What do you do when you and your husband disagree about how to discipline the kids? This is one of the most common—and most emotional—arguments that a couple can have. You both want the best for your kids, and have very definite ideas of how to raise them (typically influenced by the way your parents raised you). Experts say it’s important to present a united front, but it’s arriving at one that can be so difficult. Here are some tips.
All good communication is based both on knowing how to listen and knowing how to talk. Your partner may not listen if the manner of speaking is inappropriate, meaning perceived to be disrespectful and judgmental. So we need to learn to send our upset feelings or disagreements in a respectful way.
It’s counterproductive to say, ‘You do not know how to discipline the kids. You are spoiling them by giving them everything they ask for!’ Anyone will get defensive when they hear that.
The problem is that you immediately put you and your husbands in ‘war mode’: I’m right, and you’re wrong. It also feels like a personal attack. He may be thinking, ‘Doesn’t she see I’m trying my best? She puts me down… she should appreciate what I do… she’s such a know it all.’
Instead, start by acknowledging what your partner is doing right and appreciating what he does for the kids. ‘I am glad our kids have a caring and involved father, attending to their needs.’
Then raise your concerns, but in a way that lets him know that you’re both on the same side. ‘Honey, I am worried that when you give in to their requests often, they may grow up spoiled. ‘
The best formula is I feel (mad, sad, glad, afraid) when you________ (describe the behavior) because __________(effect of behavior)
You can also use this conflict as a chance to get to know each other. Our parenting styles are affected by our own childhood experiences. ‘I know you mean well, but am just worried. Where did you learn to be so generous? Is this the same as in your childhood?’ He may explain that since money was tight in his family, he wants to be able to give his kids what he never had when he was growing up. You, on the other hand, can explain what influenced your decision. ‘Got that. In my case, my younger brother was given almost everything when he was young and look at him now, helpless, dependent still on my parents. I want our kids to responsible and independent.’
Then brainstorm on what you can do, together, for your kids. Set concrete rules that you are both comfortable with. For example, ‘No expensive toys—set a price ceiling—unless it’s Christmas or birthday. But food, like treating for pizza, is okay. ‘ Or, ‘Kids have an allowance of _________ and they can save for what they want.’
Photo from eliotburdett.com