parenting - Couples Therapy Center of NJ

How to Handle Different Parenting Styles: “I’m Tired of Always Being the Bad Guy”

One of you thinks spanking is necessary at times and the other thinks there’s never a justification to hit

One of you thinks kids need a good amount of discipline and the other thinks kids learn best in a loving environment

One of you thinks kids need to have chores and the other thinks kids should be allowed to be kids

One of you wants to track your child’s phone and the other thinks kids are trusted until proven wrong

If these disagreements in your relationship sound familiar, you aren’t alone. Many couples may hold similar values and morals, but simply have different parenting styles. Of course you and your child’s other parent are going to have different ideas – you were raised in different homes, maybe in a different city/culture/religion and definitely by different parents! While your personalities may mesh well in other aspects of your relationship, often simply having different personalities create very different types of parents, with different ideas of how strict or lenient children should be raised.

These differences can cause couples a lot of distress, where arguments abound and tensions run high. This is especially true if one parent is always feeling like they need to act as the disciplinarian or the ‘bad guy’.  Sometimes the other parent then becomes the ‘fun parent’.  Anger and resentment can easily build if this becomes a pattern.

The good news is that different parenting styles is not always a bad thing!  The good cop/bad cop routine can work well for couples at times, and often, a good balance can be found between a stricter parent and a more laid-back parent.  With some simple tips, you can find this healthy balance, and turn your different parenting styles into a positive for you and your family.

  • Develop the ability to carve out time to talk about these topics WHEN YOU ARE NOT PRESSED TO DECIDE AND AWAY FROM THE KIDS-To help eliminate the ‘bad guy’ and ‘fun parent’ roles, having these conversations away from the kids will allow you to come to an agreement on decisions and then present a united front.
  • Try to be flexible with your point of view-Get more information about healthy parenting from books, blogs, your child’s teachers/guidance counselors, and other reliable sources.  Share what you find with your partner without pressuring them to comply.  There isn’t only one right way to parent, and the more both partners can be flexible and open to trying different parenting techniques, the more likely you can be to strike a happy balance that both partners can live with.
  • Get into your own therapy- Spending time exploring the issues that being a parent may be triggering in you will be worthwhile. People bring their own upbringing and childhood into all aspects of their adult lives especially parenting, and you don’t want to blindly act out your issues on your kids. While the level of discipline that occurred in your household growing up may have worked well enough, that doesn’t mean it was optimal. Remember every child is also different and may not respond the same to different methods of discipline.
  • Begin couples therapy focusing on parenting- Couples counseling will give you a safe place for these discussions.  You will both gain an understanding of where the other’s views came from.  This leads to empathy and caring, which moves couples closer to each other.  It’s from this closer vantage point that parents feel more like partners.

You may find that with some work and time, your parenting differences will be a helpful thing for your partner- the strict parent may learn to loosen the reins just a little bit, and the laid-back parent may find that sometimes more discipline is necessary and appropriate. While you don’t always have to be on the same exact page on every discipline matter, seek to find a healthy balance.


If you have are having trouble with opposing parenting styles in your relationship, we can teach you how to implement these tips and have productive conversations about these issues. Call us at 908-246-3074, or email at Doing it sooner rather than later could save your years of unnecessary hassle and make your current relationship stronger than ever.

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