Blended families are increasingly common today, with the Pew Research Center reporting that 40% of families have at least one partner with a child from a previous marriage or relationship. So, how do parents come together to make their perhaps different parenting styles work in blended families?
Blended families can survive different parenting styles with increased communication, clear goals, transparency, and problem-solving skills. This post will discuss parenting styles, how they differ, which ones are more likely to lead to confident, self-assured children, and how to make different parenting styles work in a blended family.
What are the Different Parenting Styles?
You know a parenting style when you see one. How does that parent at the grocery store respond when their child misbehaves? How does the parent from your child’s class handle their child’s bullying behaviors? How are those styles similar, and how are they different from yours?
Parenting style is the way you respond to behavior from your children, but it also includes your method of teaching your children, how you dole out punishment, your actions and messages about what is right and wrong, and your overall parenting demeanor.
There are typically four parenting styles that experts agree on:
- Permissive – Permissive parents tend to act more like friends to their children than parents. They often avoid punishments when children don’t obey rules or don’t have many rules to begin with. While generally communicative and warm toward their children, permissive parents lack discipline. Children of permissive parents may disobey rules at school and in other settings. They also may have issues with self-regulation and coping skills.
- Authoritarian – Authoritarian parents often have strict rules and guidelines for their children but seldom provide reasoning to go with their rules. Children of authoritarian parents are usually fairly successful in life but have lower levels of happiness.
- Authoritative – Authoritative parents have rules and boundaries for their children, but they provide reasoning and rationale for those rules. This style generally leads to confident, happy, and well-adjusted children.
- Uninvolved – Uninvolved parents have children that, in general, fare the worst of all the parenting styles. These parents generally don’t provide feedback, communication, or emotional support to their children, leaving them to figure things out on their own.
Knowing your parenting style is critical to helping your child succeed and preparing them for life, as well as making things work for blended families.
Steps to Make Different Parenting Styles Work in a Blended Family
Hopefully, you can get a feel for your partner’s parenting style before the family comes together under one roof. If their parenting style is slightly different than yours, that’s OK. But know that there may be some bumps in the road.
For example, you may have a strict curfew for your children, but your partner is more apt to let them stay out later, depending on what they’re doing. Talk through this. A blended family can survive different parenting styles, but it will take dedication, communication, and work.
The following are suggestions to facilitate growth as you and your partner navigate parenting together:
- Communicate – Make communication a priority, both between the parents and with the children. Be transparent and know you’ll make mistakes. Own up to them and be an example to the children on how to learn from your mistakes.
- Be Flexible – Your children may be different ages than your partner’s, so they’ll be going through different things. Try to remain flexible as you recognize the growing pains each of your childhood experiences. This flexibility may mean asking for help from your partner if they’ve dealt with the terrible 2s before or offering up suggestions for the troubled teen entering high school. Listen to your partner’s point of view and see if you can learn from each other.
- Be a Team – It’s OK to have different opinions on rules and boundaries for children. Having a healthy discussion about a disagreement provides an excellent example of what a healthy relationship looks like for your children. If you and your partner have disagreements on how to parent, communicate with one another and then discuss it with the children in a developmentally appropriate way for their age. Show your children that, even when you disagree, you love each other and use healthy communication to solve problems.
- Know Your Values – If you have specific values behind some of your rules that you aren’t willing to compromise on (or if your partner does), discuss it before bringing the children together as a family. Consider working with a mediator, counselor, or parenting educator to unite on some of these value differences.
- Spend Time Together – Facilitate purposeful time together as a family to recognize any potential issues between children or in the family unit. Recognizing issues is the first step to solving them. Maybe you decide a weekly family dinner is best for your schedules, or an outing to your family’s favorite state park every other month would be best. Do what works for your family.
- Seek Support – Be sure to lean on your support system when transitioning to a new family or lifestyle, such as marrying a partner or moving in together with children. Additionally, there are many professionals who can assist in coordinating and agreeing on parenting techniques. View our list of therapists who specialize in parenting issues.
How All Counseling Can Help
All Counseling provides help to people looking for mental health resources, including family therapy, individual counseling, couple’s counseling, and more. If you or someone you know is in blending family with different parenting styles, All Counseling’s therapist directory can help you find a therapist that fits the needs of your family.