Parents are often at opposite ends of the spectrum in their styles of parenting. One may be authoritarian or strict and the other easy going.
These style differences can cause trouble when different ideas are presented to one another. Sometimes there are power struggles, with one trying to win over the other.
In fact, the end result of one (or the other parent) winning the debate would likely be a “skewed” joint parenting style. In other words, if the authoritarian wins, the style could be too rigid and demanding. If the easygoing spouse is victorious, the style might end up too loose and ill defined.
Power struggles are usually won by the parent who is not afraid to argue. Their partner, uncomfortable with “fighting”, might fold or cave in to the position of the other. This leads to an approach which is “unbalanced”. It is normal for couples to have radically different parenting styles. It is a good sign, as the potential is there for an excellent “collaborative” philosophy of parenting. However, there are some steps to follow if good collaboration is to be achieved.
First of all, the couple needs to set aside time for a “daily talktime”. This is an opportunity to share each other’s current mood and experiences of the day. There is a need to listen well during these talks so that both partners feel“ well heard” and understood. For the daily talktimes to work, there needs to be an attitude of mutual respect so that the ideas of the other are taken seriously. The second step has to do with the actual discussion about parenting styles. Both partners enter into the consultation with an openness to collaboration. They are not surprised by their differences and even welcome and enjoy them.
Once original ideas are stated, there is an attempt to create a “joint plan” or “OUR parenting” plan.
Ray is a strict parent with his four children. On the other hand, Sally, his wife, is more relaxed as a parent. Over the years they managed to create a unity between them as they collaborated to define a “Team Parenting” program. They did not accomplish collaborations all the time. To the degree they did so, they found that they were both enriched. Ray is still strict but fairer in his firmness; Sally is very fair but now more firm than she used to be. These parents have been good for each other and their children.
When a couple takes time to nurture their relationship, they enrich it. When they collaborate and try to create a joint plan, they enrich it even more.
Each couple has a lot of potential wisdom which is only accessed when they put their heads together in a collaborative or co-creative fashion.
The real winners, however, are the children. They are parented lovingly by firm but fair parents and have the added sense of security which comes from parents who love each other enough to allow their relationship to be more important than themselves.