand and empathize with each other’s experiences.

“Most people know that it doesn’t feel good to scream at their kids. Most people know it doesn’t feel good to hit them, but they do it because they say ‘I turned out OK,’” says Cati Winkel, a wellness coach who works with individuals and families. “Once we start figuring out what that’s created in their lives, how they interact, and how they have relationships with people, they start to recognize ‘oh, maybe things could have been a little bit different.’”

Holiday tip! To best understand your partner’s attitude about the holidays, talk and listen to each other’s childhood experiences. For some people, the holidays can bring up nostalgic, happy memories. For others, the season can trigger painful ones. Ask each other: what special traditions would we like to start with our family? What do we want our family’s holiday experience to feel like?

 

Parent as a Team

Even if you are divorced or separated, focus on presenting a united front when it comes to parenting.

“It’s fine for parents to each have their own way of interacting with their children. As a matter of fact, it’s healthy because it teaches children to be more flexible and to adapt better in different environments,” says Colleen Huff, a certified parent educator. Discuss the ideal home environment you want to create, the types of family rules that are important to each of you, and zero in on common goals.

Holiday tip! Decide together what you want your family’s holiday to look like. Are gifts a priority or do memorable experiences matter more? Is it possible for you to purchase gifts together for your kids to avoid situations where one parent tries to outdo the other?

 

Come Up With a Plan

Agree on age-appropriate rules and consequences in your home. For a toddler or preschooler, you might have two or three rules like no hitting or throwing toys, while a 5-year-old might have up to five rules. 

“If kids know the expected behavior, then they’re free to do something else, which is going to be exploring and learning, playing and engaging and feeling self-confident versus feeling timid, inward and insecure,” Huff says.

Establish reasonable consequences for unacceptable behavior, but be flexible. For example, you might use the corner for a timeout for your child, while your partner may prefer that your child sits in a time-out chair. By agreeing on a plan of action for common scenarios and remaining consistent with consequences, you can avoid reactive parenting. 

Holiday tip! The holidays can be an over stimulating time of the year for kids, which can lead to more behavioral issues than usual. If you plan to visit relatives or travel, plan ahead with your partner about the rules you’d like the family to remain consistent on. For example, you might agree to prioritize a consistent bedtime or healthy meals if you know that lack of sleep and too much sugar can lead to challenging behavior.

 

Manage Conflict

Vastly different approaches to parenting can send mixed messages to your child. “Your child might start to identify one parent as the parent to avoid and the other parent as the parent to get what they want to out of them — or use parents against each other,” Perry says. “If your goal is to both love your child and both parent them, then you can probably come to some sort of compromise.”

Suppose you want your child to do homework right away after school to free up the evening for other interests. Then your partner comes home, dismisses this rule and lets your child play before homework. A good way to address the situation might be for you to say: “I’ve noticed that Johnny struggles to complete his homework if he puts it off until later in the day. This structure in our afternoons seems to help. I could really use your support on this.” 

Then, give your partner an opportunity to respond without interrupting them.

“Focus on the problem, not the person and focus on the actual issue at hand in the moment, not what the parent or child did or didn’t do in the last week or week before, ” Perry says.

Also, use reflective listening to validate what your partner says, which shows that you care about their perception or opinion. In reflective listening, you restate in a non-condescending way what you think you heard: “I think I’m hearing you say______. Is this what you mean?”

“Oftentimes we misunderstand, and we base our next answer on an assumption of understanding,” Perry says.

Holiday tip! The holidays can put a strain on a relationship, especially if one partner goes overboard purchasing gifts, which makes the other feel stressed or uncomfortable. Before shopping gets underway, discuss your priorities and goals for the holiday and agree on a budget. Come up with gift game plan. Consider questions like: Who is on the list and who is not? How much do we want to spend on the kids? What about for each other and for various relatives?

 

Conflict Versus Calm

If you can remain calm, it’s healthy for kids to see their parents work out a conflict and come to a resolution.

“If we teach children from a young age how to properly deal with conflict, that’s only going to set them up for success,” Winkel says.

But, if you are too angry to discuss the situation immediately, give yourselves permission to cool off before working through the issue. 

“Agree to walk away, but have a set, specific time that you are going to come back and talk about it again,” Perry says. “A lot of times people fight, then they cool down, but they don’t ever come back and resolve what was said in the heat of the moment.”

Without coming to resolutions for problems that arise in our relationships, resentment and disengagement from each other can set in, potentially harming your partnership.     

Need help strengthening your communication skills with your partner or ex to resolve parenting differences? Consult with a licensed family therapist for helpful support and strategies.

Christa Melnyk Hines is a nationally published freelance writer. Her latest book is “Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.”


Types of Parenting Styles 

Authoritative

* Provides structure to a child’s daily routine, including regular bedtime.

* Establishes clear household rules and reasonable consequences.

* Healthy, open line of communication between parent and child.

 

Neglectful

* Doesn’t support child’s emotional and/or physical needs.

* Unaware of what is happening in child’s life.

* Leaves child alone for long periods of time.

* Uninvolved with child’s life outside of home.

 

Permissive

* Loving and nurturing, but not demanding.

* Lenient to avoid confrontation with child.

* Lack structure, unclear rules and consequences.

* May bribe kids to do things with large rewards.

 

Authoritarian

* Demanding, strict and inflexible.

* Lack of healthy dialogue between parent and child.

* Limits child’s ability to make decisions or choices.

*  Uses punishment instead of positive reinforcement.

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Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road
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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
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Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
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Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

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Website »

More information

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View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
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More information

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

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Cost: $21-$31

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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $11 for one hour

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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
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, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

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Superior Play Systems
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View map »


Website »

More information

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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: 250

Where:
AerialCLT
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View map »


Sponsor: AerialCLT
Telephone: 980-292-1593
Contact Name: AerialCLT
Website »

More information

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Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
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Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Adults and kids ages 10 years and older can swim, bike and run. A Kids' Tri and a Preschool Tri are offered as well. All finishers will receive a medal after crossing the bubble-filled finish...

Cost: $25-$55

Where:
Morrison Family YMCA
9405 Bryant Farms Road
, NC
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Various living history displays and reenactors will be present to interact with the museum guests telling of the US military involvement in the European Theater of Operations.

Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 East Mountain St.
Kings Mountain, NC
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Car owners and enthusiasts gather to celebrate their passion for cars and showcase their prized classics, customs and hot rods. Occurs the third Saturday of the month, excluding May and October.

Cost: Free

Where:
Charlotte Motor Speedway
5555 Concord Pkwy. S.
Concord, NC
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George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
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Telephone: 980-430-4587
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Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
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Bring the family to hear live music in Davidson this summer! Dates: April 18, May 16, June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17.

Cost: Free

Where:
Circles at 30
Jetton Street
Davidson, NC
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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
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Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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