My husband and I have very different views when it comes to disciplining our kids. From dinnertime rules to what to do when our teenager breaks curfew, he seems to just employ the strategy of letting the chips fall where they may; while I feel that kids need set boundaries and consistency. Please help, we’re fighting more with each other rather than acting as a parenting tag-team.
This is a common problem that I often run across during family therapy sessions. It isn’t out of the ordinary for parents to often disagree about the best ways to raise and discipline their children as it is often a reflection of their own childhood and how they were raised themselves. However, when a couple can’t agree on what works for their family, children often take advantage of the situation as they are skillful at understanding how to split up what is supposed to be a solid parental unit. Here are some simple guidelines I recommend for avoiding turning the raising your kids into a battle where nobody wins:
- Be united – When one parent is trying to discipline, the other should provide back up. If you disagree with the tactics or the punishment, say so in private, not in front of the child. It is imperative that you present a united front and show that you will not be dissuaded. Only if your partner is emotionally or physically abusive and is showing signs of out-of-control anger, should you intervene.
- Set household rules and consequences ahead of time – The heat of the moment is not the time to set rules or to come up with punishments. Rather, find a time to calmly discuss how you expect your children to act and what the consequences will be when rules are broken. For example, when curfew is broken the punishment is one week grounded at home without the use of their cell phone. If one or the other believes that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, then compromise can be reached at this time. When one or the other parent, fueled by emotions, comes up with repercussions on the fly, it can be expected that the other parent will want to disagree with their decisions.
- Ask for understanding – When parents disagree on any issues, it can be beneficial to fully explain why it is important for you that the issue at hand is handled in a certain way. For example, if your 13-year-old daughter is asking to wear makeup and your husband is seemingly dead set against the idea, talking to him about why you think a light-colored lipstick and maybe a little mascara is ok for a girl her age. By using your own experiences as a growing young woman you may be able to come to a compromise that makes everyone happy.
- Take the time to listen – Just as you would hope that your spouse takes your side into consideration, be ready to listen and understand with an open mind. Instead of blaming and defending your own position, try to come up with a real solution that also addresses their concerns.
- Be ready to disarm – When things do get heated, be okay with diffusing the situation by agreeing to walk away for the time being. By allowing everyone breathing room, you’ll also create an opportunity for everyone to further think about their role and responsibility. Set a time where everyone involved is given the room to state their case. Then proceed calmly, re-iterating the household rules and their consequences of breaking them.
Over a decade of experience in marriage counseling and family therapy has allowed me to have the knowledge, expertise and compassion needed to help you reach your goals, open doors of communication, and get the help you need. For your relationships, for your life, for you.