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Parental Consistency

by Lindsey
(UK)

I come from a very happy family, my father was very successful but always spent time with us. He was very relaxed. My mother was the law.

My husband comes from a farming family, his father sulked a lot and was harsh with his boys. His mother suffered.

We now have 2 boys 12 and 9. At school they are top of the class, they do sport and are very happy.

My husband however is a workaholic and is rarely home. He believes they are lazy good for nothings who should show him more respect. I in turn am accused of being lax and not harsh/strict and of course I spoil them......

How can we try to merge/reconcile our differences regarding parenting?

I admit I am a force to be reckoned with and I like to be in charge. But how can I hand over authority for the weekend only?

Looking forward to getting some direction,

Thank you

Comments for Parental Consistency

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Different Styles Of Parenting - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Lindsey,
It is very hard when parents have such different styles of parenting. It sure sounds like your husband is more an Authoritarian style
parent, and you may have moved to being even more of a Permissive style of parent to compensate for the way he treats the kids.

It certainly does sound like your husband is repeating his upbringing, raising his kids they way he was. He has not learned anything differently, and may not see why he should.

Parents don't have to have exactly the same style of parenting, and they may even have different rules in some situations. Kids soon figure out there are different rules depending on who is in charge, or whose house they are at. For example, they are likely to behave differently at Grandma's house than at home. So kids will adjust to differences, and different tolerance levels, it is all part of learning to get along with people.

If each parent is clear about their boundaries and expectations and does not interfere with how the other parent operates, then having big differences can work. But in most cases we want our partner to change their style of parenting
- He wants you to be more strict and you want him to be more flexible.

Each parent also ends up undermining the other, by taking over and increasing a punishment, or letting kids "off" consequences you think are too harsh. Kids soon learn to play one parent off against the other, figuring out who to get permission from on something, or getting one parent to side with them against the other. Neither of these dynamics is good in a family.

The thing that causes the most distress for kids, is the tension between the parents, the put downs and arguments, rather than the parenting style itself.

Kids can thrive in quite a strict upbringing, if they also get good positive input, and the home is mostly harmonious, or at least conflicts are dealt with.

Most Authoritarian parents tend not to be very flexible and rarely discuss things rationally. Whilst I am sure your husband loves his children, he is not spending much quality time with them, nor is he affirming them. To the contrary, it sounds like he is putting them down and not recognizing when they do achieve well. And it certainly sounds like they are doing very well at school - but they may well start rebelling when as they move into their teens, and keep being told they are lazy.

Part Two Follows . . .

Different Styles Of Parenting - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Unfortunately you can't make him change. You can suggest that you get some counseling together, or do a parenting course to look at finding ways to positively build the family relationships, if he will agree. I would doubt you are very happy in the relationship either, if he is seldom home, your primary relationships are with your children, not your husband. And then if he is telling you off and can't see the value in your parenting, then you have a lot of negative input into the relationship. I suspect you go into battle on behalf of your kids, so a lot of your interactions will be confrontational.

Having a discussion requires both of you to be willing to discuss the issues without put downs, and without expecting the other person to change. This is VERY hard to do if your communication is already fraught with conflict. If you can get him to agree to seeing someone neutral, you have a much better chance of negotiating.

See if he will sit down and agree to what are the household rules and consequences (no put downs would be good!) Find if he has any willingness to compromise - and you too! See if you can find some common ground and work together on those things. Then agree that other issues are a personal choice depending on who is being the most effected, or looking after the children at that point. For different styles to work, you have to have some clear agreements.

No putting down the other person's style of parenting.

No interfering when the other person is disciplining a child (unless there is violence).

No undermining the other person's punishments or consequences - either by letting them off, or increasing the punishment. The issue is between that child and that parent.

I know it is really difficult but try to keep neutral and don't undermine him by getting involved in something that is an issue between him and the boys. If he expects you to enforce something, then just calmly say "This is something between you and the boys. I know you are doing what you think is best, but I can't support you in this"

Part Three Follows . . .

Different Styles Of Parenting - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

You need to unhook yourself from the unhealthy dynamic of getting in between his relationship with the children. Unless he is physically punishing them, in which case you do need to protect them, and if there is violence in the house then you must get help to make some changes.

If the boys try to drag you in to back them up, then let them know you trust them to work out their own relationship with their Dad.

Maybe you will get to the point where you give your husband an ultimatum. However try not to do that in a confrontational way. Here's some ideas below - state how you feel, no blame, say what you need.

"I am finding it really unpleasant living in a state of conflict and I want us to get some help to build more harmony in our home"

"Living like this is making me really unhappy. I want us to work as a team, or I feel our marriage is at risk." "We have such different perspectives I think we need some help to build some bridges"

"I know you are doing what you think is right with the boys, and we disagree on parenting styles" "But I am really concerned that all our relationships are breaking down and I want us to get help"

If he realizes how unhappy you are and that you want some changes, without feeling so blamed, then maybe he will consent to getting some help. He may be much more likely to listen to someone else when he gets a chance to say his piece, and it is not coming from you. But he may just entrench himself further into his bunker, and prepare for war!

If he won't agree to getting help, then get some support for yourself to learn new strategies, or decide if you really want to be living in this kind of relationship.

You shouldn't have to hand over authority in the weekends, but maybe that is what you have been thinking, to keep the peace? You can't change him and he may not be willing to change, but you can help to shift some of the energy around the family - and your husband. At the moment all the energy is focused on the differences, the blame, and the put downs.

Something to remember is, he is doing the best he knows. His idea of being a good Dad, is being a good provider. It is too painful for him to look at the how he was hurt as a child by the way his Father treated him, so he will justify it by thinking "it was ok for me, is is ok for my boys." Getting respect for him is equated with caring, and he probably doesn't feel he gets much respect because you are all on "the other side". He has got himself out on a limb where he fighting to maintain his position.

Part Four Follows . . . .

Different Parenting Styles - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

You can build in more positive practices in your home. He may or may not join in, but the more you encourage everyone to notice and appreciate good things about each other, a little of that will rub off on him. When he starts to feel appreciated and not blamed he will not feel he has to come out with all guns blazing all the time. Don't let his irritation or energy be the dominant energy in the house. When you react to him you are simply adding to the fight. Find ways to look for the good in him, and let him know the things you appreciate.

Increase the amount of fun in the house - play games together, go out on picnics (assuming he is home enough to participate?) go fishing, or bush walking or something as a family where you get out of your usual environment and have some positive experiences together.

Families are a bit like a bank, when there are only negative deposits, then the account is running on overdraft. Put some positive deposits in and you are much more likely to get a compounding effect. Everyone else starts to increase their good energy too.

You also need to concentrate on finding ways that you feel good. If you are feeling angry or resentful or put down all the time you will not be feeling good inside. Find the things that give you peace or joy and have some strategies for removing yourself from the conflict.

"I can see we are getting stuck in our usual argument, and I don't want to keep doing this, so I am going to go off for a walk so I can calm down"

"I'm finding this really stressful, so I am going to go and do something that gets me back in sync."

"This is not working for me, I don't think putting me or the boys down is helpful so I am going for a walk to calm down"

Lyndsey it is very hard if parents do not have the willingness to find ways to work together - you don't have to be the same on everything, but really for your home to be a healthy one, you do need to both be willing to find ways to make the family work.

But the bottom line is, you can only clear your own stuff, and learn how you can shift how you feel by choosing not to keep running the same dynamic. You can focus on building your own resources and build your relationship with your boys to be positive, growing and affirming. Don't get hooked into having to compensate for your husband, your boys have their own path to follow and part of that is learning to connect with him in whatever way works. You can't fix their stuff or make it better, except that whatever you do, it does have an impact. So focusing on building positive experiences, and unhooking from the unhealthy stuff will make a difference.

Good luck - feel free to comment back if you wish
Annie D :)



Your advice
by: Lindsey

Dear Annie

Thank you so much for clearly taking time and thought to answering my question.

You have hit the nail on the head when you mention that we both are expecting each other to change styles.
It never occured to me that it is ok for me to have one style and my husband another and I guess it has never occurred to my husband either (Silly but true)....now I just have to work out how to get the message to my husband.

Step one is to show him the mail I wrote to you and step 2 will be your response..... then we'll have to decide together how we go forward.

He cares deeply about his family so I'm positive that if we can agree certain ground rules that he will give it a go....

You have given so much advice once again thank you

Building Bridges
by: Annie Desantis

Thanks for your comments Lindsay, It is always good for me to hear back from parents. I do hope your husband and you can work together more despite such different styles of parenting.

Hopefully if he does not feel he has to defend his position so much, he will be able to relax and enjoy his boys more. Of course he cares very deeply about them, but I have to say if he could switch his attention a bit and focus on building more positive interactions with them he would get a lot more out of being a Dad, than mostly be the provider or the one cracking the whip.

I am sure there is a part of him that really would have liked to have had his own father's love, attention and approval, and to have felt closer to him. He doesn't have to repeat what his father did, he can build a closer relationship with his boys, they need to see his love far more than they need his disapproval.

There are a lot of "lost boys" in the UK at present, who do not have good relationships with their fathers, do not have good role models and sadly have no hope for a good future for themselves. Your husband is clearly modelling a strong work ethic, but it does sound like it has got a bit unbalanced in that he also needs to create more time for the people he loves most in the world.

Good luck,
Annie D :)

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