Anonymous Stories in Motherhood :: I Don’t Like My Husband’s Parenting Style


It’s no secret that we all have different parenting styles. There are “crunchy mammas,” helicopter parents, those with a more laid-back approach to parenting, strict parents, and so on. You have to do what works best for your family. And as long as you’re not judging me and the way I do things, we are good. You do you and I’ll do me. 

But what do you do when you have a different parenting style than your spouse

I believe that how we are raised has a lot to do with the way we raise our own children and how we discipline them. My husband and I were both raised by parents who had different approaches to parenting.

I had a father who struggled with mental illness, and would do nothing but complain, throw insults at us, and make our lives miserable. My mom, sister, and I endured a lot of verbal abuse from my father. In all reality, I was basically only raised by my mother, with no real father figure. My father was present in our home (until my parents eventually divorced), but he did not act like a father. My mother was firm but fair, always loving and supportive, affectionate, encouraging, a Godly woman, and a great example to my sister and me.

My husband has a great mother as well. His father was fully in the picture but wasn’t the most supportive parent. He was often very sarcastic, would belittle his wife and children, and was very critical of them and all they did. This was something my husband not only told me about but that I also witnessed firsthand. 

As a result of my husband being raised by a father who was constantly criticizing him, those traits were passed down to him and his brothers. Every time we visit his family, I see how critical his brothers are of their children. The sarcasm rolls off their tongues as if it is normal to speak to others in a belittling way. They have no respect for women, because neither did their father, and I see these same traits in my growing nephews. 

My husband is the oldest of his brothers and therefore lived under his dad’s non-sympathetic, sarcastic, critical tongue longer than his brothers did. However, the difference between my husband and his brothers is that my husband recognizes and acknowledges how his dad treated them and their mother; he has felt the weight of being told he wasn’t good enough, not being supported by his parent, and constantly being criticized. 

My husband is determined to change and not be like his father. But change is hard. It’s not easy to rid yourself of the attitudes and lifestyle in which you were raised. That stuff stays with us, and we carry it around all our lives. 

So, what does that mean for our family? It means that my husband and I end up parenting very differently most of the time. I take a gentler approach with our boys. I’m more of the “let’s talk this through and then I’ll give you a hug and encourage you” type of parent. I try to sympathize with our boys and understand what they are feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I do discipline them as needed, but I try to be encouraging and not critical. 

My husband, on the other hand, can sometimes be very harsh with our boys. He, just like his father, will make biting, critical remarks to them. He acts in an accusatory way instead of trying to find out what happened first. There are times he can be very sarcastic with them; he’ll make a remark and think he’s being funny but it ends up being hurtful towards our boys. And, I think without realizing it, he often puts pressure on them as well … pressure to get good grades in school, to act a certain way, to play sports. 

I see the hurt it causes my boys. I can see how they react when he makes critical and harsh remarks to them. And I hate it. I know my husband is trying. He’s better than he used to be. But it’s still hard. It’s difficult because I know how it feels, having been mentally abused by my own father day in and day out. 

We have talked about it together, and he knows that change is needed. I try to find gentle ways to remind him, but it’s not that easy. I mean, how do you say to your husband, “Hey, you’re being just like your father (who you don’t want to be like), and being too harsh with the boys, and too critical of them,” without greatly hurting his feelings? There is such a fine line to walk there…

My husband most definitely doesn’t want to be like his father; he’s afraid of turning into him. And I don’t blame him. Don’t get me wrong, his father wasn’t this horrible wretched man. He was actually a great man, and I loved him. He was just not a sympathetic and encouraging person at all, and would (unknowingly, I think) say critical and hurtful words to those around him quite frequently. 

I’m not perfect either. I make a lot of mistakes with our boys as well, and there are definitely things I need to change. And there are plenty of things we do agree on and handle the same way. It just gets difficult when we get to the areas where we parent differently. 

Thankfully, we are both a work in progress, and we know it. We will actually be starting some family counseling soon, and I’m hoping that will help as well. 

If you are in a similar situation, I offer you this advice:

Don’t give up. Things can change. You just have to first admit what is happening, in order to acknowledge that change needs to happen. Find a way to gently bring it up with your spouse. Using the sandwich method to offer constructive criticism works wonders. Communicate with your spouse how you are feeling, and go from there. And, remember, there is no shame in getting professional help. Sometimes we all need that outside perspective to push us in the right direction. 

Do you and your significant other parent differently? How has it affected your family and relationship?


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