March 1, 2021

Discipline Disagreements 

Setting guidelines on how to agree to disagree can keep the harmony 

When raising children, parents often agree on the importance of presenting an “united front.” However, each parent’s differing beliefs, experiences, and personalities make child rearing disagreements inevitable. 

By setting guidelines on how to agree to disagree, parents can keep harmony in family relationships.   


Try to listen and understand each other’s point of view. Listening to another person means more than just taking turns to talk while thinking of what we want to say next. Really listen to how your partner sees the situation and empathize with their concerns. These discussions can take time and reflection; try to have this conversation when you can set aside a block of private, uninterrupted time. 

Creating Your Own Style

Reflect on how your own upbringing shapes your feelings about discipline. Some parents emulate their own parent’s style, while others want to do something completely different. Creating your own style means considering approaches and strategies beyond simply repeating what we know. Think about what values you want to instill in your child and discuss your ideas with your partner. Agree together on parenting roles, discipline strategies, and an action plan for dealing with your child’s challenging behaviors.  


Involve both parents in daily routines. Being involved is important for both parents to build strong relationships with each child, a key component of effective discipline. Involvement also helps prevent resentment from eroding the parents’ relationship, which can occur when one parent feels they carry too much of the parenting load.


Don’t criticize each other in front of the children. Witnessing an occasional disagreement that is handled calmly can actually help children understand that loved ones can negotiate and compromise. But saying hurtful things to or about a parent in front of a child is both confusing and upsetting. Such comments undermine a parent’s authority and can lead to children learning to play parents against each other. Letting a child know that a conflict has been resolved models healthy and respectful problem-solving.   

Don’t let arguments escalate into yelling, name-calling, or physical aggression. Witnessing these kinds of encounters can be traumatic to children. If a conflict escalates, parents should model the kind of self-control they want their children to develop, agreeing to take a time-out.  

Differences Matter

A “united front” does not mean you parent the same way all the time. Just as children are different from each other, so are adults, who may have different parenting styles. Children can accept some difference of opinion about minor issues if they see both parents have respect for one another. Be willing to try each other’s ideas and come back together to identify what’s working and what’s not. Share with your partner what you like and appreciate about their parenting; feeling appreciated strengthens the bonds of a relationship.

Seeking Help

Know when to seek outside information or help. If you are stumped about strategies that might be helpful, look to others for ideas and support. Your child’s pediatrician, a therapist, or parenting class can provide ideas. Be proactive; do not wait until unhealthy patterns are established or tensions are running high.  

Most of all, remember that couples who are intentional about working together find the job of parenting much more rewarding and enjoyable, and their children benefit. 

Lisa Phillips, MSW, LMSW, has been a parent educator at The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital since 2001 and is a regular contributor to the award-winning “Parenting Corner” column. She can be reached at 504.896.9591; 

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