Lately there has been more popularity in using animal metaphors to describe the modern day parenting styles. Tiger parents are known to be the ones in control, like helicopter parents, and are often keen for their child's success. Dolphin parents want to nurture and guide their children with a nice balance of expectations and some flexibility. You might see yourself in one or more of these categories, depending on the situation, your comfort level, culture and how you were raised.
When the two parents have different approaches, arguments about parenting styles can be intense. Why? Because it is more than an argument about best parenting practices, it is an argument about identity and everything you are.
When your styles aren't lining up there are things you can do.
Two people with two different ideas can come together and find excellent and well informed ideas that work for them. Think of ways to harvest the best from two practices. What is some good that can be created here? Your laid back approach might compliment their loving intensity and you can learn and grow! It is a chance to look at the many skills, knowledge and parenting ideas, bring them to the table and discuss best practices for your family.
We often slip in and out of roles and aren't always a tiger about all things or a dolphin in all areas. Also, keep the end goal in mind for what you want for your children. What do you want them to learn from the style, discipline tactic or schedule you are choosing?
The earlier you have these conversations the better. Elly Taylor, researcher and author of Becoming Us: 8 Steps to Grow a Family that Thrives says that preparing as a couple before baby for the challenges of parenthood and the importance of bonding as a couple helps parents have healthy expectations which helps reduce perinatal anxiety and depression and also keeps the relationship strong despite the new joys/demands.
Planning is used in another popular style of parenting, positive parenting where parents start early to promote learning for their children on how to make healthy choices and as Rebecca Eanes, author of Positive Parenting an Essential Guide describes it is a belief, a way of living... children should be treated with respect, free from fear of violence and shame, and guided with loving encouragement, have healthy relationships. through the implementation of strong values, trust and respect.
So your kids might come to know you as a heavy and dad as the softy, but that doesn't mean you aren't still very much a team. The most difficult thing for many kids will be when you are not a united front and they are asked to inappropriately navigate each of you or take a side. You have a great opportunity to model positive conflict resolution to your kids. Then as a couple, talk about how these roles feel and ways you can support each other. A great way to do this is to start having weekly meetings together to set aside time to actually focus and connect on the big and little picture stuff in your family. Make this time a safe and open place to talk about your family vision, what went well over the week, what is working and areas for growth for the family, marriage and personally.
Keep in mind that you and your partner might also not share learning styles, so be creative in presenting information learned. If your partner doesn't have time or won't like to pick up the book you are reading, they might happily look over a quick internet article (hey share this!) or listen to an interesting podcast with some fresh ideas. Look for opportunities to discuss parenting, like varied styles on your favourite show, share interesting studies or statistics you heard about, and of course model positive parenting practices yourself.
Obviously differences can range from the huge to the minute. If the goal and intent lines up, than the delivery has some room for variance. It is really important to take some time for introspection and examine the passionate reactions to a suggested difference in style. These questions might help:
Am I actually opposed or just pondering a new idea?
If I don't agree, what are my reasons?
Is it okay for my nuclear family to do something different than my parents or culture, and if not why?
If you find yourself having a difficult time moving forward ask for help from a family therapist or parenting professional in your community.
Navigating differences is a part of all aspects of life and success in this promotes healthy growth and change for your relationship and for your family.