Q: My husband and I parent differently. Is that OK or is it harmful to our children?

A: Parenting styles do not have to match, but values and expectations do. As long as parents have the same goal for their children, the way they parent can vary. Children quickly will learn that parents may discipline differently, but the rules are the same.

It can be detrimental to children when parents do not support one another. Children need to know that if one parent says “no,” the other parent will not undermine him or her. When this happens children learn who the easy or hard parent is. It creates a good guy-bad guy relationship, and tension develops between parents because no one wants to the bad guy.Here are a few tips to help you think about parallel parenting:

  1. Both parents should have the same rules and expectations.
  2. If you punish your child, make sure your spouse knows what the punishment is so that it is enforced consistently.
  3. It is not fair to place a consequence on your child and then leave so the other parent has to finish it.
  4. If you don’t like how your spouse dealt with a situation, talk about it when children are not around. Do not undermine or change consequences.
  5. Deal with the child’s behavior. Do not use statements such as, “Wait until your father hears about this” or, “Your mom is going to be really angry with you.” Instead, deal with the behavior yourself.