Parents with Different Discipline Styles

Dear Dr. Rene,
My husband and I don’t parent in similar ways. He thinks I am too soft, I often think he is too hard on the kids in discipline. Should we work to find a similar style, or is it okay that we discipline in different ways?
Sincerely, Carol
Mother of Three

Dear Carol,
The fencepost answer – it would be nice to work on finding similar ways, and it is fine to have different styles in parenting. Your children are going to develop a different relationship with you than they have with your husband. Think about it growing up, you likely had different relationships with each of your parents, and in most families this works fine. It teaches children to be flexible.

When there are disagreements, the general guideline is whoever starts it, get to finish it. This means, unless it is abusive, whichever parent starts a discipline exchange is allowed to finish it. The second parent should avoid undermining or arguing with the first. The second should not rescue the child or change the discipline in anyway. Of course, if the first parent is asking for help or handing the child off, it is fine to move on and differ. If the first parent is not asking for help or handing off, the second should ONLY reinforce by saying something like, “listen to your father.” If you as the second parent REALLY disagree with the first, it is fine to take a few notes and discuss it later and well out of earshot of the child.

That said, it is nice when parents’ styles are in sync. You might want to read a discipline book together or sign-up for a parenting workshop. Finding common ground would allow for smoother times in general.
Dr. Rene

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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