Gender Differences in Parenting Styles
2007 Bill Nodrick PhD and Bev Nodrick RSW
differences in parenting styles often figure into discipline problems. This is
true in both biological and stepfamilies. However, the associated difficulties
tend to be more intense in stepfamilies.
Consider the following vignette and its analysis:
steps through the door, and is confronted by his exasperated partner who is at
her wit’s end with the kids. She insists: “Deal with them!”
instinctively knows that restoring calm requires asserting his role as the
“alpha male”. This almost always involves a display of “might is right”
of some kind—such as raising his voice, assuming a threatening posture,
issuing an intense stare, slamming a few things, etc. Essentially, these
gestures proclaim: I am the alpha male. Challenge me at your own peril—and
only if you are confident that you will be able to defeat me (and assume my role
dominance is (re)established, he is likely to address the issue of concern with
the child(ren)’s behaviour in some way—usually by critical comment; to make
it clear to them what he expects of them. Following this, and after a brief
period of “emotional cooling”, he will return to other aspects of the alpha
male role—that include being gentle towards the children (who have now
“fallen in line”) and feeling very protective towards them.
incidents like the one presented above, he is likely to feel that the
“flock” should continue to show their respect for him (through their
compliance and obedience) because he “provides” for them.
his partner is not at all pleased with his method of intervening. She feels
it’s too harsh. She may even feel it reveals that her partner is controlling
and abusive. She worries that his treating the kids in this way will damage them
emotionally. What she REALLY wanted him to do was to intervene using HER
methods—despite the fact that they don’t seem to work for her. Perhaps she
was hoping that his personality or his status with the children would render
them more receptive to the “relationship” or “feeling-centered” approach
she would have preferred that he’d used.
does not approve of his approach, she “undermines” his effort in one way or
another—perhaps by consoling a child while her partner is reprimanding them,
or holding the child so that he/she can look away from (i.e., disregard the
“rant” of) the male who is trying to address him/her. She may even tell her
partner to “back off” because he’s “gone too far”, or because he’s
“out of control”.
lack of support for his efforts to “discipline” the kids, the male is very
soon feeling angry towards his partner. “After all, the kids were out of
control, and she could do nothing about it. She asked for my help, and now
she’s criticizing me! Go figure!” He concludes: “She’s too soft on them.
They’ll have no respect for anyone. She’s killing them with kindness. I need
to be firm with them—for their own good.”
to his anger towards her, the woman aligns further with the kids. She concludes:
“There is no doubt about it. He has an anger problem. He must have had a poor
relationship with his parents, etc., etc., etc.” With this, she feels she must
protect the kids from this raving lunatic at any cost. Her determination to do
so is even more intense if “this man” is not the children’s biological
result: neither the woman nor the man is in charge—the kids are. When kids are
in charge, chaos prevails.
Clearly, this situation is not likely to self-correct until the children grow up and leave the home.
If you would rather not wait that long, all of the strategies, tools and
techniques necessary to address and resolve problems such as this are detailed
in our home-study program entitled:
Discipline with Dignity.
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