How to Navigate Two Different Parenting Styles

GoodTherapy | How to Navigate Two Different Parenting Styles Parenting is difficult on its own, but when you and your partner, or co-parent, have different approaches to such an all-consuming role, frustration is likely to flair, impacting not only your relationship with each other but also your children.   

But while our knee-jerk parenting reactions may vary, with the right communication and effort, it’s possible to incorporate more blended, consistent styles, all while maintaining one’s unique parenting strengths and personality.  

Know you are not alone 

Even when you’ve ensured as many pieces as possible are in place to parent — achieving work-life balance, and being physically and emotionally healthy — parenting is a stressful and difficult endeavor. Of course, it’s also rewarding, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an involved parent who hasn’t had days where they’ve felt drained, in more ways than one.   

In fact, according to one Pew study, about 62% of respondents said parenting has been harder than expected, with about a quarter saying it’s a lot harder than anticipated.   

When you and your partner have different parenting styles, it can make parenting that much more difficult, as it requires navigating additional relational challenges, beyond those between you and your children alone.   

Why people parent differently 

Because each partner was raised in a different household and holds different personalities, it should almost be expected that each parent will have, at times, competing notions about the best approach to, say, disciplining their child.  

It’s also important to keep in mind that there also tend to be differences in parenting approaches based on cultural background and even gender. In the same parenting survey, about half of mothers say they take on a more overprotective role, compared with 38% of fathers. The latter is also more likely to state they offer their kids too much freedom, and that when it comes to disciplining, they are less likely to waiver than moms.  

Parenting styles differ based on cultural backgrounds as well. Research shows that some countries rely more heavily than others on sibling parenting, whereby older children take on central caregiving roles. Physical affection, not just from parents, but by other family members and friends, also varies significantly across countries and backgrounds. It’s important to take all of this into account when working with your partner, or co-parent.  

Let’s recap some of the most well-established parenting styles, which may help you identify which feels most applicable to you: 


Such an approach relies solely on parents as the decision-makers and leaves little room for kids’  autonomy. Obedience is at the center of authoritarian parenting, and the idiom that kids should be “seen and not heard” encapsulates the dynamic.  


Scant enforcement of rules and disciplines characterizes this type of parenting. Those who grew up with a permissive parent typically experience a childhood where consequences were verbally communicated but were not always followed through on. Accountability for bad behavior could easily be skirted with enough complaining or frustration directed at the parent.  


There are some similarities with permissive parenting in that discipline is often lacking, but neglectful parenting takes it a step further. While a permissive parent typically expresses concern, or conversely, love and affection, neglectful parents show tremendous indifference to their child’s behavior and needs.  


Typically considered the gold standard, an authoritative parent typically employs a carrot-and-stick approach to parenting. Rules and expectations are clearly communicated, as are disciplinary measures, which are followed through on. However, unlike authoritarians, authoritative parents take in children’s perspectives and emotions when making decisions.  

Find something that works for everyone 

Finding common ground 

Finding common ground in your parenting styles will be your secret weapon. Figure out what are some of the baseline rules and consequences that will be enforced the same way among both parents.  

Not allowing kids to “divide and conquer” will not only signal you and your partner are on the same team, but in the long run, it also provides a sense of security for children.  

Disagree behind closed doors 

We can’t always time when conflicts will arise. But to the extent possible, it’s important to save disagreements — especially when it pertains to parenting styles — between the two of you. 

In the words of psychiatrist Dr. Alan Ravitz: 

 “In my own family, I know there were times when I thought my wife was too harsh and there were times when she thought I was too easy. The important thing is to present a united front.” 

Even if you disagree with a particular reaction from your partner — barring extreme circumstances — try not to vocalize your disapproval in the midst of their interaction with your child, as this can undermine their authority, and subsequently, yours as well.   

Constantly communicate 

Regular communication is paramount for the success of any relationship, but when you add raising kids in the mix, it becomes that much more important. With working parents and busy school schedules, set aside time with your partner for parenting “check-ins”. During these agreed-upon times, you can talk about discipline approaches, behavior trends you’re noticing that may be cause for concern, or conversely, optimism. By structuring such discussions, both parents can become a more united front and well-prepared on how to approach worrisome incidents as they inevitably arise.  

Seek counseling 

Sometimes, an objective, third-party professional can help families navigate the messy ins and outs of not just parenting, but marriage as well. Couples counseling can help you and your partner understand each other’s thought processes and emotional patterns when it comes to parenting. And during family therapy, you can also dig deeper into your child’s behavior and subsequent reactions.  

 Online directories like GoodTherapy can help you find the therapist that works best for your family’s challenges, needs and background.  


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