My wife and I have dramatically different parenting styles, which we didn’t realize until the kids were about four. One of us wants to do more negotiating, and the other wants to say, “Because I said so” to everything.
The bad news is that each of you has the potential to cause unique forms of damage to your children. The good news is that each of you also has the potential to bring them your unique strengths. The best news is that by working together, you can not only minimize any damage you might otherwise cause, you can also learn from and rely upon one another’s strengths.
Children need their parents to provide them a balanced life. On the one hand, they need structure and discipline, but on the other, they need choice and freedom. Too much of one and not enough of the other can cause turmoil for them and you. Finding that balance is never easy for any parent, let alone two very different parents. But the fact that you are so different can be to your advantage. Each of you can advocate for “the one hand” while also welcoming “the other hand” as your check and balance.
The key to making this work is appreciating that 1) neither of you is an absolute authority on parenting, 2) each of you needs the unique strengths and perspectives of the other and 3) both of you need to learn and make changes. So read books and attend classes together about parenting. Moreover, listen to one other.
Have as your goal to give your children the same kind of parenting experience that God gives us.
Yes, God provides us with all manner of rules, boundaries and order. But he never lords his authority over us, and he doesn’t want us to either. (1 Pt 5:3) On the contrary, he exercises his authority only so that we might grow into the responsible, healthy, happy and truly free children he made us to be.
And, yes, God also wants us to speak with him in our own voices. He wants to listen to us. And he wants us to make our own choices as we move about freely as his children within his kingdom. But, for our own good, he also allows us to experience the full range of the consequences of our choices.
In short, our parenting should be like God’s: with love as our only motivation and love as our only goal.
Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.