My Spouse and I Don't Agree on Discipline Strategies

Father and son (10-11) sitting at end of dock at edge of lake, talking, side view.
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Question: My Spouse and I Don't Agree on Discipline Strategies

My wife and I don’t agree about how to discipline our two children. She thinks I’m too hard on them but I think I’m just teaching them responsibility. For example, when our 10-year-old doesn’t do his chores, I don’t give him reminders or nag him. Instead, I leave it up to him to remember and if he forgets, he doesn’t earn an allowance. My wife thinks that because he’s only 10, we should give him extra chances. We end up dealing with the kids very differently and it often ends in an argument. What should we do?

Answer:

You’re not alone in disagreeing about parenting issues. Most couples aren’t always on the same page when it comes to handing out consequences or deciding when to intervene. When you have different ideas about discipline, it’s important to address your differences before it causes even bigger problems.

Problems that Can Result from Parenting Discord

In severe cases, disagreements over parenting can lead to marital problems. Sometimes one parent tends to side with the children and it can turn into “us” against the other parent. Then, instead of working together as a team, parents begin working against each other.

It’s also not healthy for kids when parents have frequent disagreements over discipline. If you tend to be tougher on the kids, it will likely set you up to be the “bad guy” and your kids will quickly learn to ask your wife for things if they think she’s the most likely to give in.

Inconsistent consequences can lead to kids becoming anxious when they aren’t certain what to expect.

Accept Your Differences

It can be helpful to accept that you and your spouse are going to disagree on parenting issues at one time or another. There are many different ways to raise a child and when you and your spouse have different ideas about what is best, it’s essential to respect your spouse’s opinion, even when don’t agree.

Consider the four types of discipline and decide which one describes your approach best. Then, determine whether or not your spouse uses a similar or different approach. Understanding how you each tackle the same problem with a different perspective can be helpful.

It’s also likely that you may have different parental temperaments. Perhaps you have a higher tolerance for some behavior and she has a higher tolerance for other. Take a look at how each of your temperaments fit with each child’s temperament as this is one of the five factors that influence discipline strategy effectiveness.

Find Similar Ground

Once you’ve identified your differences, look for some similar ground. It’s likely that you and your wife have similar goals for your children. By the sounds of it, you both are invested in ensuring your children grow up to become responsible adults. You just have different views on how much self-discipline you should expect the kids to have.

Sit down together to work out a plan that you can both agree to follow.

You don’t necessarily need to agree on every single aspect, but need to agree that you can follow the plan in front of the kids. It’s likely that you’ll both need to do a little bit of compromising.

For example, perhaps you can both agree that your 10-year-old will get one reminder each night to do his chores. If he doesn’t get them done, he won’t earn his allowance. This may be an effective consequence that will motivate him to do his chores the next night.

Establish Household Rules

Work as a team to establish household rules. Make it a simple list of rules that are both important to you. Usually about 10 rules are sufficient and should include general rules about respect, chores and homework.

Then, outline a list of possible consequences that you can both agree on when the rules are broken. There may need to be different consequences for each child. Also discuss the rewards your children will earn when they do follow the rules, such as getting an allowance for doing chores.

Present a United Front

Agree to present a united front to the kids. Share the rules with the kids and agree that you will equally follow through with consequences. The security that presenting a united front will give your kids is likely more important than which discipline strategy you’ll use.

It’s important to role model appropriate behavior in front of your kids. If your kids see you fight, they’re more likely to resolve conflict in a similar fashion. Instead, save your disagreements for when you and your spouse can talk privately.

When your kids ask one of you to do something, when possible, don’t give an answer until you and your wife can talk about first. If your son asks to go to a friend’s house tomorrow night, tell him you’ll need to talk to his mother first. This will send the message that the two of you are working together and communicating well about parenting decisions.

Re-Visit the Plan Weekly

Set aside time each week to talk with your wife about parenting strategies. Don’t be afraid to try new things and make changes to the plan as needed. Just make sure to present the changes to your children ahead of time.

As your children grow older, their needs will change and your discipline strategies will need to change with them. If one discipline strategy isn’t working, work as a team to develop a different plan. There are many different ways to deal with behavior problems and it’s important to be flexible with your approach.

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