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7 Reasons Why It's Worth Being Friends With Someone With A Different Parenting Style

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If there was one, definitively “correct” way to raise children, we’d all be practicing it, right? There would only be one book on the subject, and my Facebook feed would dwindle down to boring posts about kids eating vegetables and going to sleep before 8 p.m. without any complaints. But we all do this mom thing in our own way. Variety is the spice of life, right? So it’s totally worth being friends with someone who parents differently than you do.

I only share one thing in common with other parents; we all have kids. If you start dissecting our friendships to determine if they’re based on other common parenting practices, you won’t find much to go on. Some of us breastfeed our kids, some of us formula feed them, and the reasons behind those choices are varied. Raising children can’t possibly follow one precise set of guidelines, because we’re human beings doing the parenting and humans are, well, only human.

I have admired many parents from the sidelines when I witnessed their kids listening to them when the parents said — only once — that it was time to leave the playground. How did they pull that off without the kid whining? Teach me! But I’ve also done my fair share of judging when I see a parent with a different approach than mine reprimanding her kid, who then melts down in the supermarket aisle. “Wow,” I tell myself. “I would never do that.” True, I might not employ that same tactic, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t weathered just as many public tantrums with my own children as a result of my personal parenting techniques.

Most of parenting is trial and error, so seeing other parents in action is the only way to broaden our range of knowledge of what to do — and what not to do — when it comes to raising kids. Here are some reasons why it’s totally worth being friends with someone who practices a different parenting style than me, because learning from others is, honestly, only going to make us better parents.

It Causes Me To Take A Closer Look At My Own Approach

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Other parents hold a mirror up to my own style, which can be very helpful. Maybe I need to make adjustments. Is my way always the best way? Do I keep using the same tactics, and expecting different results? Even if I don’t change my approach, seeing how other parents handle situations, due to their own nature, sheds some light on my personality. Am I saying “yes” too often because I want to avoid conflict? (Yes.) Maybe I need to work on me a little more, before I can effect positive change on my parenting.

I May Just Learn Some Things

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Like how losing my sh*t when my kid goes off the rails doesn’t have to be an option. Watching a mom friend handle things differently than I do can be a teaching moment. I might have read about not asking children open-ended questions, and, instead, presenting them with two choices (so they still feel somewhat in control of what’s happening), but it never resonated with me until I was around a mom friend who was actually employing the practice. Seeing her success encouraged me to adopt that technique myself, and it did make getting out of the house with a toddler a little easier.

It Can Totally Validate My Own Style

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Occasionally, I’ve been the one demonstrating a successful parenting technique. I am not usually aware of this, until another mom remarks on it. I may actually know something?! Wow. I have never raised kids before, so it’s pretty flattering when someone expresses admiration for how I pre-portion all snacks before hitting the playground to avoid squabbling. This validation means a lot, because I tend to spend way too much time berating myself when I feel I’ve screwed up (like, daily).

I am happy to pass along my wisdom to other parents hoping to unlock the true secrets of successful mothering. (Actually, it took me years to figure anything out. And only after I learned from other moms!)

Because You Might Actually Be Married To That Person

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Sure, you may discuss how you’d raise a child with a potential partner, but all bets are off when that baby makes actual co-parents out of you. My husband and I do not always agree on how to deal with our kids’ behavior issues when they creep up and bite us in our respective asses. We argue about it (sometimes in front of the kids), and we don’t always come to a resolution. Sometimes it means one of us just acquiesces to the other. There is a finite amount of energy I can give to everything, and everyone, in my life. Occasionally, it’s better to lose the battle of, “whose parenting strategy will we employ to nip this snarky 8-year-old attitude in the bud,” and win the peace war for the night so I don’t stay awake seething.

It Keeps My Judgments In Check

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When I returned to work after my first maternity leave, I asked a co-worker, whose daughter had been born a few weeks before mine, how she was managing with pumping at the office. “Oh, that was never going to be part of the deal,” she answered, casually. My initial reaction was super judgmental: “Wow! She’s not even going to try to breastfeed her baby?” But just because breastfeeding worked for me didn’t mean I was in any position to question another mom’s choices about it. I may not have initially agreed with her decision, but I quickly came around to the idea that whatever we, as moms, do in the best interest of our families, is the right move.

It Can Be A Lesson In Staying Mellow

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If there is one thing I have learned from being a mom, it’s to pick my battles. I can call my kids out for the five things they are doing wrong, simultaneously, at the dinner table. But what does that get us? Just a lot of yelling and the kids feeling like they can’t do anything right. So, I pick the most egregious act (“Legs down!”) and once they conquer that bad habit, we’ll work on them chewing with their mouths closed.

So, when I’m with other moms and their kids, and something about their parenting style rubs me the wrong way (like when they buy their kid ice cream at the park when I refuse to do that, like, ever), I let it roll off my back. I accept our differences, because it’s more important that we got out of the house, our kids are mostly playing nicely together, and I have a grown-up to talk to. Sure, my kid will then go into full whining mode about the ice cream I won’t buy him, and I might make things uncomfortable for the more generous mom, but I can’t worry about making her feel better about her choices. I am steadfast in my stance against ice cream trucks. (Although I have caved when it comes to doughnut trucks.)

It Teaches My Kids To Be Adaptable

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My kids know that when they have playdates, the rules of that person’s house are the rules. Doesn’t matter what we do in our house; while they’re at their friend’s house, the friend’s parent is the boss. Sometimes, this works to my kids’ advantage (“We had two ice pops!”) and sometimes it doesn’t (“I wasn’t allowed to touch the guitar.”). Whatever happens at a friend’s house, though, stays there. I respect that. Just like my kids respect that once they return home, my house rules are in play. I don’t care how much screen time they got elsewhere; at our house, you get it at the allotted times. Children have to be able to adapt to different environments. By exposing them to different parenting styles outside of the home, they're learning to cope with change as they grow up.