If you spend any time in the parenting section of the library or your local bookstore, you will find hundreds of books on disciplining and raising your children. All the leading experts have their own ideas about what works and what doesn’t. As a parent, you have your philosophy that you bring to the table. Most of your thoughts come from what you learned as a child. You either liked the way your parents raised you, agreed with some of it and disagreed with the rest, or didn’t like any part of your parents’ ideas. Then you talk to or watch other mothers you know and these ideas get added to the mix. You take the best from all these sources and you set off to be the best mom you can be.
And then something happens that interrupts your plan for raising your children. Dad has a whole other set of ideas and plans for raising his children. Most of the time, dad’s ideas have not come from the many books on parenting he reads or the oodles of fathers he brainstorms with. His ideas, too, come from the way in which he was raised as a boy, but sometimes Dad operates on auto pilot when raising and disciplining his kids. Even the best and most agreeable parents sometimes disagree. So what do you do when your two philosophies clash?
1. Talk it out when the children are not around.
You’re in the middle of dinner, and the children are refusing to eat. They are crabby and testing your every nerve. Dad can see that you are stressed so he decides to take matters into his own hands. He yells with his loud, booming voice, “Eat your food right now or you will go straight to bed.” The kids start crying. You are even angrier now because you can’t stand yelling. You feel it is an ineffective way to discipline the children, and you believe it scares them. Wait until the children go to bed and have a talk with your husband. Explain to him exactly how you feel about yelling. Listen to his side of the story and why he chose to do what he did. Do your very best to understand him and acknowledge his feelings. Then decide together what would work better for everyone in the future.
2. Decide how important an issue is to you.
My friend’s husband takes his little girl to swimming lessons every Saturday morning. After swimming, the little girl is starving. Dad’s way of ending their fun time together in the pool is to let his daughter pick something to eat from the vending machine. My friend does not want her daughter associating fun time with Dad and junk food. She believes they should come home so her daughter can eat something healthy. Sometimes each parent needs to decide how important an issue really is to them. If Dad rates his need to buy his daughter a junk food treat after swimming at an 8, and Mom rates her need for her daughter to eat healthy at a 6, then Dad wins. You learn to give in on issues that aren’t extremely important to you.
3. Understand that differences can be good.
Believe it or not, children can benefit from differences in our parenting styles. As long as children are being loved and treated with respect and fairness, it can be good for children to learn to adapt to different childrearing approaches. No two people in this world are exactly alike. Some parents are very flexible and some are quite structured. Some parents are playful and others are more serious. There are quiet and mild-mannered parents and loud and boisterous parents as well. Step back and appreciate your differences. Children who are exposed to diversity have a tendency to be better rounded and adaptable.
4. Combine your viewpoints and get on the same page.
The single most important thing you can do for your children and for your marriage is to get on the same page when raising and disciplining your children. Being on the same page does not mean you necessarily agree on everything. It means you support one another as parents. If Mom says there are no privileges until homework is done, the rules are the same with Dad. If Dad says curfew is at 11:30 PM, then Mom enforces this curfew. Take the time to work through your differences and put together a plan that both of you can be happy with. Decide what the house rules are going to be and how the children will be disciplined when the rules are broken. Then stick together and provide a united front for the benefit of your children.