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Co-parenting with Different Parenting Styles

What is the best course of action when your co-parent has a parenting style that stands on the opposite end of the spectrum as your style?
(3 min 52 sec read)

Dave Chartier
A single co-parenting dad, a freelance writer and former syndicated dad blogger with work published in USA Today, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

In the 1960s renowned psychologist Diana Baumrind, following years of research into developmental psychology, concluded that there were three definitive parenting styles. These were Authoritarian, Authoritative and Permissive.

Over the years our approach to child rearing has of course shifted and psychologists have evolved the style categories to include five distinctly different approaches (although still heavily based on Baumrind’s theories). Some parents identify heavily with one particular style and in fact deliberately aim to operate within the scope of that particular approach. Other parents will utilize aspects of the styles that best suit them and tailor them to the raising of their children.

Here is a look at the five distinct parenting styles.

  1. Authoritative Parenting – parents who subscribe to this approach will establish firm boundaries and guidelines when it comes to their expectations of their children. With an overall nurturing approach, Authoritative parents will define the rules to follow and expect their children to comply. Authoritative parents maintain a clear relationship of ‘parent’ and ‘child’.
  2. Instinctive Parenting – this is the most common of the parenting styles and the only distinctive style that does not come with a set of rules. Instinctive parenting is instead characterized by parents who raise their children by relying on instinct and influenced heavily by their own childhoods and upbringing. These parents for better or worse govern and guide based on gut and maybe within the Authoritative parenting end of the spectrum.
  3. Attachment Parenting – this style is focused solely on the bond between parent and child. These parents strive to create an environment where there is no definable early separation between parent and child (ex.bed sharing, extended breastfeeding, etc.). It has a strong focus on the emotional wellbeing and intuitive development of the child well into their formative years.
  4. Helicopter Parenting – this style is strictly and rigidly monitor all aspects of their children’s lives. These parents are the ultimate ‘micromanagers’ and will dictate suitable interests, involve themselves heavily in their children’s daily lives and ‘hover’ relentlessly, thus the term Helicopter parenting. Some may see this as a subset of the Authoritarian Parenting (*one of Baumrind’s original styles characterized then as the Drill Sergeant) style and appears to produce children to achieve very well academically, although these children tend to suffer social and struggle to learn independent skills.
  5. Permissive Parenting – these parents are indulgent of their children, often with an equal relationship as opposed to a defined ‘parent’ and ‘child’ dynamic. Permissive parents do not make demands of their children nor set expectations of them. They will rarely employ forms of discipline and consequence, preferring to rely on a communicative approach. An example of permissive parenting is a child who does not have a set bedtime. Instead, they are allowed to self identify when they are tired go to sleep at will.
  6. Uninvolved Parenting – is characterized by the parent being emotionally distant from their children, displaying little/no warmth, or love. They provide little to no guidance or supervision and may intentionally avoid their children. Researchers associate parenting styles with a range of child outcomes in areas such as social skills and academic performance. The children of uninvolved parents generally perform poorly in nearly every area of life. These children tend to display deficits in cognition, attachment, emotional skills, and social skills.

Baumrind characterized her parenting styles in terms of two key dimensions: parental responsiveness and parental demandingness. As you can see these styles tend to stand on the opposite end of one or both of these dimensions.

What is the best course of action when your co-parent has a parenting style that stands on the opposite end of the spectrum as your style? What if you have a permissive style and your co-parent tends to be a ‘helicopter’ parent? Perhaps it is the difference between your upbringings. Regardless, your collective goal is to raise confident children who are emotionally healthy and resilient, children need support, warmth, love, appropriate discipline, structure, and guidance from adults that they trust.

A few tips for dealing with conflicting parenting styles:

  • Keep the kids out of it. Asking children to take sides or arguing in front of them is incredibly destructive. Instead, agree to disagree for the moment, and discuss later, in private, when the kids are out of earshot.
  • Get counseling. A professional therapist can help both parents understand how their upbringing drives their parenting styles, as well as how to handle disagreements in a healthy way. If you are using the coParenter app opt to connect with a professional via GetHelp to speak with a trained professional to work through such issues as they arise.


Parenting Dimensions and Styles: A Brief History and Recommendations for Future Research | NCBI

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