We’ll Survive Your Parenting Disagreements
The message is everywhere: Parents should try to be on the same page. Yet, for many teenagers, the reality is different. One parent is the disciplinarian. The other is always saying yes. Read on to find out what two teens think about parents who have different approaches to raising kids.
By Katie Way
My parents are very different people who come from very different places, so it is only natural that they’d occasionally disagree when it came to raising me. My dad, who emigrated from Myanmar when he was ten years old, is a success-driven lawyer who read me Ben Carson’s autobiography when I was in the fifth grade. He also happens to be a General in the U.S. Army Reserves.
My mom is an elementary school teacher from New Jersey with a degree in special education. She likes detective novels and goes to church every Sunday.
Somehow parenting was one of the only things I never saw them disagree about—other than my dad’s packrat tendencies and his quick walking speed while the three of us were on vacation. That’s right, the three of us. I am an only child, and therefore my parents’ only chance to raise the next President of the United States/future CEO of Google (my father’s vision) or a well-adjusted and faithful Catholic girl (my mother’s).
These goals did not stand in opposition to each other by default, but as I grew older they sometimes clashed, especially when I entered high school.
During the quarters when I failed to earn straight A’s, my mom would reassure me that what mattered was that I was trying my best, while my dad grimaced silently, no doubt calculating how these less-than-perfect scores would impact my chances of admission into an “elite university.”
In the summertime, my dad pushed me into educational programs that he believed would look good on a college application, while my mom urged me to get a job instead so I could learn the value of a dollar and a hard day’s work. When she learned I loved stand-up comedy, my mom was aghast because of the way male comedians “degraded women” in their material. My dad, on the other hand, laughed along with me.
It was often confusing and even challenging to please both of them at once, and sometimes in defiance I would shut down and refuse to listen to either. I wanted my mom to stop trying to censor the movies I watched and the music I listened to, and I wanted my dad to talk to me about something other than my prospective colleges and my plans to raise my GPA.
Luckily, they both relaxed the reins once I headed off to college (at a school my dad deemed “elite” enough) and I no longer feel torn between the two of them. But in the end, it was not their disagreements that shaped me into who I am today, but rather the places where they found accord. Through their shared love of reading, travel, and, most importantly, me, their support helped me grow into the self-assured, happy, and healthy young woman that I am today.
Katie Way is a journalism student at Northwestern University who enjoys comedy, writing, and singing to her dog.
By Ford Carlisle
A secret about parenting that parents don’t share with their kids is that there are no real qualifications, aside from the ability to reproduce. But no matter how seriously your parents took the assignment in home economics class with the mechanized baby that would cry if it was on its back for too long, there’s no way to prepare for that level of responsibility and commitment.
Essentially, parents are still somebody’s children until they have children. This is increasingly evident to me as I witness my slightly older peers get married and have children (not necessarily in that order).
As a child, I assumed that my parents weren’t meant to be anything other than my parents. But I see now that my parents worked hard at parenting; they navigated their lives and belief systems to work with each other to raise my siblings and me. For that, I give them credit.
Nevertheless, they did disagree on some aspects of parenting style, but I believe that I am better for it because I learned that different styles could be successful.
I am lucky to have grown up in a house with happily married parents. My dad has been married three times, with the second marriage producing my older sister. So he is the more experienced parent, for what it’s worth. He has what I like to think of as a macro attitude toward parenting. He was more than content to sleep through the kids’ morning routine and let us find our own way. But he would ask for an update on our college application process or our summer plans every dinner like clockwork. My dad is likely to let the small stuff slide, but he has a great sense of when to be stern with all things pertaining to “the big picture.”
My mom, on the other hand, has a more micro approach to parenting. While my dad was getting his beauty sleep in the early mornings before school, she would be the drill sergeant barking orders to make sure we made our beds and to prepare us properly for the rest of the day. She was the engine that made the cogs in the house turn. Because of my mom’s influence, I have a borderline compulsive desire to put any dirty dish in the dishwasher and to fold my clothes before I put them in my drawer. I have never met a person with a stronger work ethic than my mom.
How did these different parenting styles affect the way my siblings and I grew up? For one thing, we learned selective communication skills. I was much more likely to ask my dad if a friend could come over, just as I was much more likely to go to my mom for a reprieve from college talk. My mom could understand when my dad was being too hard on us, and vice versa.
I’m glad that my parents did not approach raising me the same way. They showed that there are plenty of different ways to love your kids and to be a strong role model. On my sporadic visits back home, whenever I talk with one of my parents, that parent will always say how lucky I am to have the other parent to keep me balanced. Not only do I feel more well-rounded as a result, but also more confident about what it takes to be a good parent.