Relationships are a complicated mixture of compatibility and compromise. It's nearly impossible for a couple to agree on everything, especially when it comes to the way they parent their children. It's common for one parent to be more strict and the other to be more lenient, but when does it go too far? If one parent is too passive, it can create a lack of authority and downplay the importance of structure in the home. This is why learning how to talk to your partner about their passive parenting is an important (albeit intimidating) task.
When two people parent together, it's important that they remain a team. However, passive parenting, which Love To Know defined as "lackadaisical parenting" that is flexible to the extreme, can be destructive to a family. Although a certain amount of flexibility and leeway is necessary to be a good parent, when taken to the extreme it becomes more of a hurt than a help when it comes to raising kiddos.
Passive parenting can take many forms, but most often it comes across as lazy or hyper-permissive. If your partner seems to take little interest in what your children do or don't do, or if they tend to say "yes" to everything and rarely enforce boundaries, they might be too passive and in need of a gentle confrontation.
1. Define The Issue
If your partner has a habit of being too passive, it's possible that they aren't aware of the damaging effects it may have on both your child and your own parenting style. Calmly broach the subject by explaining what passive parenting (as opposed to setting appropriate boundaries, or taking more of an interest in their activities,) is and how it can negatively impact your child, regardless of how old they are.
One piece from HuffPost (although in reference to passivity in marriage), noted that when one partner explains the ways passive behavior is hurting them and their family, and references other times in the past when more assertive behavior was better, they're more likely to see a change.
The aforementioned Love To Know article also noted that passive parenting often causes children to feel like the rules don't apply to them, which can have further pitfalls down the road as they enter school and beyond.
2. Explain The Benefits
It's possible that your partner was raised in a more passive environment as well (or an extremely controlling environment and is reverting to the opposite), and hasn't experienced a well-balanced home with the right amount of structure and lenience. In that case, explaining to them the benefits of setting and enforcing boundaries will be helpful.
An article from Parenting noted that boundaries prepare children for the real world in a safe and loving environment, teaching them respect and, eventually, independence. Passive parenting, on the other hand, does the opposite by giving children too much freedom too early and making the parent seem disengaged.
3. Try To Find Common Ground
Instead of relying on a "good cop, bad cop" parenting model, try to find some common ground that you both agree on and can enforce together. An article from Family Education noted that expressing your concerns and trying to find an area that you do agree on can be helpful for slowly closing the gap between your parenting styles.
For example, if you both are concerned about your child's slipping grades, you can take that as an opportunity to encourage your partner to be more engaged in helping with their homework.
4. Don't Accuse
Accusing your partner of being the cause of your child's temper tantrums or unruly behavior won't get you anywhere. If anything, it will likely cause your partner to become even more passive. Although accusations will only drive the rift between you deeper, calmly approaching the issue will at least yield better benefits, even if they don't reform their ways overnight.
5. Give Them Some New Phrases To Try
One article from Knowji on passive versus assertive parenting explained that a more assertive parenting tone will not place blame, but will give clear expectations for what is to be done. If your partner tends to look the other way during meltdowns or doesn't enforce bedtime, start small with a simple phrase that doesn't leave room for questioning or lenience.
Changing behavior and parenting habits will take time, but it's possible for the passive parent to become more assertive.