Aligning the Mis-aligned

Aligning the Mis-aligned

Aligning The Mis-aligned…Understanding your Parenting Style and Aligning yourself as Parents

Every person enters into the ever so bumpy journey of parenthood with an idea of what it will be like based on childhood experiences and presently held values.  When you take that idea and multiply it by two, you can end up with either alignment or misalignment. That alignment is also known as the co-parenting alliance. That misalignment can be downright ugly!

Let me begin by defining the co-parenting alliance -- it’s how parents split up the responsibility of caring for their children and home.  In some homes, moms tend to the inside of the house, homework, doctor’s visits, and play-dates, while dads tend to the outside of the house, sports, and extra-curricular activities.  Parents are aligned when they talk about and agree upon household rules, expectations for behavior, school performance or consequences.

I’m not calling it the parenting alliance, but the co-parenting alliance because of the need for there to be an agreed upon balance. It doesn’t have to be equal.  One parent may become the breadwinner and a handle a few household and child related matters, while the other parent handles the majority of the household and child related matters. And that’s okay.

Let’s review the 4 parenting styles:  authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved.  They differ on 4 variables:  disciplinary strategies, warmth and nurturance, communication styles, and expectations for maturity and control. 

Authoritarian parenting -- this is the parenting style that most of us were raised with. “Do as I say, no discussion, no room for negotiation, or else!”  There are high demands, low emotional responsiveness, and failure to obey results in punishment.  This parenting style results in children who are anxious, angry and don’t learn to think for themselves. 

Authoritative parenting -- parents are firm but flexible, willing to listen to their child’s perspective and negotiate consequences, with a focus on setting boundaries and limits.  When a child breaks a rule, consequences consist of taking away items or privileges with the opportunity to earn them back.  This parenting style often results in children who are responsible, cooperative and self-reliant.

Permissive parenting -- parents wish to be their child’s friend, have few expectations and demands. There is little discipline, low emotional supports, and they avoid confrontation for fear of being disliked.  This parenting style often results in children who are anxious, scared, and feel unprotected.

Uninvolved parenting -- parents don’t know much of what’s going on in their child’s life. They fulfill basic needs (e.g., food, clothes), but with little emotional connection. This parenting style often results in children who feel abandoned, are emotionally withdrawn, they learn to provide for themselves, and fear becoming dependent on others.

Building the Co-Parenting Alliance

Start by recognizing your parenting style and how the two of you differ and agree.  If you disagree on a particular matter regarding your children, don’t make it a public affair in front of your children.  Ask to speak to your spouse in another room. Make no decisions about a matter if you are in obvious disagreement. This helps to present a unified front to your children.  Another thing -- don’t negate or undermine another parent’s rule or consequence.

Remember, before you were a family, you were a couple. Take time to reconnect as a couple and as a family. Set up a date night and don’t cancel it!  Each morning and night, make eye contact and say, “Good morning/night.”  Text, call or email each other during the day to say “How’s your day going?” If you and your spouse can’t do it alone, seek marital therapy. Sometimes, it helps to have a 3rd neutral person who can offer insight into your relationship. 

Connect with your family…Hold family meetings and let your kids talk about what’s going well and not so well in your house. Have regularly scheduled movie night.  What about a pizza night once a week? Have dinner as a family at least 3-4 times each week, regardless of how crazy your schedule may be.  At the table, talk about the highs and lows of your day. It will spark all kinds of conversations!

The benefits of co-parenting are lasting and positive -- children are less stressed, less anxious and there are fewer instances of depression for both children and parents.  There is also increased marital satisfaction. Children experience greater success in their relationships outside of the family.  Parents are also able to invest time into social relationships with other couples and families. Practice, I mean, co-parenting practice makes perfect! The more you practice being aligned, the easier it will become!

Photo by Tetra Pak

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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis See other articles by Dr. Liz Matheis
About the Author:

Dr. Liz Matheis is a clinical psychologist and school psychologist in Parsippany who provides psychotherapy, consulting, and advocacy for children and families managing autism spectrum disorders, ADHD and learning disabilities (www.psychconsult.weebly.com). She is also a contributor to several popular press magazines.

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