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As ‘Brangelina’ rumors swirl, it’s vital parents learn to work together

No good cops or bad cops – it’s vital parents work together when it comes to raising children

Eve Dugdale

Published: Updated:

You want your daughter to finish her dinner – your husband tells her she can leave the table.

You like her to have a set bedtime – he says she can stay up and watch TV…

Parenting is tough enough, especially when mums and dads don’t agree on how it should be done.

Rumors surfaced this week about how differing parenting styles were partly to blame for the break-up of the marriage between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Sources have told the press that Brad has always been stricter and wanted the kids to have more structure while Angelina was more relaxed.

While Brad would allegedly yell at the children, chilled Angelina never did, at least according to the rumor mill.

But surely, as different people, we all have different approaches when it comes to parenting?

Of course, says clinical psychologist Olga Khokhlova. But we need to form a united front.

As a clinical psychologist at Dubai’s LIFE Psychological Counselling Center, Khokhlova meets many couples who struggle to agree on parenting styles.

She always reminds mums and dads that they’ve managed to stick together as a couple so far and need to continue supporting each other’s decisions into parenthood.

She explains: “The birth of a child always brings a crisis in a family which leads to aggravation of existing problems. Even when a child is planned, a whole family structure has to be changed and it is often the case that family members don’t anticipate how different their family life will be with a new member.

“First of all, they have to accept new roles, namely: mother and father, and at the same time they have to remain husband and wife to each other. That is not easy due to a lot of new responsibilities for both of them.

“I never miss a chance to remind couples that there is a direct link between a relationship in a couple and their relationship with kids. So if, despite all the new problems, a couple has succeeded in keeping a warm, loving and respectful relationship with each other, it will be easier for them to agree on one consistent parental style.”

Olga says it’s crucial that a child sees that despite their differences, their mother and father are on the same side.

She adds: “Otherwise it can lead to a good cop, bad cop situation or a case when a child sees that one parent systematically does not respect the opinion of the other and it will result in the child picking one side whether supporting weak or identifying with a perpetrator.”

Olga says resisting forming a united front could lead to a child feeling anxious or becoming aggressive since there are no clear rules and signals from parents are ambiguous. While people spend a lot of time preparing for the delivery of a baby, Olga says they need to put the same effort into planning for the aftermath as well. Taking time to agree on future parenting is something very beneficial for couples, she says.

One woman who did just that was mother-of-two Vivienne Birch.

“We had chats before even conceiving because I suspected there would be disagreements,” says the British mum.

Nevertheless, problems still arise, says Vivienne.

“Issues are going to come up because one person is spending more time with the children than the other and will therefore react differently,” she explains. “Someone who spends less time with them is more likely to let things slip because they don’t have to deal with it daily and see how that makes it worse.

“For example, with my nearly three-year-old interrupting people’s conversations, I’m trying to have a conversation and teach her to be patient and wait until I’ve finished before talking, but my partner disagrees and says ‘what can you expect of a toddler? She doesn’t understand.’ However, if he was with her every day and was being interrupted while he was talking in a meeting, how would he cope?”

While Vivienne and her partner disagree over everything from smacking to treats, Vivienne jokes that he often sees her put her ideas into practice, sees the outcome and changes his opinion. And she insists they can handle squabbling over minor decisions as they manage to keep a united front on the important matters.

She adds: “We are very different people and obviously have different styles. Fundamentally though we both have same core values and that really helps.”

And the advice from American mum-of-two Hana is to treat parenting like work. You have to cooperate and compromise with colleagues so why not your partner?

She explains: “One of my Italian students said to me before I had children that having kids was like a project. You have to be on the same page and work together and I can see why if you’re not you would break up. Parenting styles go alongside life goals and philosophies and if you have different values it’s going to be difficult to be together.”