We Don’t Agree on Discipline

Q: Whenever it’s time to discipline our children, I always end up being the bad guy. How can I get my spouse more involved in disciplining our kids?

A: This can be another area where opposites can complement each other. In our family, Barb was the “no” and Gary was the “yes” when it came to the kids. We laugh about it today, but at the time it was tough.

We look back, however, and see that Barb was strong at creating boundaries and structure, while Gary was far more able to give our girls “wings,” releasing them, helping them make their own decisions. The balance was good for our kids.

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The biggest suggestion we make is that if you are disagreeing about your disciplining of the children, you must disagree outside the earshot of the kids. If dad is being heavy-handed about something (we’re not talking abuse here, just strict discipline) and mom disagrees, then mom must keep her mouth shut until she and dad can talk privately. Then, if something is misunderstood or needs to change, it can happen after the fact. You as parents must always present a united front to their kids; otherwise, the kids will wise up, circumvent you, manipulate you, and pit you against each other. That just leads to chaos. 

Also understand that each of your children is very different (as if you didn’t know that already!). Different genders and different stages of life demand different parenting strategies. Treating all your children the same doesn’t work, treating a boy and a girl the same doesn’t work, and treating boys and girls at different stages the same doesn’t work.

Communicate beforehand when possible what would be the best disciplinary strategy for that particular child for that particular infraction. Parenting is hard work, and it helps for both of you to be on the same page as much as possible. Learn together to be reflective and prayerful. Discipline with love and consistency. Those are some of the best gifts you can give to your children.