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Mom vs. Dad: The discipline debate

Lisa Steinke, with Liz Fenton, is the co-author of the debut chick lit novel l'll Have Who She's Having and the popular Chick Lit blog chicklitisnotdead.com.

Good cop vs. bad cop

Does this sound familiar: your child does something wrong and you want to punish him, but your spouse disagrees. So who gets to decide what to do? If you have conflict with your husband about discipline and find that it often causes conflict between you, there are solutions. Read on for ways you can reach a compromise on how to teach your child right from wrong.

Why don't you see eye-to-eye?

You and your spouse aren't the only two people on Earth arguing about how to teach your child right from wrong. In fact, it's a very common point of contention in marriages. Tara Kennedy-Kline, mother of two and parent and family coach, says there are many reasons why most parents can't see eye-to-eye on how to discipline their children.

  • Discipline is not something they discuss and create a plan for before they are in the heat of the moment.
  • One parent feels the other is either too harsh or too weak.
  • One parent feels the other parent imposes an unreasonable punishment that they will not have to carry out or "clean up" after.
  • Because one parent feels they are losing control or respect from the child, they overcompensate.
  • One of the parents has "emotional wounds" centered around a particular form of discipline and they over empathize with their child.

Amy McCready, mother of two, founder of PositiveParentingSolutions.com and author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time... The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling suggests talking about your past history with discipline. "Explore the underlying reasons why you disagree on parenting and discipline issues. Often, the differences relate to how you were raised or they come from a place of fear. Once you understand why you disagree, you can work towards common ground."

Take the discipline quiz>>

Start with the non-negotiables

McCready suggests starting small but beginning with the big stuff, or the non-negotiables for your family. "These will typically involve the health and safety rules (wearing bike helmets, driving before dark, etc.) and other areas your family values, like education (homework before playtime) or respect (name calling not tolerated). Agree on the limits and expectations for the non-negotiables and clearly communicate those to everyone and be sure to follow through each and every time on them so your kids see that you are a unified front."

Ask the kids to weigh in

Kennedy-Kline suggests adding the children to the discussion and calling it the Family Team. "Each person gets to have a voice and an opinion but the final decisions are based on total agreement by the adults."

Kennedy-Kline continues, "By setting the ground rules up front, parents and children can express their concerns and feel that they have control over the decisions. And the best part is: no one will act out or make a regrettable choice in disciplining their child because everyone will be on the same page and clear about what is happening and why."

What about the day-to-day?

McCready says, "When tackling the day-to-day discipline dilemmas, ask yourselves the question: “What do we want our child to learn from this experience or discipline opportunity?” That helps you focus on what will be most helpful to your child. It’s not about winning – it’s about teaching your child to make the best possible choices in the future and learning from his mistakes along the way."

It might be time to start evaluating your discipline techniques >>

If all else fails...

McCready says, "Consider an objective third party resource such as a family therapist if parents can’t come to an agreement on parenting and discipline issues."

More on discipline

Use discipline as an opportunity to teach children
Your top 10 discipline problems solved
What role does discipline play in parenting?

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