3 Steps to Avoid a Parenting Power Struggle

It’s easy to think that when your spouse does something that bugs you and you react, that you are making a conscious choice born out of your freewill to resist. But more times than not, you are allowing yourself to be controlled by your spouse’s actions or words.

Today I want to continue the series on how our spouses can sometimes control us by talking about one major way that this is demonstrated in parenting.

Parenting Tug of War - This post deals with parenting conflicts and how to navigate through them in marriage. #messymarriage #parentingconflicts #tugofwar #marriagematters #parentingmatters #underminingparenting

The Strict or Aggressive Parent
Let’s say that your spouse has a rather loud, angry or aggressive approach to parenting. When your kids do something wrong, your spouse, 9 times out of 10, has an over-the-top reaction to it. Maybe they shout at the kids or maybe they punish too harshly. Perhaps they say very hurtful things in those moments or all of the above.

If that’s the case, then you might be strongly tempted to balance your spouse’s aggressive reaction with a passive or overly-protective reaction. Often this creates an unhealthy, symbiotic relationship between the parent and child—excluding or creating distance with the other parent/spouse.

The Permissive or Passive Parent
On the other hand, your spouse may have a very passive or permissive approach to parenting. When your kids do something wrong, your spouse, 9 times out of 10, chooses to either ignore, minimize or “take responsibility for” the child’s wrongdoing.

This probably irritates the fire out of you! So you step in to correct that imbalance by drawing a hard line and bringing on strict rules and harsh punishments. Of course, then you look like the “bad guy” in everyone’s eyes and distance develops between you and your spouse as well as your children. #nobodywins

[bctt tweet=”Do you see your parenting partnership playing out in one of these unhealthy ways? Find out what the two unhealthy ways are at MM. #messymarriage #parentingconflict” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

If so, then what can you do to resolve that? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Step One – Recognize and admit that this dynamic is occurring.
You can’t change this problem if you won’t admit to yourself, God and your spouse that it’s happening, and then take responsibility for your part. Actually there’s something freeing about recognizing you’re letting your spouse’s actions hook you because you can decide ahead of time not to get “hooked.” Apologizing for your part and staying aware of when you’re tempted to get hooked again is one way you can initiate change and healing.

Step Two – Pray and Process the hurt that is underneath.
Often there is a wound of some kind either in your marriage, from your childhood and how you were parented, or both that has triggered this unhealthy dynamic. Ask God to reveal that to you and then ask Him to show you how to forgive your mate (or parent). He will help you forgive and bring healing to that wound.

Step Three – Negotiate with your spouse for a new strategy.
Use this time to come alongside each other by focusing on the problem of over-correcting, rather than blaming each other since you’re both responsible. So you both must find a way to change “your part” of this unhealthy dynamic.

Potential strategies might be …

  1. Asking open-ended questions, instead of making accusations when dealing with each other AND your children.
  2. Creating space for all involved, by taking a time-out to pray, calm down, and process. Then come back at a designated time to discuss again.
  3. Creating a respectful and agreed upon signal to each other (the parents) when you need to create this space.
  4. Documenting and agreeing ahead of time upon certain consequences for certain violations. Post it where the kids can see and then refer to it when the offense is being addressed.

If after doing these steps consistently the unhealthy dynamic remains, then you probably need the help of a counselor or life-coach to get your family “unstuck.” And don’t wait too long or these patterns will become entrenched and almost impossible to readjust.

[bctt tweet=”Overcorrecting aggressive or passive parenting wreaks havoc on families! #changetoday #parentingconflicts” username=”BethSteffaniak”]


How have you seen this unhealthy dynamic take place in your marriage and family?


What have you done—good or bad—to try to change it?


Linking up with – Mommy Moments, The Weekend Brew, Making Your Home SingMondays @ Soul Survival,  Sunday Stillness,  Sharing His Beauty, Spiritual Sundays, Words with Winter, Sitting Among Friends, DanceWithJesusFriday and Playdates with God


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8 responses to “3 Steps to Avoid a Parenting Power Struggle”

  1. My marriage was not marked by these extremes in parenting for the most part. We actually were pretty good at balancing each other’s strengths so the kids each got our best. Eventually there was a total lack of parenting by the kids’ dad due to a lot of factors.

    What I love about your posts here on marriage are the chance for me to reflect on what was right or wrong in my own. The self-reflection has been very healing. Happy Sunday and blessings on the new week.


    1. I’m so glad to hear that, Mary. I can’t say that mine was not marked by these extremes. I failed to mention that, not because I was trying to hide it but because I forgot to add it! 😉 Anyway, I bet when your husband did withdraw there was a much closer relationship with your sons than perhaps there was before. That can be healthy as long as it didn’t keep your husband out of the equation.

      Thanks so much for your kindness and support to me, Mary! It means so very much, my friend!


  2. Ah … this brings back memories and not all good ones. I found parenting to be a difficult challenge. Often. It’s not a call for the weak at heart, yet we are so often ill prepared for the hard stuff. So glad you’re here to offer today’s moms and dads some guidance borne from your own experience, Beth.

    Where was the internet when WE needed it?

    Hugs to you today, friend …


    1. I did too, Linda. I often defaulted to the parenting I’d been raised with, which wasn’t always healthy or balanced. My parents both came from families of origin that were much more unhealthy than how they parented me, so there was movement in the right direction at least! I agree about the internet. So many young wives/mothers have blogs that reveal such amazing wisdom at such young ages. I know I wasn’t that smart way back when. Thanks so much for coming by and visiting me, my friend! It is always appreciated and noticed. 🙂


  3. Wonderful words of wisdom here, Beth! It was so wonderful to meet you on my blog! Thank you ever so much for stopping by! If you would please email me your mailing address, I will get your book off in the mail to you right away!! 🙂 I can’t wait to bless you! Have a Merry Christmas!!!!


    1. Thanks for coming over and encouraging me, Cheryl. And that book will be another great encouragement too! I’ll email you next. Merry Christmas to you and your family as well!


  4. It brings confusion to children to see their parents argue about disciplining them or just about anything. Good points here.


  5. Oh my, YES! Over-correcting your spouses parenting only results in a tug of war. So so so true! Any time I step in when my husband is doing something or if I say we should do something someway but instead of doing it respectfully it just creates a war. he then feels like he needs to plow through to make his point that he’s in charge (even if I’m right!). We need to talk things out calmly and respectfully to avoid war. Loved this post!


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