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Is it a safety issue or a different parenting style?












Separated parents often raise concerns regarding the children spending time with the other parent, but some of the concerns raised are not due to safety but are actually different parenting styles.


Coparenting pre-separation may have always had its problems as each parent has a different parenting style which could be;


Authoritarian Parenting: They make the rules where children have to obey ‘because I said so’. The child’s questioning as to why the rule exists or their opinion of the rule is disregarded. It is not up for negotiation. Children may grow up with self esteem issues as their opinions have not been valued. Strict parents often result in having children that lie to avoid punishment.


Authoritative Parenting: They have rules and consequences but they take the child’s feelings and opinions into account. They spend time to prevent behaviour problems by using praise and rewards for good behaviour. Research and experts outline that authoritative parenting is the most effective as it is regarded as being the most developmentally healthy and effective parenting style. Children are more likely to grow up happy and make good decisions for themselves to avoid safety risks.


Permissive Parenting: Take on more of a friend role than a parenting role. There are rules but they are rarely enforced and don’t have any consequences for not adhering to them. The children can talk to them about their problems but they don’t guide them if they are making poor choices or bad behaviour. Children are more likely to struggle academically, have behavioural problems and low self-esteem.


Uninvolved parenting: Don’t provide parental attention, nurturing or guidance. They often don’t know what the kids are doing or who they are with and have very few rules in the household. The children’s basic needs are not met whereby the children fend for themselves. These parents may have mental health issues, substance abuse or overwhelmed on taking care of themselves, let alone the children. Children are more likely to struggle at school, have frequent behavioural problems and are generally unhappy.


Both parents are generally not alike in their parenting style which can cause friction and tension in the household. Throw separation into the mix and it can escalate conflict whilst negotiating shared parenting time.


Often, I hear in mediation ‘he can’t look after the kids as well as I can”, “she is too strict, the kids don’t get to learn from their mistakes”, “he doesn’t understand the kids’ emotional needs when they are upset”, “she lets them do what they like, then it’s hard to settle them into our house rules when they come back to stay”, “he doesn’t get them to do homework, the kids need a good role model not a playmate” etc


When we drill down into the parenting prior to separation the different parenting styles existed then, so its not likely they will align now.


It’s important for coparents to assess whether their concern is really a safety issue or a different parenting style.


Some examples would include;

Safety issues

  1. “My ex doesn’t put sunscreen on the kids when they take the kids to the beach”. This is a safety issue as they could develop skin cancer later in life.

  2. “My ex lets the kids stay up until 11pm at night watching movies when they have school the next day”. This is a safety issue as the children may have their school work impacted, be so tired they nearly step in front of a car walking to school or the movies were not appropriate for the children’s ages causing them to have nightmares” This is a safety issue keeping them up late as it can impact their focus the next day, jeopardising their safety.

  3. “My ex-drinks and drives, so I’m worried when they have the kids in the car.” This is a safety issue as they could have an accident.


Parenting style differences

  1. “My ex lets the kids eat dinner sitting on the floor in the lounge watching TV, we would always sit up the table as a family”. Where the kids sit and eat their dinner is not a safety issue, it’s a parenting style difference.

  2. “My ex let’s the kids do their full week’s homework on the first day instead of doing some each day”. This is not a safety issue; it is a parenting style difference.

  3. “My ex makes the children do chores to earn their keep” This isn’t a safety issue unless it is a chore that has them up a ladder or using dangerous equipment. Doing chores enables children to develop independence and life skills.


So, it is important to reality check your concerns to ascertain whether it is a real safety issue or different parenting style that existed pre-separation.


Author – Cheryl Duffy

CDC® Divorce Coach, DCA® Conflicted Co-Parenting Divorce Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, NMAS Mediator, Parenting Coordinator, Author


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