Parenting Q & A

Ellen Barrett, a parent educator at Heights Parent Center for the last 12 years, fields questions about the daily ups and downs of parenting. The same issues impact many parents. If you have questions you would like Ellen to answer in this column, e-mail her at 

Q.  My husband and I have very different parenting styles. He is much more of a disciplinarian. He expects there to be order, process and consequences. I feel our children (1 and 3 years old) are still babies and we should be nurturing them, not punishing them. He likes more structure and order. I like to see what unfolds and go with it. How can we find balance and determine what is really best for the children in spite of our own ideas?

A.  What you are experiencing is a very common parenting dilemma. I often hear that spouses can “agree to disagree” on many topics but then along come children.

Children have a significant affect on how we see the world, how we navigate our daily lives and how we perceive right and wrong. Before children, compromises don’t have as much emotional weight as they do when they involve our children.

Thinking about what is best for the children in the long run is the goal, but finding a way for both of you to parent in the way that suits you is also vitally important.  

Both of you should feel ownership of parenting. Start by prioritizing. Decide what is negotiable or non-negotiable for each of you. For example: Will you use time-outs? If so, for how long and for what behaviors? 

Read a few parenting books that strike a balance, such as Positive Discipline for Preschoolers by Jane Nelson or Discipline: The Brazelton Way, Advice from America's Favorite Pediatrician by T. Berry Brazelton and Joshua D. Sparrow. Books have a way of stating what you or your husband might be thinking but can’t quite express, and they can provide a way for each of you to organize your thoughts.

Then talk together. What can you agree on? Have this negotiation go on behind the scenes so you can present a united and consistent front to your children. This is important so your children learn to predict outcomes and consequences and learn good patterns of behavior.

You and your spouse can combine ideas and approaches to parenting and achieve a great balance that both of you are invested in.

Read More on "Got kids?" Corner
Volume 3, Issue 6, Posted 9:38 AM, 05.20.2010