Co-Parenting When You Have Different Parenting Styles

Co-Parenting When You Have Different Parenting Styles

14 May 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 4 mins

It is widely known that there are different parenting styles. Authoritarian, Permissive, Neglectful, and Authoritative are four main styles. Recently two have been added: the over-involved and the balanced parenting styles. To quickly describe the different parenting styles, I will use an example of when a child desperately wants ice cream and is shouting for this ice cream before dinner time. These reactions are merely examples to provide you with some content for each different type of parenting style.

Different parenting styles:

Authoritarian parenting style reaction

This parent will most probably yell and state that no sweets are ever to be consumed before dinner time. And the reason would be given that “this is the rule” or “I am your parent.”

Permissive parenting style reaction

This parent wants to be best friends with their child and will probably agree to the ice cream before dinner. They might even join their child in eating sweets before a meal. Contrary to authoritarian parents, these parents provide no boundaries for their children.

Neglectful/uninvolved parenting style reaction

This parent will often let their child do what they want (similar to the permissive parent), yet portray the attitude of “you do what you want, I don’t care.” Children might feel that they can get away with anything, but it won’t be noticed.

Authoritative parenting style reaction

These parents will explain to their children that they can get ice cream if they eat their dinner, but this is not an everyday occurrence. They will reason with their child that it is not something they can do every day as it might lead to cavities in their teeth. Teaching their child, yet caring, but still placing boundaries on them. According to Kuppens & Ceulemans (2019), this type of parenting style, if included positively, is the most effective and favorable outcome for children.

Over-involved parenting style reaction

This parent is often called the “helicopter parent” and might explain why ice creams are not good before dinner and help their child eat their food by spoonfeeding them. Talk about the benefits of eating vegetables and then help the child to get ready for bed.

Balanced parenting style reaction

It might be necessary to take on an authoritarian parenting style. For example, when your child crosses a road without looking out for cars. You might need to “switch off” slightly and not be as present. This might be a “neglectful” parenting style, but it requires you to refuel your energy. Yes, it is important to be consistent with children, but we might need to be a little lenient when we know our children feel truly sad. Or a bit stricter when they are pushing the boundaries. This will be congruent with the balanced parenting style – to take from the previous styles and adapt as needed, without fluctuating quickly between styles.

Co-Parenting When You Have Different Parenting Styles

This often happens in and out of relationships. Whether you are still with your partner or co-parenting as a divorced or separate couple, you could use the following strategies to support your children when you have different parenting styles:

Different, not “wrong”

Just because two people parent differently doesn’t mean that the one is right and the other is wrong. If we accept that how we want to manage a situation with our children is not the only right way, we have come quite far. 

Conflict resolution is essential

Our children can and should witness parents argue or debate. The important thing for children to observe in these arguments or debates is that conflicts can be resolved respectfully. Although I believe that if parents come across as a united front, it always makes parenting easier. It should also be noted that children can learn a lot from a respectful debate with facts shared and understood by all parties. 

Reminding yourself and your partner of the focus – your children

At times we can get overwhelmed in the heat of the moment. If our partner has a different perspective and our child is eating ice cream before dinner, it might spark a quick snap. This probably won’t help the situation. And at the end of the day, we want to try and resolve these tense moments when we feel calm and a little more in control of our feelings. Try and do a short meditation or a quick walk when you are feeling overwhelmed. This might help you state why ice cream is not a good idea before dinner. Perhaps your partner has a legitimate reason like your child did a fantastic job at school, and it is his birthday. Maybe “breaking the rules” will not be the worst idea in that scenario.

It can be frustrating when we focus on co-parenting our child to the best of our ability, and our partner or ex-partner contradicts us due to the fact they have a different parenting style. In these moments, focus on breath work, go for a quick walk and ask your partner to speak with them privately. I always feel that conflict resolution can happen more naturally when we realize that our truth is different from another person’s truth.

Suppose you look at the trial with Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Even though the media and most of the public support Johnny Depp, there is another side to this. This side is true for Amber. We must remember to respect the other’s truth and try and validate this for them, even if it might be very different from ours or, in some cases, slightly skewed.

Kuppens, S., & Ceulemans, E. (2019). Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept. Journal of child and family studies, 28(1), 168–181.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental