A big problem that we see every day in our private relationship coaching practice, is the collision of different parenting styles between couples and the numerous marital problems these differences cause.
Like we tell our clients, the parenting problems always mirror the marital problems – because how we do one thing is how we do all things. Everything overlaps, so how we see our partners in our marriages is also how we are likely to see our partners as parents.
The biggest issue at hand here that most people don’t understand, is that when it comes to parenting, who we are as parents all depends on how we are shaped by our parents, our childhoods, and how we developed psychologically in response to our perceptions of our experiences growing up.
As adults, while we do choose who to be as parents, most people don’t understand that who they are being is who they’ve been programmed to be and that they are operating on auto pilot or default mode, instead of intentionally and consciously choosing who to be as a parent and as a partner. So what we find is that the default parenting styles that we all have really get in the way of being able to coparent with our partners relationally, in a way that is healthy for us as a married couple and in a way that sets a healthy example of what marriage is for the kids.
How we parent together is of the utmost importance to our marriages as partners and to our kids. And if we don’t learn the skill set of being able to parent relationally together, when our kids grow up and they need to know these things, who is going to teach them? It is our job to heal from our childhoods and learn a different way than our parents taught us so that we can teach and model for our children something more developed and conscious than what we were shown as children.
If you came from a divorced family, that is going to be a theme for you in your life to work through on some level. If your parents had marital problems, that is going to be a theme for you in your life to work through as well. And so on, and so on. What you experienced growing up, on some level, is what you are going to experience in your own life as an adult, until you consciously choose to create something very different. And this takes work.
This boils down to our own subconscious identity and how it gets in the way of having the parenting relationship we want, not only with our partners, but also with our children. And at the end of the day, no matter which parenting style you’ve adopted, the bottom line is that our kids need a blend of love, healthy boundaries, understanding, empathy, firm discipline, to be seen and heard, and true presence from BOTH parents.
And herein lies the challenge, depending on your parenting style.
Because our patterns run DEEP. They are our default mode and our patterns and belief systems are deeply ingrained and hard wired like a computer system. And to erase what’s on the mother board and re-program it to be what you want it to be, takes some work. But the great news is: it can be done.
So before we get into how to solve the marital problems that come from the collision of different parenting styles, first let’s define what parenting styles actually are in the first place as well as the different parenting styles themselves.
Parenting styles, the way we define it at The Relationship Loft, are personas or personalities, and how we have chosen to identify and Be as parents. Again, this comes from childhood and what we saw as the example growing up, and our responses to our perceptions of these experiences.
Some of what we learned growing up, we admire, respect and hold dear as values of our own. So we take those things on, and make them a part of who we are, and are proud to identify with them.
Some of what we learned growing up we did not like as kids, still do not like as adults, and strongly reject. And anything or anyone that reminds us of those things that we reject will definitely become a trigger for us.
And interestingly enough those very things that we reject and judge, become part of our shadow selves that we also deeply reject within ourselves – which presents an additional problem of deflecting and blaming outside of ourselves onto others in search of the answers and reasons for our innermost pain. Needless to say, this must be worked through if we want to heal and move forward in life to live at our highest potential in all areas of our lives.
Over the years of parenting 8 kids together, doing our own work together as a couple, and working with other individuals and couples, we have narrowed down the parenting styles into six different personas. Each one is unique, and please keep in mind that these are just characteristics of different personas that we have discovered in doing this work for so long. None of these are right or wrong, and there are always more to discover. They simply exist to help us to understand ourselves, our partners, and the collision of our parenting styles better.
- OLD SCHOOL PARENT: respect for parental and other authority, “military”, spare the rod spoil the child, discipline, punishment, consequences, rules and order, demand parenting (do as I say), children do not have a say in the matter – my ship/my rules, can be patriarchal (favoring or entitling male child over female child, or favoring one child over another child, or favoring a child over your partner).
- PASSIVE PARENT: The withdrawn parent, kids are sometimes pretty unsupervised or ignored, little to non-communicative, if communicative at all it is usually from a place of immaturity/anger/victimhood or martyrdom (depending on the persona), non-relational, in their own world, disconnected, distracted doing their own thing, walled off, love avoidant. (This is a particularly difficult parenting persona for any other parenting persona to deal with.)
- CONSCIOUS PARENT: conscious people, self development people, spiritual, open, communicative, nurturing, desire to help shape the child according to the child’s gifts and desires, open to child’s feedback, allows room for child to make mistakes, sometimes expects too much in terms of “consciousness and self awareness” from your child – when they’re not fully developed humans.
- NEW AGE/FREE/DEMOCRATIC PARENT: the “hippy parent”, less boundaries around schedules/curfews/rules, much more democratic and open around modern ideas around sexual orientation, experimentation/trying things, teenage sex, smoking/drinking/marijuana usage, more open to kids having free reign to cell phones/social media/computers, much more “adult freedom” at a younger age.
- HELICOPTER PARENT: helicopter parents are up their kids’ butts (No judgement – just an observation), not much autonomy for the kids, overly-involved, usually a passive-aggressive control thematic in this parenting relationship, wants to be around their kid 24-7, does everything for the child, spoils the child, makes child the center of their world, entitles the child, little to no personal boundaries as a parent, these are the “busy” parents who take their kids to everything and have a hard time saying no to much of anything, codependence lives here.
- SUPER SENSITIVE PARENT: sensitive to their child’s wants and needs, nurturing, sensitive to criticism, sensitive to anything they perceive as harshness, sensitive to any punishment or disciplinary action they perceive as harsh, sensitive to their own unmet childhood needs not being met for their own children from their perceptions, sometimes too soft on the kids and not boundaried enough around bad behavior because they think it’s too harsh, sometimes non vocal out of fear of saying the wrong thing, meek in communication as to not hurt or offend because they’re so sensitive to being abandoned, hurt, or offended in their own childhood experience growing up, codependency.
Everyone is a HYBRID. You will most likely see pieces of yourself scattered throughout these different personas and characteristics, but you’re going to identify with one or two styles stronger.
What is so fascinating is that when there are chronic parenting disagreements, couples think that the collision their different parenting styles is the root problem, when really what the root problem is – is their subconscious identity in relating to themselves in the way they see themselves, as well as their subconscious identity in relating to their partners and how they see them. The power of your subconscious mind and your identity controls every aspect of your life and creates an invisible ceiling for you. You MUST recreate your identity to create what you want in life.
There’s also the problem of not being able to communicate effectively to your partner the problems or the dysfunction you see in them as parents that you want to see corrected on their part.
Needless to say, it is a multi-faceted issue that has to be broken down piece by piece with TLC, and done in a way that both people can finally see clearly what the problems are, where they came from, make sense of them, and then learn how to effectively move through them with grace, love, mutual respect, and ease.
So how is it that we solve this problem of the collision of different parenting styles and the marital problems that come from this collision?
- ACCEPT that in life there will always be problems that we will have to contend with. Marriage and parenting is no different. When two different people from two different backgrounds come together to live together, love together, and raise a family together there is bound to be collision.
- DECIDE that how you handle the collision, that is bound to come, is all that matters. You have two choices, You can either handle it from your default/subconscious/immature/reactive self, the way you always have, OR you can choose to activate your mature/conscious/adult brain and hold yourself and your partner in warm regard, despite both your human imperfections and work together to parent together relationally and lovingly.
- STUDY and gain self-awareness around your own parenting styles and your flavors of dysfunction in parenting individually and as a couple. Many times how we view ourselves as parents is not actually how we are showing up, and our partners can be a really good mirror for us, give us great feedback, and clue us in as to who we really are showing up as so that we know what to work on.
- REMEMBER that we are all flawed human beings with our own shortcomings and things to heal and work on, and that parenting is a minute to minute practice together as a couple, and as parents to your kids. The gift is that every single minute we have the choice to connect, be present and conscious with one another and our children.
A fun exercise to do with your spouse is to sit down one evening after the kids have gone to sleep and go over all of these different parenting styles. Choose the styles that you most resonate with and write them down. It might be one that you really resonate with, or it might be two. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Then have your partner do the same thing. And exchange notes. Get curious about one another and ask each other if your perception of yourself is how they see you as well and then be open to their feedback. This is such a fun exercise and a great way to connect and create intimate conversation.