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When Parents Disagree about Discipline

Differences in Family Histories

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Our childhood experiences of family life form many of the beliefs and actions that 'seem right' as we raise our own children. When two individuals marry and begin to raise children, differences in family histories can be a source of disagreements over discipline and child-rearing practices.

To resolve disagreements about discipline, it's often helpful to recognize first that our family experience in childhood may be very different from our spouse's family history. Because our experience of family life in childhood forms our beliefs about what children and parents should or shouldn't do, the potential is high for clashing beliefs to lead to parenting disagreements.

How to Resolve Discipline Disagreements Rooted in Family History Differences

Recognize that strong beliefs about child rearing may have their basis in childhood family experiences. At the same time, know that your spouse's beliefs have the same powerful roots.

Put your childhood experiences in historical perspective. Gender roles, child safety issues, environmental factors, and cultural norms change dramatically across the generations. What worked for your family 'back in the day' may not transfer comfortably to your current family situation.

What are the issues in modern family life that trigger a strong belief that the values and child-rearing practices from your childhood are important to uphold and continue in your own family?

Remember the positive experiences from your childhood. Think about your everyday life rather than the major events. What was going on around you during those happy times? It's fun to share these memories with your family, so make them a part of your traditions and family life.

What are the positive values and childhood experiences that you want to uphold and continue in your family?

Have a conversation between parents about the ways childhood histories may be influencing the disagreement about discipline. Take a problem-solving approach to identify:

  1. What is the specific child-rearing issue that is causing disagreement between parents?
  2. What are the feelings and beliefs that each parent has about the issue that may be rooted in childhood family history?
  3. What problem-solving alternatives can each of you commit to that will resolve the disagreement and unite both parents in adapting the beliefs and practices of your families of origin to your family life today?

Finally, don't let negative childhood experiences determine your decision making about discipline. Keep your focus on the positive aspects of your family life in childhood to bring to your current parenting practices. This approach will free you to replace discipline strategies that don't work for both parents because of beliefs based in families of origin with solution-focused practices that respect and continue the positive experiences of both parents' childhoods.

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