115: Why Won’t My Partner Parent the Way I Want Them To? // Celeste Davis

Do you and your partner clash over different styles of parenting ? 

Do you feel frustrated with your partner when they don’t follow the bedtime routine that you’ve worked so hard to develop for your child? Or does your spouse’s tendency to coddle or spoil the kids really drive you crazy?  Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe it’s their tendency to scold or punish the kids differently than you would prefer. 

If so, you’re not alone. I get emails and messages all the time from women who take their role as mothers very seriously, but they feel that their partner, who does things completely differently, is undermining their hard work. 

Different styles of parenting is a common hurdle to work through as you raise kids with your life partner.

If this resonates with you, you will love the interview I did with Celeste Davis on tips for what to do when your partner has a different style of parenting than you do. Celeste is a marriage researcher, sociologist, and spiritual director. She and her husband, Rich, have four children and live in Spokane, Washington. I’ve known Celeste since college, when we went on an international volunteer trip to El Salvador together, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. She’s a dear friend, an incredibly intelligent researcher, a hilarious writer, and an all-around stellar human.


3 Takeaways from Celeste Davis on what to do when your partner has different styles of parenting from you:   


1.) Remember that your spouse is not the enemy; disconnection is. 

Many mothers worry that if their spouse parents differently than they do, their kids will suffer because their home and their parental boundaries will feel “inconsistent.” But did you know that fighting with your spouse about parenting is more stressful to children than inconsistency? 

Celeste shares a study done by the Gottman Institute which found that they can tell the strength of a couple’s marriage by measuring the cortisol and adrenaline in their child’s pee. Isn’t that wild?? They also can take a child as young as three months old and measure their blood pressure. They found that when they are in front of their parents arguing, their blood pressure will spike.


Our kids literally feel the anxiety and the disconnect between their parents. So even though arguments about different styles of parenting might feel like they are “for the benefit of our kids,” these arguments are actually worse for our kids. 

Celeste reminds us that, “Ultimately, we have to let our spouse have their own relationship with our kids – not policing that and not putting ourselves in charge of that relationship.”  

2.)  Remember that different styles of parenting are not the enemy.

Guess what? There are actually so many benefits to having different ideas from our spouse, and there are even benefits to our kids.

Celeste tells us that”Unity is not the same thing as sameness.” We don’t have to have the same ideas about the specifics of how to parent our kids to be unified in the big goals we have. We can share the big, overarching goals and values–such as hard work, kindness, and integrity–and we can come at those in different ways. 

Another interesting study that Celeste shares by the Gottman Institute studied people who reported being happily married vs. those who reported being unhappily married. Surprisingly, they found that the happiest couples had the exact same number of differences–religious, political, financial, and parenting styles. 

So, if we want a happy family life,  instead of focusing on our differences, let’s focus on our common goals and common values. 


3.) Remember that imperfection is not the enemy.

As moms, we often want to fix the imperfections that we see. If our kid is disobedient, we want to fix it! If we feel our spouse is lazy, we want to fix it! We take this all upon ourselves, but then the imperfections become the enemy, bringing so much stress, frustration, and anxiety.

Celeste shares her favorite marriage quote from Dr. David Schnarch: The most loving thing we can do for our spouse is to learn to regulate our own anxiety.” And that goes for the anxiety we feel about our kids! Celeste adds, “The most loving thing I ever did for our family dynamic was to take on the thought–to really believe the thought–’My kids are fine.'” 

Isn’t that an incredibly freeing realization? 

Our kids really are okay. They aren’t perfect, but they’re okay. And focusing on the stress levels in our homes will do much more for our kids than fighting over different styles of parenting.  


So what can we do with these new perspective shifts this week? How do we approach our partner when we have different styles of parenting


To listen to my full interview with Celeste, find the podcast episode on your favorite podcast platform. 

>>>Are these tips from Celeste on frustrations over different styles of parenting helpful? What would you add to the takeaways? Tell us in the comments below.




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