Parenting Differences

You already know that you and your partner are different people, with different personalities, habits and ideas. There will be differences in the way you parent too.

We all come from different families and how we parent is highly influenced by the way we were parented. For example, one of you may think the other is too permissive or too strict, and some parenting values that are very important to you may be less important to your partner.

Fathers and mothers often have different ways of relating to children as well. Mothers tend to focus a little more on comforting, caregiving and the details of daily routines. Fathers often spend more time playing with their kids, tend to enjoy more active types of play and more often encourage children to explore. However, each mother and father is unique, so we can’t really say that dads are always this way and moms are always that way. The point is to be aware that partners often have different ways of parenting.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Having parents with different caring styles can be a useful (and normal) experience for kids as they grow up. However, parenting differences can sometimes lead to conflict that makes family life more challenging and creates tension in dad/mom relationships. Here are some tips for dealing with parenting differences.

Seeing difference differently

  • Try to see the world from your partner’s point of view.
  • Look for the positive side of your differences. There may be some aspects of parenting where your partner’s approach is particularly helpful and others where your approach is useful.
  • Try to see your partner’s strengths and learn from them.
  • She may want you to do things “her way.” You don’t necessarily have to do that, but do your best to understand what is important to her and try not to undermine her approach to parenting.
  • If differences are causing conflict, talk about them at a time when you are able to do so in a spirit of acceptance.
  • Avoid power struggles over whose ‘way’ is the best way.
  • Be flexible and respect the impact of your actions on one another.

Accepting differences can enrich your lives and be a source of strength in your parenting.

Work towards common goals

Sometimes we get so caught up in day-to-day parenting concerns that we lose sight of our long-term goals for our children. And those goals may shift as your children grow. It’s important to be open to new ideas and to discuss long-term parenting goals with your partner. When the two of you feel like you are “on the same page” with respect to these long-term goals, it becomes easier to work through conflicts over smaller and more immediate day-to-day parenting decisions. For example, if you’ve talked about your goals for raising a confident, emotionally secure child, that disagreement about whether to pick up your fussy baby right away or wait a minute to see if she settles down on her own may seem like less of a big deal.

Differences that make you worry

Sometimes fathers worry about how their partner is doing, especially if she seems depressed, is having trouble connecting with the baby, or has a problem with drugs or alcohol. If you are worried about your partner, keep trying to support her as best you can, ask her what support she needs from you and work together to get help for your family.


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