Most parents are going to be at odds at times regarding how they discipline their children. Having grown up in different homes with different parents who have different methods of parenting, these differences are common. However, these differences don’t usually manifest themselves until you have a child of your own. That’s when a husband and wife need to recognize that if something isn’t done about the situation promptly, problems will likely arise for their children.
Roger and Shelly’s child, Carl, was stubborn. He always pushed the limits — wanted things done his way. Roger was more of a military-type disciplinarian. He was in charge, and what Dad said was the law. As a result, Carl and his dad were continually at odds. Roger was quick to punish Carl when he broke the rules — even slightly. He was determined to “break that boy into submission.”
This did not bode well with Shelly. She considered Roger’s methods too harsh. On one occasion she defended her son in front of her husband and this infuriated Roger. He yelled, “Don’t you ever correct my methods of disciplining our child! You have to stand by me or he won’t amount to a thing. Don’t ever do that again!” He was so forceful and convincing that she resisted sticking up for her son on future occasions, although inside she knew Roger’s methods were far too strict.
This went on throughout the boy’s childhood. He became withdrawn and distant from his father. He felt like he couldn’t do anything right. Even though his mother would praise him for his accomplishments, she never defended him in the presence of his father. Nor did she discuss it further with Roger. She lacked the courage needed to confront him in a rational way.
It was many years later, well into his adult life, when Carl’s animosity erupted. He couldn’t stand to be near his father. Sadly, because she had not stood up for him in the presence of his father, Carl felt betrayed by his mother.
Shelly said she wishes with all her heart that she would have been stronger and stood up to her husband when he treated their son so harshly. She could have easily done this, not in the presence of the child, but in a private conversation with her husband, one in which she came armed with information that may have persuaded him to be more understanding. If there was ever to be peace and feelings of love in their family, she knew something had to be done now.
They met with a family counselor who suggested they sit down with their son and ask him to be completely open in the way he felt towards them and how he was raised. They were to only listen, not defend or justify anything they had done. They were to let him have his say, no matter how long it took for him validate his feelings. Then they were to sincerely apologize. Shelly said, “It was a very painful meeting. Carl was full of hatred, especially for his father. It poured out of him like hot lava. We took the heat and listened without interrupting. When he had gone as far as he needed to go we apologized, asked for his forgiveness, and expressed our deep love for him.”
With all of that hate gone out of him, Carl reached out to them and forgave them. The meeting ended with hugs and an expressed desire to be closer as a family. From then on they treated him with love and concern, always being willing to listen to him. They now have a loving and caring relationship with Carl, his wife, and the grandchildren they have brought into their lives.
What you can do
To avoid this from happening to your family, it’s important to sit down and discuss the methods you’ll use in raising your children — even if you’re already in the midst of it. Ask yourselves:
What methods of discipline will we use with our kids?
How do we want our methods to differ from the ones our own parents used?
What do we do when we disagree on the method of discipline?
Will we spank our children when they’re naughty? (Define spanking)
Will we yell at our children or maintain self control and speak respectfully?
Will we respect each other’s opinion and listen fully before making a decision?
Will we be willing to apologize to our child for disciplining mistakes we’ve made?
Will we be willing to come up with a plan we can both agree on?
According to Dr. Steven Richfield, “It’s not uncommon for mothers and fathers to be on opposite sides of the “firmness fence,” each convinced that the other is doing it wrong. This leads to inconsistencies, mixed messages about rules, and the undermining of each other’s authority. Such circumstances can breed dishonesty, deceit and manipulation within children, some of the very behaviors that proper limits are designed to discourage and prevent. Therefore, it is particularly important that parents are united in their approach to this issue.”
Do some research on disciplining children. There is plenty of help available. Get educated so you can discuss methods that will work for both of you. It’s imperative that you agree on a plan. Be willing to adjust the plan when needed, but only after the two of you, together, decide on the change.