When Your Good Spouse has a Different Parenting Style

Last summer at our annual Love and Logic retreat, a woman approached me and shared a story I’ve heard countless times from parents (wives and husbands) from every walk of life:
 

My husband is a good man… but we go back and forth over how

to parent our kids. It’s causing major friction in our marriage, 

and I’m horribly worried about the kids.

 
With the tips listed below, many caring couples have strengthened their marriage and raised healthy, responsible kids:
 
Love your spouse for who they are… not who you want them to become.
 

Very few people change by being pressured, nagged, or criticized. Most find it safer to try new attitudes and behaviors when they feel securely loved and valued. When was the last time you told your spouse that you were head over heels in love with them?

 
Agree on some core values.
 

Many people disagree about specific parenting practices… but most seem to agree on core values. Sit with your spouse and identify five or so principles on which you can agree. Examples might include: (1) Kids need to feel loved unconditionally; (2) Kids need healthy limits; (3) Kids need to see their parents loving each other; (4) Kids need to help out around the house; (5) Kids need to experience the natural or logical consequences of their actions.

 
Agree that you’ll probably handle some things differently.
 

When the kids complain that your spouse handles things differently, respond by saying, “That’s because we are different. If you have a problem with what your mom (or dad) did, that’s between the two of you.”

 
Agree to always do whatever you can to make each other look good.
 

Even if you think your good spouse has done something unwise, support them in the eyes of the children. Discuss your disagreement when your kids are not there to hear it.

 
Agree to place your primary emphasis on the happiness of your marriage.
 

There are times in every marriage relationship when it seems tempting to side with the kids instead of one’s spouse. Wise husbands and wives avoid this trap! They understand that the best way to love their kids is to first love and respect each other.


Dr. Charles Fay