When Parents Can't Agree on Discipline

by Mia Cronan

It would be impossible to find a set of parents who agree 100 percent on every facet of raising their children. As much as they say that they see eye-to-eye on dealing with disciplinary issues, at some point in time, an issue will come up in which the two don't see the solution the exact same way.

Normally, one parent tends to have a softer nature and wants to reason with the child, while the other parent is more inclined to take a firmer approach, or zero-tolerance,  approach to behavior that is outside the boundaries. And so much depends on the mood the parent is in at the moment. I know that the very same situation can set me off one day, and the next day I can laugh in the face of it marveling at how sweetly mischievous kids are.
What are some ways to deal with the circumstances that highlight the differences of opinions between you and your spouse?

1. Don't cave in to your spouse's thinking each and every time. Resentment will build, and frustration will mount over the fact that you are not being true to your value system and your beliefs. As parents, we don't want to be the "heavy," but we also realize that disciplining is part of parenthood. So we don't take it lightly when the time comes to lay down the law. If we depart drastically from our parenting style in order to avoid an argument, it will come to no good at some point, most likely when you're least likely to be prepared to deal rationally with it.

2. Agree that you will not always agree on methods of handling deviations from the rules. You are both unique individuals with your own backgrounds, your own sets of parents who raised you with their beliefs, and your own visions of how children should behave. There is no reason to expect that your brains will have fused with marriage to the degree that you will never question the other's methods.

3. Try to divide up topics for each of you on which you can be the "final answer." In other words, Dad might have the final say on dating matters for older children, while Mom has the final word on money management. Dad might have a stronger background in people skills for times when the kids can't get along, while Mom might be more suited to dealing with eating problems and mealtime frustrations. And when the issue comes up, support your spouse's decision with full gusto so that your children see your endorsement, even if you don't really agree with it. Oftentimes, the simple fact alone that you back each other up will end up being more important than the issue itself! This can help you avoid a lot of squabbles that would otherwise end with you two upset with each other.

4. Have a sense of humor. We all know how serious disciplinary matters can be, but when all is said and done, and the heat of the moment has cooled, was it really that important that you have your way? Probably not. So much of parenting our children works in phases, because as quickly as our children grow and mature, they ease in and out of phases constantly. "This too shall pass," could be your mantra. Did it really matter than Susie didn't eat her green beans at dinner and that you nearly pulled your hair out using bribery, warnings, threats, and all the other tools up your sleeve? What really matters is your understanding of the seriousness of the matter in relation to all the other matters parents deal with. If we can keep them in perspective, our children will learn from us what is truly important and what is simply something of which to be mindful.
The bottom line is: respect each other for his or her sincere desire to do what he or she feels is right for your children, even if you don't see it the same way. You're in it together, you share a deep love for your children, and you both want what is best. And what is truly best for your children is for them to have loving parents who are in synch with each other and able to laugh at the daily events that go on in a family.

About the author:
Mia Cronan is married and the mother of three girls, ages 5, 4, and 1 (and is expecting #4 later this year!) She owns and edits http://MainStreetMom.com the magazine for modern mothers with traditional values.