Articles by Jacqueline McDiarmid, Break ups, Children, Communication, connected, Couple's counselling, divorce, Family counselling, family therapy, Listen, pre-marriage course, Relationships, Uncategorized

Not on the same page with parenting? Here’s how Couples Counselling can help.

A large number of the couples who come to us for couples counselling are parents who have different – and sometimes conflicting – approaches to parenting their children.

It’s not surprising really. Being on the same parenting page can be challenging for any couple. That’s because when people partner-up, they bring ideas informed from their own family experiences to the relationship. We all have different experiences of being parented. But this is not always obvious or even relevant until the couple has children. I very often hear that people have made the assumption – without really exploring it – that they will be aligned when it comes to parenting.

And that’s just in a standard relationship. It becomes even more complex if you have to co-parent after you’ve broken up, if you have to co-parent with a new partner (who becomes a step-parent to your children), and if you have to co-parent with the new partner of your ex.

Blended and separated families bring a whole other level to difficulties as far as parenting goes.

So why is it crucial to be on the same parenting page in the first place?

Children and teens need consistent messaging from their parents. It creates a safe and predictable environment for a child when there is consistency around rules, expected behaviour, and consequences.  Mixed messages and inconsistent parenting is confusing for children at best and stressful at worst. I have seen a lot of stressed and highly anxious children and teens who are trying to navigate different parenting styles either in their home or between two homes.

The other issues is that couples who are not on the same parenting page invariably end up in conflict.  Over time, conflict turns into resentment and eats away at the goodwill in the couple’s relationship. Their children are affected by the conflict, and in some cases the children become actively involved in the conflict. It’s very sad when different parenting styles lead to an estrangement between a parent and child. We are seeing this more and more at Sydney Couple and Family Specialists.

Here’s how differing parenting styles can play out:

  • One parent is deemed too harsh, the other too soft.
  • One or both parents feeling undermined by the other parent.
  • One parent not following through with agreed discipline.
  • Differences on views regarding medical interventions for the child.
  • Differences on views regarding nutrition and how food is managed for the child.
  • Different ideas about children’s education and their child’s experience/performance at school.
  • Differences on limit setting. Example – the age at which a child is allowed out on their own, or how much screen time/social media a child is allowed.
  • Extended family weighing in to align with one parent over another.
  • Step-parents not feeling heard or valued with parenting ideas.
  • Couples who sometimes have step-children and children in the same home – but have to deal with the different parenting styles of exes and step-parents or between themselves.
  • Undermining in general from every direction, step-parents, co-parents and so on.
  • Step-parent confused about a step-parenting role – not knowing where the limits are when it comes to parenting.
  • Parent feeling pressured to parent the way a step-parent suggests.

What can you do as a couple to ensure you are on the same parenting page?

 The number one best thing to do as a couple is to set up a regular (ideally weekly) parenting meeting to discuss your concerns, differences and approaches to parenting.  This should be held in private away from the children.

In your meeting:-

  • I know this sounds basic, but the reality is a lot of couples just don’t talk enough and this leads to misunderstandings, assumptions and non-alignment in parenting.
  • Discuss your shared common goals for your children. What is a priority for you as parents?  What needs active work with your children?  Once you have agreed on what your focus is then you can work out a plan to implement.
  • Make a list of agreed consequences. If one of you doesn’t agree on a consequence you will need to adjust this list together.  Remember consequences should never be punitive.  They should be fair, immediate and not cause long term resentment between a child and parent.
  • In your weekly meeting raise any concerns you have with your partner about their behaviours that are causing you concern. For example, yelling at a child. Belittling a child.  These behaviours should be addressed between parents and a plan made to stop these behaviours occurring.
  • If you do not agree with your partner’s parenting in the moment, ask them to talk privately rather than have an argument in front of a child.
  • Be prepared to compromise. And if you really can’t agree on some things which are causing conflict, seek professional help.

When to seek professional help:-

  • If you are in a committed relationship and intend to have children, consider a pre-marriage counselling course. We have one here.  It’s worth it on several levels.
  • If you have an ex-partner and you are not on the same parenting page, see a Family Therapist. They will help you navigate the conversations and agreements that need to be made.  Plus, new partners can also be involved in the process.  It’s good to have all parenting figures on the same page with an understanding of each role they have with a child.
  • Couples counselling is also recommended for you and your new partner if you have a blended family or are considering a blended family.

What if your partner and you just don’t agree on how to parent?  Should you separate?  The answer is a separation will not fix this problem and it is likely that the problem will even get worse. If you are separated, you’ll have even less influence over how your partner does things – and your children will suffer the greatest consequences.

In good news, It is entirely possible to be aligned as parents if you are both willing to collaborate and compromise. So do the work to get aligned. Professional help with either a Couples Counsellor or a Family Counsellor can really support you to be wonderful parents who create a consistent and secure life for your children.


About Jacqueline Jacqueline has been in private practice for more than two decades, helping individuals, couples and families.  She has extensive experience in couple and family therapy and is considered a specialist in these areas. In her clinical practice, she has helped people deal with complex trauma, affairs, complex mental health issues, eating disorders, adolescent behavioural problems (including self-harm and suicidal ideation), behavioural issues in young children which are impacting parents and families, relationship issues and post-separation work. Jacqueline works with many different dynamics: couples, parents, families with young children, same-sex couples, foster/adopted families, families with teenagers and also adult families.  She is particularly interested in helping parents of children with behavioural issues, or with diagnosed conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, ASD and so on. Although Jacqueline’s work is supportive and friendly, she will challenge her couples and families to make the necessary behavioural changes, to repair relationships and to move towards healthier communication styles in the future. Jacqueline’s style is direct and fast paced and she is known for quickly getting to the heart of the matter.  Clients report that they feel safe and understood with Jacqueline.
Qualifications and Professional Membership Jacqueline has a Masters in Couple and Family Therapy (UNSW). She has a Bachelor degree in Counselling and Human Change, and a Diploma in Psychotherapy and Counselling. Jacqueline is a Clinical Supervisor for Counsellors and Therapists. She lectures in couple and family therapy at Masters and Post Graduate level, and is currently Head Lecturer for the Couple and Family Therapy course (Masters) at the Jansen Newman Institute.  She has been a Lecturer at the University of Western Sydney and Sydney University, and continues to guest lecture at other tertiary institutions. Jacqueline is also the Director of the Couple and Family Training Centre where she runs regular professional development workshops and seminars for Therapists, Counsellors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Health Industry Workers who are looking to gain skills in this specialist area. She is a Clinical Member of the Family Therapy Association of Australia and a Clinical Member of PACFA.
“Thank you for seeing me today. Your help with all our family issues and all your advice has been invaluable. I don’t know how other families do it, without a Jacqueline in their lives.” – Anna (43) step-mum and mum to four children.
If you feel as though you could benefit from talking with a Therapist please contact  The Sydney Couple and Family Specialists on 02 8968 9397 or email

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