When Mom and Dad Clash on Discipline
If you look at our careers, it’s probably no surprise this mom and dad approach discipline differently.
I’m a teacher. I instruct, encourage, nurture, and allow room for improvement.
Hubby is a state trooper. He examines the evidence, labels actions as right or wrong and, when called for, administers justice.
In the classroom, my approach to interacting with my clientele works. When he’s in uniform, his approach to interacting with his clientele works.
But in our home—where our ideas of discipline are on opposite ends of the spectrum—our approaches can clash.
Sometimes Hubby thinks I’m too easy. If I tell Randi to clean her room and she quits after two hours when it’s three-fourths of the way done, I call it happy. Actually, I call it a miracle.
Sometimes I think Hubby is too hard. When Kelli parked her car behind his truck and he backed out of the garage and smashed the front end, he blamed her (a new driver) for not knowing she should not have parked behind him.
I admit. Sometimes I am too easy. And Hubby will admit sometimes he’s too hard. It took a lot of parenting years for us to be able to see that…and a few arguments…and a dose of humility. But by the time our girls reached their early teens, Hubby and I had grown up, too, and our approach to discipline somehow evolved into something that works…most of the time. (We’re not perfect!)
Before, if one of us disapproved of how the other was disciplining, we might say so in front of the girls during the fray. You’re being too hard, I’d tell him. Or you’re letting her get away with it, he’d tell me.
One day I realized when I took up for the girls, it made him look like the bad guy. And when he said I was being too easy, it made him look like the bad guy.
That wasn’t fair.
And even worse, our disagreement pitted the girls and me against the bad guy.
That wasn’t right.
Now we’ve learned if we disagree with how the other is disciplining, we should exercise our right to remain silent and discuss our disagreement afterward in private.
Something else we learned is to discipline with a united plan. When we know an issue must be addressed, we talk about it first. We verbalize what we each think the issue actually is (because we don’t always see it the same way), what our daughter needs to hear, and which of us is the best one to take the lead. He helps me see if we need to be tough and why. I help him see if we need to be compassionate and why.
While our clash on discipline used to drive me crazy, it’s probably lucky for the girls that we have different approaches…because how horrible would it be if we both disciplined the same way? We can’t both be at my of the spectrum—too easy. And we can’t both be at his end of the spectrum—too hard. It’s kind of like Goldilocks…we try to find the “just right” approach.
And I love that we talk about it. Hearing Hubby’s perspective helps me realize his discipline actually comes from a place of concern for his girls, not from a need for justice to be served. And I’ve noticed my perspective has helped him discipline a little more gently when appropriate—though still firm and resolute when necessary.
When we agree on our plan, we summon the wayward daughter into the room the way all good parents do—by first and middle name–and we discipline in tandem, as one. Although it is one of my least favorite responsibilities as a parent, disciplining together has taken some of the clash out of the conflict. And with a task as tough as discipline, who doesn’t need a little less clash?
What has been your biggest discipline challenge as a parent? How do you find the “not-too-hard-not-too-soft-but-just-right” approach?
Last time on The MOM Journey, I introduced you to contemporary Christian artist Ginny Owens and promised to send someone an autographed CD of her latest album, Love Be the Loudest. The winner could be you if your email looks like scs*******.gmail.com! Check your inbox!
Thank you, my friends, for being on the The MOM Journey this week. The journey wouldn’t be the same without you!