Different Parenting Styles And Your Relationship
Different parenting styles often lead to conflict between couples. Let’s look at some of the typical differences between parents, and how to approach them in ways which keep everyone feeling as happy and close as possible.
How Mums And Dads Play
Research has found that there are some pretty big differences in how mums and dads play with their kids.
Generally speaking, dads:
- Tend to foster independence and encourage adventure
- Typically give children freedom to explore and are more physical and tactile
- Often shift activities rapidly, with peaks of high attention
- Are usually more playful and stimulating
- Tend to play more cautiously
- Are typically less tactile and more verbal
- Usually shift gears more gently with fewer highs and lows
- Often play more visual games and focus on reading and learning
Why Does This Matter?
For parents in same-sex relationships, it can be useful to be aware of this. You might want to reflect on whether you and your partner have quite similar styles of play, and whether you might want to switch things up sometimes.
For parents in opposite-sex relationships, it can be useful to know that this variety is totally normal and provides a useful balance to your child/ren.
This is a classic example of the kind of differences that couples fall out over.
(I know that I personally have been heard saying “careful!” to my husband when he’s playing with our kids – way more than is necessary or helpful!)
Sometimes when we’re anxious we can become critical. Does this happen to you? Does your partner get defensive or angry in return?
If this is something that you and your partner disagree about, remember that it is a parent’s job to show their child the world. Your partner is showing them their world in just the same (but different!) way that you are showing them yours.
How do you see your style of play?
Are you typical of your gender, or are you one of those exceptions that proves the rule?
Different Parenting Styles: Coping With Differences
When struggling with different parenting styles, have you ever thought “we’re just so different, maybe we’re not compatible”?
I know I have.
We’re often attracted to people who are quite different to us in some key ways.
People who have become the things that we have not.
So a person who likes to plan everything is attracted to someone more spontaneous, and vice versa.
This is because, in some ways, a couple functions as a complete whole.
Together you can both benefit from the other’s ways of being – like having a lot of fun together, but also putting some money in savings.
When Stress Hits
Over time – and especially when we go through stressful periods like starting a family – those differences that appealed to us can start to annoy us.
We all become more extreme versions of ourselves when we’re under stress. And this can make us feel irritated, or even threatened, by someone who is manifesting opposite qualities.
One of you might be thinking, ”Why does he think it’s OK to spend so much at a time like this?”
And meanwhile the other is having equally valid thoughts like, ”How does she think we’ll get through a time like this without letting loose a little?”
You’ll feel better about the differences between you when you remember that you’re in it together, and your relationship functions as a complete whole.
You don’t just complement each other, you provide a helpful balance, to each other and to your children.
But you can only enjoy this when you respect and value your partner’s way of being.
Remind yourself often of the things that first attracted you to each other.
And actively look for the positives in your partner’s approach, especially in how they might balance out your own.
It’s when we express respect, not criticism, that we find it easiest to meet in the middle.
Keeping Your Roles Balanced
However fiercely they long to stay connected when they become parents, most couples find they hit bumps along the road.
Mothers often find their lives changing much more than their partner’s, and this can lead to disconnection and resentment.
The primary caregiver can so easily become the default parent.
When children spend more time with one parent than the other, it’s natural that they get into the habit of calling for that parent whenever they need anything.
I am the primary caregiver in our household, so my children are used to calling out “Mummy!” when they need help with something, have hurt themselves, want something to eat, have lost something, need to know if they’re allowed to do something, need someone to notice them or something they’re doing… you know how it is.
When their dad is around too, they do reach for him for many things, but “Mummy!” is still the default.
Meeting Others’ Needs
If you’re not the primary parent – and especially if you’ve never experienced long stretches in sole charge of your children – it can be hard to imagine how draining it can be to be called for to meet needs, over and over again.
And beyond that how frustrating – especially when you’re trying to do something else at the time time, whether that’s to clean up after the mess they just made, or to get some work done.
If you’re the parent who does less of the caregiving, there is one really easy thing you can do to redress the balance.
When you’re around your kids and you hear them call out “Mum!”, or whatever it is they call your partner, respond.
Don’t leave it to your partner to meet those needs, or to do the extra work of saying “ask Daddy”.
If you would like your partner to do (more of) this, or to acknowledge them for it if they already do, how about sharing this blogpost with them?
It could also be a good way to start a conversation about how you approach different parenting styles (and differences more generally) in your relationship.
Different Parenting Styles: Getting More Support
Sometimes – despite our best attempts to make the best of them – our differences can start to feel like, or cause, problems in our relationships.
Relationship therapy and/or coaching can give you the tools you need to get the relationship you always dreamed about – and you, your partner, and your kids deserve.
When you join Love Happy Live Free you’ll get access to a number of bonuses including my Parenting As A Team Masterclass. Click here to get in touch and find out more.
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