My Husband Constantly Criticises Our Daughter And It's Wrecking Her Confidence

How do you deal with parenting differences?
Photo by Alex Tihonov via Getty Images

Though you might think you know your partner well enough by the time you decide to have a child together, seeing them step into parenthood can show you a different side of them.

Parenting styles differ from person to person due to their upbringing, environment and life experiences.

What might seem acceptable to one person can seem ridiculous to the other — and that’s why communication and setting boundaries are extremely important, because at the end of the day, you’re a team.

One parent posted about a dilemma on Reddit about finding it difficult to accept their partner’s parenting style.

They wrote: “My husband and I have a 4-year-old daughter. He is a very hands on, pretty amazing father. Since she’s become more independent and has that oh so wonderful toddler attitude my husband just seems pissed off at her all the time.

“If he’s not yelling at her he’s telling her how bad of a girl she is. This morning she wanted him to help her brush her teeth. Immediately he’s annoyed because he thinks she can/should be doing it on her own (I’ve told him the ADA says kids need help until like 6 years old) and all I hear is him telling her ‘why don’t you listen to me? You’re being so bad. You’re not listening. You’re not doing it long enough. You’re terrible, just awful awful. You’re such a bad girl now. What happened?’”

The poster went on to explain that her partner gets more annoyed when their daughter is crying and upset.

When it comes to her own parenting, she accepted she is also working through bettering herself: “I know I have to work on myself too, but I’ve actively been working on ways to keep my cool, I haven’t yelled or raised my voice in over 2 weeks now, and I am understanding more and more that I can’t take the attitude personally.

“And I steer away from telling her she’s good or bad because I’ve read about how that could affect her. I don’t know how to communicate with him how damaging this is for her and it’s only going to make her worse for him. As she grows she’s going to be thinking “daddy already thinks I’m the worst and I’m terrible, so why not do this bad thing?”.

What really impacted the mum was the day her husband was working late so she just had her mum to help her out with the kids. In the evening her daughter said goodnight and went on to say: “I liked today. No one yelled and only baby brother cried, but he’s too little for words” — the mum said her heart broke when she said that.

How can I deal with parenting differences?

Ana Aznar, PhD, who is the founder and CEO of REC Parenting says that it is very common for parents to disagree about parenting decisions. This happens because parents don’t usually get the chance to see partners in parenting mode before the first child arrives.

She believes that communication, consistency, and if needed, external support will help parents navigate the disagreements that parenting will bring.

Parents may disagree occasionally about specific topics (e.g., discipline, screen time, education choices) or they may have two very different parenting styles.

If parents disagree about specific topics, Ana says they should try to create some ground rules on those contentious issues.

Here are three recommendations the expert would give parents:

1. Don’t disagree in front of the kids. If there is something you don’t agree on, it is OK to ask a child to wait for a decision until both parents have had the chance to discuss it.

2. Don’t let your child play one against the other: “Mum said that I can have a sleepover tonight, can I?”, when the reality is that mum never said that!

3. If your co-parent has made a decision and told your child, do not overrule that decision in front of your child.

Conflict also arises when couples have two very different parenting styles, which is also quite common. One parent may be very authoritarian whereas the other may be more permissive.

“In general, it is better for children if both parents have an authoritative parenting style or if at least one of them is authoritative. Authoritative parenting is the gold standard of parenting, it refers to parents who set limits and rules while being warm and responsive to their child’s needs,” she says.

Whether you disagree only on the odd occasion or you have two different ways of understanding parenting, always try to remember that both you and your partner want what is best for your child, even if you disagree about what the ‘best thing’ may look like, Ana concludes.