Married couples whose parenting styles differ must find a way to balance their differences and reach a compromise. But when parents are divorced, if they have wildly disparate parenting styles, this can create all sorts of problems for them as well as for their offspring.
Sometimes, conflicts in how the parents discipline and parent their children can actually be contributing factors in their decision to split. It can be very challenging if one or more children has a learning disability, psychiatric diagnosis or other special needs that make them less able to respond appropriately to typical parenting techniques.
What the experts say
One adolescent and child psychiatrist stated that in nearly all families there will be parenting disagreements. But, he added, presenting a united front to the kids can ameliorate some of the fall-out. Disagreements between parents should always be had out of earshot of the children.
Save your battles for important matters
When divorced parents argue incessantly about minor matters like kids’ diets or bedtimes, it makes every interaction a potential battleground. Let these minor differences go, as they will not matter in the least five or 10 years from now.
If you are concerned about some of the major decisions your child’s other parent is making right now, e.g., the religion in which the kids will be raised or whether or not to begin giving a child drugs to treat a psychiatric condition, present your argument calmly and use data to back it up. You may want to enlist the assistance of your child’s teacher or pediatrician or even your religious leader.
Seek professional help when you can’t agree
It’s great if you and your ex are able to reach accord on your own. But instead of incessant circular arguments with your co-parent, consider professional mediation to sort out the issues on which you cannot agree.
In the cases of medicating or not medicating, it’s important to realize that parents can agree to try out a medication for a certain length of time without committing to years of pharmaceutical intervention. If, after a certain length of time no real progress is made, it’s fine to shift to Plan B (or C or D or even X, Y or Z). The important thing is to focus solely on your children’s needs and remove your own ego from the matter.
What about consistency?
While parents should strive to be on the same page about major decisions and issues, it’s important to also realize that the world is not a consistent environment. To a certain extent, children who deal with different parenting styles learn how to be adaptable. More important than that is that both parents do not disparage or malign the other’s parenting decisions to the children. That only serves to create rifts between the parents and also between the children and their parents.