Different Parenting Styles

When it comes to raising kids, there’s no one “best” style. At Westchester Health Pediatrics,
we’ve been helping parents raise their kids for decades, and if there’s one thing we’ve observed,
it’s that healthy, happy kids come about in many different ways. Most of all, they just need love.

Three kinds of parenting styles

In general, parenting styles can be divided into three categories: authoritarian (strict
obedience to parents); permissive (few behavioral guidelines because parents don’t want to
upset their children); and authoritative (a blend of caring with structure and limit-setting).

When each parent has a different style, this can be a good thing — as long as the styles aren’t too
far apart (authoritarian vs. permissive). This allows kids to experience a broader range of adult
values and also gives them the opportunity to have a special relationship with each parent. As
long as the parents come together as a united front on the big issues, it’s healthy to approach
parenting differently.

What to do when your styles clash

It’s ok to have different parenting styles provided both parents regularly discuss their contrasting
positions and concerns. It’s when parents aren’t able to compromise and fall into, “My way is
right, your way is wrong” that problems arise. If parents aren’t willing to work on a happy
medium, there will be tension and conflict, which will affect their kids.

From our perspective as pediatricians, here are two pieces of advice for parenting with different
styles.

1) Agree to disagree on small issues. You can’t control every situation, so it’s important to
accept the fact that things will go differently when your partner is in charge. One parent may
want your toddler’s outfit to match perfectly and the other may allow dots with stripes. The
important thing is to agree on big issues like your toddler’s safety, physical development and
emotional health.

2) Pick your battles. Decide which issues each of you aren’t willing to compromise on, like
discipline and bedtime, and agree to be flexible about the other ones.