By Dr Karen Phillip

What do we do as parents when mum and dad seem to have different rules, boundaries and ideas about how to raise the children? When one parent is relaxed allowing the child to do what they wish and the other parent wishes to raise their child with clear boundaries and consequences, hoping they learn to conform and fit in with society expectations? This is a common occurrence and one that can divide not only the parents but the relationship and family as well. Parents normally raise their child in a similar manner to which they have been raised. So if your parents were firm, you often parent in that manner, if parents raised relaxed, the same applies. So what way is best and which parent is correct? It’s certainly easier for both parents and the children when everyone can agree on the basic, rules, expectations and boundaries within the family. I have many parents attend my rooms for discussion, mediation and guidance as they discover within a few years that this conflicting parenting style has detrimental effects on the child and their own relationship as a couple. Parents, while having a basis of parenting skills from their parents, assess the parenting styles they experienced and pick out those parts that worked for them. If a parent believes their parents were too harsh then they can look at ways to relax their own requirements for their child. Same applies if parenting was too relaxed and the child (now parent) failed or struggles to learn boundaries in their life. The most important thing to do is to agree on the basic rules and principles. These basic rules include

  • Language used at home, to parents and with others
  • Bed time routine
  • Rules of eating and behaviour at the table
  • Sharing
  • Tantrums and self-control
  • Consequence of poor behaviours

The main role of a parent, apart from keeping their child safe, educated, housed, fed and clothed, is to ensure they are prepared for the world as an independent, mature human being. We want them to have a good degree of control over themselves, their actions and their behaviours. We need to provide a degree of leniency to afford the child the opportunity to learn, make a mistake and to pick themself up, learn and do better next time. It is teaching your child about responsibility of not only themselves but belongings as well. This is part of learning through normal child development Parents must also agree on their own rules and boundaries. Arguing in front of the child is never smart. Disagreeing on child raising issues in the front of the child will only divide the relationship, confuse the child and everyone will be distressed and confused. The use of bad or demeaning language should always be prohibited. Children learn about disagreements, mediation, acceptance and anger from parents. They are not born angry, offensive or moody, they become that way and often by what they see, feel and hear.  Children easily cope when parents may not always agree on things or even on parenting. They do however most always, just wait to see the outcome chosen by the parents and live with that. It should never be an included issue with a child, unless of course that child is a young adult or teen. Your children need to know exactly what is expected of them and this can only be achieved when mum and dad are on a similar page. Parents are best to obtain guidance or counselling to assist them in setting the agreed boundaries for the child or children if they are struggling. Good communication skills, that often need to be learned, are the basis for any and all good and healthy conflict free relationships. This goes for relationships between parents and between child and parents. This way much conflict is removed and all parties are not only happier but clearer on what is expected and how the family and home should be modeled. A win win for everyone. More parenting information and ideas from 

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