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Raising Children In A Divided Household

( Alabama)

I am having a hard time keeping my children focused and on task when my spouse is doing things that I say that it is not okay for them to do.

Such things include leaving clothes laying around the house, not putting things back in their proper places, refusing to be tidy, having unhealthy eating habits, and doing exactly the opposite of what I ask when I not around, etc. The list goes on.

My children have a list of daily duties that I made out about 2 years ago, went over it with them, and posted it on their bedroom door. The list does not get done because they are told such things by my spouse as, "Don't worry about doing that. I'll do it" (which he does not do) or he tells them something else to do when they are attempting to complete things on their list.

This is very frustrating because he always makes excuses for his behavior and refuses to help in the organization of the household or support what I am trying to do in an effort to keep our home organized.

My older two children feel that this is not fair. My 8 and 11 year old girls are having a hard time focusing on their tasks and simple instructions, and are having to be disciplined more than normal for not following instructions.

My 2 year old son's tantrums are getting worse, especially when my spouse is around, and my 1 year old daughter is starting to mimic her brother.

How can I help them as well as myself to deal with this situation that has gone on for years?

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Different Parenting Styles - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

It certainly sounds like you are feeling unsupported and that you are the one holding everything together. It can be hard when parents have very different parenting styles, and harmony in the home goes out the window.

I am actually just in the process of putting up some articles on parenting styles, so when they are uploaded I'll post the links in the comments section, you may find it helpful to understand a bit more about the different styles.

If you think of parenting style, as a continuum - on one end is the strict, authoritarian parenting style, lots of rules, regulations and high expectations - and down the other end is the permissive style - very laid back, kids can do as they please, no enforcement of rules, and very few expectations of the children.

It sounds like you and your husband are pretty much at either end!

Kids can cope just fine with parents who have different styles of parenting and different expectations. What they do have trouble with, is Mom and Dad fighting, or the tension from resentment and disagreements.

It is easier however, if both parents can work together as a team and come to some agreements as to what is most important.

Since you headed this question, raising children in a divided household, I imagine you would prefer a household working together in more harmony.

Having a happy family life is usually pretty important for parents, but the criteria for being happy can be very different. Maybe you can't be happy and relaxed if the house is a mess, maybe you can't enjoy being with the kids if you know the dishes haven't been washed. Your husband on the other hand, might find it more important to be able to play spontaneously with them, and housework being a very low priority.

It would be great if your husband and you could spend some time together working out what is really important to both of you and what you can both agree to.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Different Parenting Styles - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Now your husband is unlikely to agree to do that if you are the one telling him he to. The first thing you need to do is get yourself in a place of being open to negotiation.

I often get my parents to start a session saying the things they appreciate or love about each other. When there is tension, resentment, and disharmony, we tend to focus on all the ways our partner is doing it wrong - not being supportive, undermining our authority, being too controlling, not being affectionate etc. We loose sight of the special qualities that attracted us together in the first place.

When there are big differences about an issue, then it is even more important to bring a balance into the relationship by deliberately focusing on what you love and appreciate about each other. The chances are, you have both been, putting a huge amount of energy into how the other person is letting you down, or making life miserable.

I suspect it is actually the differences about each other that you found appealing when you first met - you probably loved his spontaneity and his relaxed nature would have most likely found him fun to be with. He probably loved your efficiency and ability to get things done. We often look for a partner to balance out aspects of our own personality.

Unfortunately for you, you can't change your husband. You can certainly shape and have an impact on your children, but the only person you can really change is you and how you handle the situation. When you change how you react, the whole dynamic will start to shift.

I would suggest you start with focusing on appreciating him. It will be difficult at first, when you are wanting him to appreciate you - but I promise you will start to open the door to negotiation and teamwork, if you start to shift the amount of negative energy you are putting into the relationship.

Then make a list of the things that are really important for you to have a harmonious, happy household. Then prioritize them. Ask yourself is it more important that the clothes are picked up or is it more important we have some happy family time, maybe playing family games for an evening. Maybe you can't relax and have fun if the dishes aren't done - but perhaps folding the washing is a lower priority.

Hopefully if your husband sees your willingness to negotiate and is feeling you do value him, he will be open to working together to build a team.

Part Three Follows . . . .

Different Parenting Styles - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

You need to be able to approach him from at least a neutral place - it will be pointless to try to set something up when you are feeling angry and resentful. He will just be defensive or maybe even passive aggressive (agree but sabotage).

Some examples of approaching him below:

What won't work:

"You have to start working as a team, you are undermining my authority with the children and confusing them"

Any sentence starting with YOU, is accusing. You immediately slam the door shut on any chance of equal negotiation or teamwork.

"We have to sit down and make some rules for the running of this house"

Basically that is telling him he has to agree to your rules.

What is more likely to work:

"I'm concerned our different styles of parenting are causing tension between us, and I'd like us to try to work out a compromise."

You are acknowledging the differences without blaming him, and are implying you are willing to compromise.

"I really love the way you have so much fun with the kids, and I wish I could be more relaxed as a parent. I'd really like it if we could sit down and figure out how we can work more as a team."

This shows you value and appreciate him - it also is making a statement that you don't have all the answers, and you want both of you to work this out.

Obviously you have to use words that fit for you, and your tone of voice needs to be inviting, not demanding. But building a team doesn't happen if one partner is the boss and the other is disinterested or passive.

If I was talking to your husband, I would be asking him to think about what he values about you, and what are the ways he could support you to create more harmony in the home.

It may be that you need to see a counselor or do a parenting course together to start building the relationship again. If you feel you have got so resentful and angry that you can't get in touch with the good qualities about your husband, then you really do need to deal with that first.

I know you are looking for ways to straighten him up and make him pull his weight and back your rules for the children. Unfortunately, that simply is not possible. Parenting isn't about who is right and who is wrong, it is about building great relationships with our children. The best way to do that is by having a good relationship with our partner.

Part Four Follows . . . .

Different Parenting Styles - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Kids can deal with different expectations, they know at school you have different rules than at home, they know when they go to Grandma's house, they can't do the same things as they can at Uncle Bob's.

Actually it is great that they are exposed to different rules, expectations or ideas. They have to shape their own ideas and values, and having a broader range to experience gives them a broader personality and wider ability to cope with lots of different situations.

Kids that have a regimented home-life, don't develop the ability to think for themselves and are not good problem-solvers. Children who have very few directions or expectations, often don't do so well academically. So in a way, your children are getting the best of both! However it would be so much better for them if you were all happy and enjoying your time as a family, and there was far more harmony and fun in the household.

This is such a busy time for you, two little tots, plus 2 older kids is pretty full on. Finding ways to enjoy being a parent, with four gorgeous kids instead of feeling exhausted and resentful would be great. And finding ways to work together as a team would go a long way towards you feeling supported and valued.

Good luck with it all,
Annie Desantis

Articles on Parenting Styles
by: Annie Desantis


As promised last week, here are the links to the articles on parenting styles that I have just uploaded.

Diana Baumrind's 3 Types of Parenting styles are
Authoritarian, Permissive and Authoritative. This article gives an overview and more in-depth articles on Parenting Styles are below:

The first of Baumrind's types of parenting styles is the Authoritarian Parenting Style.
This article covers the characteristics of this type of parenting style, and according to research, the effects on children.

The second article on parenting Styles is Baumrind's
Permissive Parenting.
This article examines the pros and cons of this parenting style.

Then number three of Baumrind's type of parenting is
Authoritative Parenting Style.
Often called democratic parenting, this article covers the characteristics, research and how children are effected with this type of parenting.

Macoby and Martin extended Diana Baumrind's research into the different types of parenting styles, and developed a fourth parenting style, Neglectful. This article, gives an overview of their research and the characteristics of their four parenting styles

Hope you find something interesting in the articles on parenting style, Feel free to ask more questions!

Annie Desantis

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