When parents disagree on discipline

When parents disagree on discipline
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Your primary relationship comes first

Stress can affect the most solid relationships. Families like yours, with a troubled child, have a higher divorce rate than the general population, 50% higher. Coping with your child will bring out any and all relationship issues that may have been manageable under normal circumstances. If your relationship is falling apart, and it was mostly healthy before this period of stress, then it must be a priority over the child for now. Get counseling, if not together than singly. Or ask for help from supportive friends–prayers, cheerleading, or the opportunity to vent. Partners must stand by each other and present a solid front as the family leaders. This is just as important for your child as it is for you. Let this draw you closer together rather than pull you apart.

Stand strong, shoulder-to-shoulder

When you disagree, together make a list of the things you agree on and worry about the disagreements later. This list should include:

  • Focus on your respective strong points.  Each make a list strengths of the other.
  • Never argue in front of the children (or, make a rule for how and where to argue).  This creates many problems that worsen your child’s behavior.  Stress is obvious.  But what about kids who manipulate their parents to get their way with something?  What about those that thrive on chaos?
  • An agreed-upon role for each parent, which is something that they’re good at.  When one parent is competent at handling a specific challenge, the other steps back, and vice versa.
  • Take turns managing the household for a period while the other takes a break.
  • Set aside personal feelings temporarily to co-manage one specific little problem at a time, a problem you both agree on.

Have each other’s back

A true story with names changed: Susan and her daughter Pam were constantly fighting over who hurt who the most by what each said. Jason, the husband and father, was frustrated by these conflicts, but avoided interfering because he knew he’d upset both his wife and daughter. Yet Jason was always able to calm Pam down quickly because their relationship was different. One day, Jason took his wife aside and asked that they try something. He suggested that Susan step back from certain daily interactions with Pam, those which always ended in fights, and let him do the communicating. Susan did not like the idea that Pam had “won” by getting all of her dad’s attention, nor did she like the implication she couldn’t handle their daughter! But Jason came up with idea that if he saw Susan and Pam slipping into a fight, he would use a code phrase, like “Hey dear, can you help me find the _____?”, and Susan would catch herself, save face by stepping out to look for the ____, and let Dad take over. This worked wonders rather quickly. Nothing was ever discussed openly, but after a few weeks, both mother and daughter started to catch themselves starting a fight, and one or both would find some reason to step away from the situation.

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