When Parents Disagree

         Discover 8 Ways to Come Together

by Sally R. Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT

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Sandy, at 13, is a master at finding her way around her parents’ rules. She knows how to ask her mother for permission to stay over at a friend’s home or out late at night. She knows to ask her dad for money for shopping or to take her to the mall. While she also knows that her parents will get mad at each other or argue about these differences, she can always count on generally getting her way.

Jim and Jenny have a great deal of difficulty figuring out how to handle 9 year old Hannah and 14 year old Sam. When Jenny is around, she usually handles things the way that she feels is right while Jim will be tougher, especially with Sam. The differences in their styles is frustrating, sometimes maddening, for both of them and they really do not know how to manage these differences.

We have some advice for parents who disagree. Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with your co-parent to help you navigate and gain confidence in your skills at parenting together. These will probably have to be conscious steps to take in the beginning. With ongoing success, they will get easier and may even become a habit.

Coming together when parents disagree.

1. Recognize that differences are normal and most parents disagree at times. See the differences as just “a difference”, without a right or wrong.

Most couples who come together have different experiences as children.  Their own parents' styles may have been different and each may have learned how to live a healthy and productive life in a different way.

Think of the problem as a puzzle, maybe a pretty complicated one, but one that requires “putting your heads together” to find a solution.

  2. Appreciate the differences. Be lighthearted and use a sense of humor. Be glad to have more than one way to look at any situation as well as more than one way to approach a problem.

Here is a suggestion for times when you, as parents disagree. Humor helps tremendously. Sing together that
old Beatles song, “We Can Work It Out”. Remember that “life is very short and there is no time for fussing and fighting, my friend“.

3. Agree to disagree on some issues. Respect the differences and choose to sometimes solve a problem mom’s way and sometimes dad’s way.
 Find a way to respect and support the decision you made, even if you do not necessarily agree with it. Make sure that you are both also open and willing to re-evaluate the plan to see how it is working.

4. Discuss the pros and cons of each approach. When parents disagree, it is important to talk about both alternatives with some detail.

Play it out in your conversation, especially if it is a “high cost” decision. Ask good questions of each other and each approach as you focus on making a decision about a certain request, privilege, problem or issue.

Unless these are life or death issues, there are positives for almost any suggestion. Entertain the idea that there may be a better solution than yours.
5. Consider each child and each situation individually. What worked for one (or for you when you were growing up) might not work for another.

6. See what compromise might be reached. When parents disagree, there are always compromises that can be worked out. Recognize that you both have the same goal in mind, to teach your child a lesson about life, behavior and/or consequences. There are many ways to reach the same goal and one is not inherently better than another.

 7. Agree to stand together on the decision. When parents disagree, it is important that they still find a way to back each other. If you follow this process we‘ve outlined, then the decision should not be so outrageous as to go against all of your principles.

Strategize what obstacles one or both of you will have to overcome in order to back the solution.
8. Revisit, re-evaluate and revise. Plan to get back together after some time to talk about how things are going.


When parents disagree, they must remember these cautions.

Above all, never allow abuse; physical, emotional or verbal.

Step-parenting requires a different set of guidelines for parenting. Parents will often disagree a lot more as they focus on children who are not their own. Click here to read more about living in a step-family.

We would love to learn about your experiences. Do you agree or disagree with our ideas? Click here to mosey on over to our forum page and add some discussion.