• Overcoming Parenting Style Differences through Co-Parenting Education
  • August 27, 2013
  • Law Firm: P. Scott Micho Esq. - Syracuse Office
  • In many households, parenting style criticism from friends or family members is about as welcome as their criticism on other third-rail topics such as religion and politics. However, when two parents have very different parenting styles - and they are separated or divorced - it may become imperative for them to address this issue. Failure to do so can enable children to play parents against each other in order to get their own way. And this ploy can have unfortunate consequences for the entire family.

    Studies have shown that parenting style can strongly influence student performance. The three main categories are authoritarian, permissive and authoritative. As a Louisiana State University study noted, the authoritative parenting style has a positive association with higher grades while that association is negative when it comes to authoritarian and permissive parenting styles. One researcher, the study noted, has defined authoritative parenting as “competence-inducing in that it recognizes the child’s need for control and individuality, views the rights and duties of parents and children as complementary, and is characterized by sensitivity to children’s capabilities and the developmental tasks they face.”

    For better or for worse, not all parents employ the authoritative parenting style. Consequently, parenting style differences could result in extreme tension between parents, especially if they are divorced or separated. And parents should not count on courts to settle such differences. Courts, generally, will not modify joint custody arrangements “where the parties’ conduct amounted to nothing more than occasional bickering and their parenting styles, though different, did not impede their ability to work together for the good of the children,” the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department said in Brown v. Skalwold (1996).

    So what are parents to do? Co-parenting education may be a good step for helping divorced or separated parents overcome their parenting style differences for the sake of the best interests of the child. If the parents are in the process of getting divorced, they may want to include a requirement for co-parenting education in the divorce agreement. If they were never married, they may want to pursue co-parenting education before heading to court. If the parents must eventually pursue litigation, participating in co-parenting education prior to doing so emphasizes to the court that they have made a good faith effort to work with the other parent. Such efforts often make the judge more sympathetic to a parent’s position.

    Co-parenting education is usually provided by psychologists or social workers who conduct classes where parents learn how their children could be impacted by their divorce and ways to minimize such negative impacts. Usually co-parenting education involves several sessions and both parents will split the costs, unless there is a gross disparity in income between the parties.