Dear Barb—Split Parenting

Dear Barb:

Hi, my wife and I got married three years ago and our first child is two years old.  The problem is we have hugely different ways of parenting.  I am strict, while she’s more lenient.  We want to raise our children to be good people with the right morals and values.  I don’t want them to feel torn between their parents.  Do you have any tips for us, so that we can avoid the tension I see in other families?  We have talked about this issue and realize we have different parenting styles, and we are both willing to meet somewhere in the middle. 

Thanks, Don.

Hello Don:

Thanks for writing in.  You and your wife are starting out with a good attitude.  You are willing to compromise so that your children will not have the push and pull that so many children experience.  I can give you some general tips that will help you both to be the best parents you can be, but I believe you are already on the correct path.

A good rule to follow is to be consistent with discipline.  Create reasonable rules that your child should be able to follow.  Be clear with your expectations and if your child does not follow then there must be consequences.  Be consistent.  You cannot punish your child for something one day and not the next.  How will they learn what you expect from them if the boundaries keep changing?

Another important tip that, as parents we often do not think about, is to acknowledge when our children do good.  We sometimes focus on the negative and ignore the positive.  If your child does something, like clean up after themselves without being told, recognize it.  This way you are showing your child that you do appreciate and notice all that they do.  By rewarding their good behaviors, you will see more of these types of actions in your child.

It is especially important that you be a good role model.  Your children are learning how to function in this world by watching you.  Your children learn how to interact with other people through your example.  If you are rude and uncaring to others, you can be sure your children will be rude and uncaring as well.

Make communication a part of your parenting style.  Explain why you do not want your child to engage in a certain behavior and the consequences that may occur if they do participate in that behavior.  Listen to your child and do not be afraid to negotiate with them.  If children play an active role in decision making, they will be more likely to follow through on what is expected of them.

Finally, and most importantly, spend time with your children.  Be an active part of their lives.  Make it a point to eat dinner together as a family.  Children need attention and support from their parents, and if they do not get it, they may find other, not so healthy ways to get it.

Since you are new parents, most of these issues will not come into play yet, but eventually they will.  Enjoy your children, they will be grown and gone before you know it.  You do not get a do over with parenting, so be the best parents you can be.  Thanks for your email and I hope this information is helpful.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.


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