Relationships and marriages take on different dynamics the minute children come into them. Suddenly, your priorities are shifted and focus is redirected to rearing your children. Finding a balance takes a lot of work and so does parenting.
While there are small underlying factors that depict different parenting styles, there are bigger issues that cannot be left to resolve themselves.
Dominique Adonis, childcare expert and National Director of Celebrate Life SA (an NGO that heads up the Teach One To Lead One programme in South African schools), says that disagreements over parenting are based on, but not limited to, the following:
(a) How the parents were raised. She tells DESTINY: “Marriage is the coming together not only of two different people, but also two different subcultures. Ultimately, these two people were raised differently.
“One parent might want to raise their child exactly how they had been, while the other wants to do the exact opposite of what their parents did.”
She adds that it becomes more complex when one or both parties were raised by a single parent.
“As complex and challenging as it can often get, the way we were raised plays a significant role in how we later raise our own children. When approached with intentionality, we can take the best of both worlds and raise our children so that they become well adjusted and balanced adults.”
(b) Adonis believes that our personalities touch on how we do things and the same applies to the parents we become. She says that it’s wise to take a honest look at who we are and bring balance by “parenting in partnership”.
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(c) Another aspect to consider is perspective: how we view ourselves, our children and the end goal of parenting plays a significant role in why we have different parenting styles. “Let’s start with the end goal of parenting,” says Adonis. “When one parent seeks to raise their children for themselves, there will definitely be a clash when the other parent seeks to raise their child to be functional and well-adjusted in society and one day, their own families. The one seeks to raise their children to benefit themselves, while the other do so for the world and their children’s future.
A classic example of this is when a permissive father seeks to appease a child by spoiling them to keep them from crying, so that he can have peace and quiet and ultimately feel good about himself, while the mother would rather be firm with the child and reap the rewards of a respectful, well-behaved child later, and vice-versa.”
Phumza (38) and her husband have been married for 12 years and have an eight-year old daughter, Lihle. Phumza admits that the opposing parenting styles in their household has more often than not, led to major arguments. As depicted by Adonis in the example above, Phumza’s husband is the “softy”.
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“Being a daddy’s girl myself, I understand the relationship between my husband and our daughter. But daddy’s girls tend to manipulate their power – like I did – and at times, I feel like my husband allows Lihle to get away with too much. I believe that in sternly disciplining children, there should be no rationalising. The way I was raised, you are made to sit down and told what you did wrong and what the repercussions thereof would be. My husband on the other hand, chooses to rationalise and negotiate with my daughter, so it ends up not being discipline at all.
“It has caused much friction in our bedroom, but I won’t go as far as putting the blame on Lihle. I think my husband and I need to find a middle ground.”
Adonis advises that given the child, the circumstance and the desired outcome, each parent should be willing to do what is necessary to lead, empower and maximise the potential in each of their children and often, this takes compromise. She says: “Parents must accept that they’re a team and that raising their children will be a team effort. They should open themselves up to the idea of parenting becoming strategic. Common ground can be reached.”
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She also touches on the impact opposing parenting styles can have on children at different stages of their lives. According to Adonis, this is only a cause for concern, when one style cancels out the other.
“Parenting styles can be different, but there are certain non-negotiables that must be agreed upon to maintain a healthy home environment, parent-child relationship and very importantly, marriage or relationship.
“What I’m saying is that different is good, as long as the styles complement each other. For example, one parent may be authoritative in their parenting style, while the other may have a ‘team player’ style. These work well together when there’s agreement and the end goal is the same.
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“Like my favourite family author, James Dobson, says, parenting isn’t for cowards.”