My husband and I have had this conversation a couple of times, but something interesting has been happening the last few weeks. You see, for years my husband worked out of the home while I worked freelance from inside of it. Our differences with regard to discipline seemed to be based around his misconception that I never did anything to correct our daughter’s behavior. She knew to behave when he was home because she knew that her daddy would discipline her.
The interesting thing about this argument that always frustrated me was that when he wasn’t home, he would have no idea what I did or didn’t do. Kids tend to be pretty perverse when they really love you. In fact, the more they love and trust that you aren’t going anywhere – the more likely they are to push your buttons and challenge you. This is largely due to the fact that they trust you aren’t going to go away.
The closer you are to someone, the more likely you are going to step on each other’s toes. Marriage partners need to recognize that you each have your own relationship with your child and that will affect how the child behaves for one parent or the other. When a child acts exactly as expected with perfect manners and behavior, chances are it’s because they are in a situation where they are uncertain – not because one partner or the other handles the discipline better.
Truth be told, you and your spouse need to agree on discipline so that you are consistent from one to the other. You also need to agree, because this is going to be a huge bone of contention and a source of arguments for the two of you if you don’t. You should never disagree in front of your child, but always show a united front. This is good for both of you and your child. If you’ve ever felt undermined, the last person you want doing the undermining is your spouse. But as I was saying, recently my husband experienced a little bit of an eye-opening revelation and he asked me what to do about it.
Since he’s been working out of the house for the last year, our daughter is getting more and used to having him around. She’s increased her confidence level in him and she’s started trusting that she doesn’t just have to impress him to have him there. If you’re thinking ut-oh, then oh yes – she’s now begun to give him a taste of the perverse love I have been privy to for years.
Now our discussions are like strategy sessions – with us on one side and her on the other. We have to outmaneuver, outsmart, out think and out plan her – and then we have to be ready to react to anything. It’s a great challenge, but I’ll tell you this much – he doesn’t think he behavior indicates she doesn’t get enough discipline or too much discipline – he gets it that it means she loves and trusts us – so – between he and I – it’s worth a few tantrums for that.
If you and your partner really disagree on discipline issues, then you need to sit down together and work it out. You need to develop a plan of action and you need to listen to each other.
Note: If a spouse is being abusive to their child, verbally or emotionally, take the time to point it out. Sometimes they don’t hear themselves and you do. If the situation is dangerous, get your child out. It’s the best thing you can do for both of you.