It was reported in a Straits Times article that different parenting styles can cause marital conflicts. For example, parents sometimes disagree over co-sleeping with a child. One parent may prefer co-sleeping while the other may want the child to get used to sleeping alone.
In other instances, parents may disagree over the way a child is disciplined and brought up. One parent may believe in the cane, while the other places his/ her trust in the carrot.
One lawyer interviewed said that if parents “can’t get along, it will affect their parenting.” The lawyer has encountered “petty” parenting differences- parents may disagree on the child’s CCAs and tuition classes.
See: Venessa Lee, “Splitting over parenting”, The Straits Times, 25 September 2016
Custody refers to the right to make major decisions on behalf of a child. A parent with care and control will be able to make day-to-day decisions and be the primary parent taking care of the child’s needs.
As a divorce lawyer in Singapore, I have encountered many parents who indicated “parenting differences” in support of their divorce.
In one particular case I handled, the father (“Client X”) insisted on having sole custody, care and control of the child, despite the norm being “joint custody”. Not only did he want care and control of the child, he wanted the right to make all decisions on behalf of the child. He informed me that if he did not get what he want, he would let the mother have sole custody, care and control of the child. It was an “all-or-nothing” scenario for him!
Later, I found out that Client X had made such a request as the very reason for his divorce was extreme parenting differences. He was unable to reach a consensus with the mother on anything that has to do with the child. They could not agree on the child’s diet, school, classes and even the doctor the child visited when he fell ill. Client X felt that having joint custody with his ex-wife would only lead to more quarrels which would put the child in a difficult position. As such, he adopted a “all-or-nothing” stance. Eventually, parties agreed for the mother to have sole custody, care and control to the child.
As a family lawyer, I encourage parents to improve their communication so that they are able to iron out their differences. As much as possible, parents should be consistent in their parenting, so that their children do not receive confusing messages. It will also be good to listen to the child’s views once he/ she is able to express himself/ herself clearly.
If the situation becomes too difficult for parents to cope by themselves, they should also consider seeking help from a family counsellor or get different perspectives on parenting by attending parent support groups/ parenting workshops.
Parenting differences may be reduced if couples understand the rationales behind each other’s style of parenting. For instance, a parent may be against co-sleeping as he/ she wants the child to learn to be independent. The other parent may push for co-sleeping to give a sense of security to the child. It is important for parents to agree on the values to instil in their child.
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