Sync with Your Spouse on Discipline Style

Last updated on March 12th, 2018 at 10:08 am

Is your wife a strict disciplinarian, while you prefer to let things slide? Is your husband a yeller, while you are an “inside voice” kind of mom? When you have different parenting styles, it can often feel like you’re at odds with your spouse. Here are strategies from Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block (Bantam), for navigating this common parenting conundrum.

Don’t sweep your differences under the rug. To raise happy, well-behaved children, it’s crucial to try to find common ground. Otherwise, kids get mixed messages and quickly learn which parent will let them get away with more. Once a month, hold a “parents only” meeting to discuss your discipline differences. This is your chance to be honest about your concerns. “Write down two or three things each,” says Dr. Karp. “You and he get a turn without interruption. The only ground rule is you both have to listen with respect and speak with respect.” Your goal isn’t to sway each other, but to ultimately come up with some rules that you both feel comfortable enforcing.

Don’t disagree in front of your kids. “Kids look at us as a loving and safe force in their lives,” Dr. Karp says. “Seeing parents arguing, especially about them, shakes them to their foundation.” Kids might get angry or frightened and feel like they’re the “cause” of the parents’ problems – which lowers their confidence and self-esteem. So if you object to the way your spouse is handling a situation resist the urge to say anything until you are alone.

Find creative ways to compromise. Let’s say it drives you crazy that your husband yells at your child when she exhibits normal toddler behavior, like sticking her hand in the cat’s food bowl or pulling away from you while walking on the sidewalk. It drives your husband nuts that you’re lax about situations that could put your child at risk for physical harm. Try to decide together that it’s OK for him to raise his voice when Katie’s darting toward traffic or engaging in other dangerous behavior, but for mild, age-appropriate infractions, he needs to try distraction before yelling or scolding.

Keep family members out of it. “Don’t bring up each other’s family,” says Dr. Karp. For instance, avoid making remarks like, “Of course you yell and scream; you’re just like your father.” Besides being disrespectful, this behavior forces your partner into a defensive mode, making it harder to move forward and find the best solution.

Embrace a little bit of difference. “It’s crazy to expect all the adults in a child’s world to react in exactly the same way,” says Dr. Karp. In fact, by maintaining a dash of your individuality – even when it comes to discipline – “you’re teaching your child emotional intelligence. They learn what they can expect from one adult versus another. And that’s a good thing.”



About the Author

Lisa Lombardi is the Executive Editor of Health magazine and a blogger at Health.com. A Yale graduate, she has written extensively about health and lifestyle for leading publications and websites including Glamour, The New York Times, Marie Claire, Maxim, Redbook, Child, msn.com, and Cosmopolitan. She was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the teen magazine Twist, and has appeared as a guest expert on national TV and radio shows. She lives in the New York area with her husband and two young sons.

Comments

One Response to “Sync with Your Spouse on Discipline Style”

  1. jillsi says:

    Sometimes children respond differently on the different styles of discipline. As a parent it is best for us to discover which type of discipline our child will fit into because if we fail to discipline them as a child they may turn out spoiled and may become a troubled teen in their teenage stage.

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