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Spouse Disagrees With My Discipline

by Jerad
(Seal Beach)

Is it okay for your spouse to interrupt you while you are disciplining your child?

Is it okay for them to interrupt to tell you what you are doing wrong?

*** Title edited by Annie ***

Different styles of discipline is often a source of conflict for parents, so your question is a great one, and will be really helpful for other readers.

I hope you don't mind I changed your title, so my readers can clearly see this question is about the differences in how parents discipline their children. My answer is below in the comments. :)

Comments for Spouse Disagrees With My Discipline

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Different Style of Parental Discipline - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Jerad,
It can be really tricky if one parent favors more authoritarian methods and another is far more easy going and lets more slide.

It sounds like the two of you really need to work out what your expectations are with the children and come to some common agreements about what the important rules are, and what kind of consequences there are when those rules are broken.

Every parent is different, and kids accept to some extent that parents have different tolerance levels for behavior. For instance, one parent may be quite happy with lots of loud yelling and noisy games inside, and another may find this really distressing and insist on quiet games inside the house.

Kids will change behavior with strict discipline or fear based punishments, but they are really just learning to comply and they also learn confrontation and force as a way of getting what you want. They are not learning skills to think through and learn different ways of self managing.

They learn a lot more when something is dealt with from the point of view of problem solving. Sometimes it does mean we have to take time out to get our strong feelings under control - I am not talking about time out as punishment, I am talking about both parents and children using time out as a way to let off steam and then get back to being more rational.

Understanding the differences in how both Parents were raised can be really helpful. One may have been raised in a fairly strict family, the other in a very casual easy going family. When there are lots of differences then, a couple has to work harder to find a middle ground that is acceptable to you both.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Different Styles of Parental Discipline - Part Two
by: Anonymous

I have to agree with you, it is not helpful for one parent to interrupt the other, unless there has been an agreement for that. For example, when I have worked with parents who get out of control sometimes with their children and start yelling or are unreasonably angry, then sometimes they might negotiate some sort of interruption that they have agreed is the signal for parental time out!

But this ONLY works if it has been agreed on beforehand. If one partner steps in all the time without that agreement, then the kids are learning that they can play one parent off against the other. Kids are quite happy to accept that some rules are different depending on the situation - like at Grandma's house, no feet on the furniture, but at home it is fine to curl up on the sofa. But it is confusing if one parent tries to change what the other is doing.

If the issue is between you and the child then you should be the one to deal with it. The old style of wait until your father gets home and poor Dad being the disciplinarian, was not a good one. The parent with the issue needs to be the one to work with the child to make some changes.

It can be very hard for a parent who wants stronger discipline to ease off and let the other handle a situation. And the reverse also, Parents who are more laid back in their discipline find it very hard when it seems the other parent is being too strict or unreasonable.

That is why it is really important that you work out what the ground rules are, and have an agreement about them. It is not a matter of who is right and who is wrong, it is simply you have been raised differently and have different tolerance levels and expectations.

There will most likely always be differences, but if you spend some time working out the things that are the most important to each of you, and negotiate those ones first. You will also need to find some agreement to the consequences so you are not in a cycle of conflict between each other.

You and your spouse need to be able to work as a team, and that means negotiating ways to raise your kids that work for you both. If one partner is trying to make the other behave differently with the children, then you are not working as a team. It sounds like you both are going to have to compromise quite a bit since I would say your parenting styles are very different. You don't have to end up being the same on everything, but you do need to be on the same page and that will take some negotiating and constant work.

Part Three Follows . . .

Different Styles of Parental Discipline - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

I would actually suggest you see if you can do a parenting course together. You will learn heaps about the differences in your styles of parenting, and you will have the chance to learn new skills and work together to parent more effectively.

You will also learn a lot about what is reasonable for each age group, I have often worked with parents who expect a preschooler to behave like a 6 year old, or expect a 15 year old to have an adult's decision making ability. A lot of discipline issues can simply be parents haven't learned what is appropriate at various stages of development. It's a shame we don't get taught a lot of this stuff in school!

At the moment you are most likely undermining each other, and the kids will be quick to exploit that. Doing a parenting course will also bring you closer together if you are willing to work together. Gaining an understanding of where the other one is coming from and making a decision to work as a team to find the common ground will really strengthen your relationship.

If neither of you are prepared to learn to work together, then you are likely to end up with more and more conflict and resentment between you, which is not a good thing for either of you or the kids.

Children are in our care for a very short time really, and we owe it to them to be the best parent we can be. They don't come with a manual, and it is not always easy! The foundation of your family is love and teamwork, and that sometimes means a steep learning curve to figure out how this team is actually going to function.

Thanks for your question Jerad, I do hope you both find a way of working together so you can parent with harmony, and learn to support each other more.

Most of all, just enjoy your kids as much as possible!
Annie Desantis

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