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When Parents Disagree on Discipline

5 Strategies to Bring You Together

parents disagree on disciplineWhat do you do when Mom and Dad disagree on a discipline philosophy? Dealing with difficult behavior from toddlers or teens can be challenging in any family, but when Mom and Dad are at different ends of the discipline spectrum, everyone loses.

Fortunately, there are 5 simple strategies to bring you closer together in the discipline debate:

1. Start by identifying the aspects of parenting and discipline in which you DO agree. You’ll be more successful by beginning with a foundation of where you do agree rather than focusing energy on the many areas where you disagree.

2. 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.

3. Start small. Begin with 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. Be sure to follow through each and every time on the non-negotiables so your kids see that you are a unified front.

4. 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.

5. Consider an objective 3rd party resource such as a family therapist if parents can’t come to an agreement on parenting and discipline issues.

For discipline strategies everyone can get behind, read Amy’s new book If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling (Tarcher/Penguin, August 2011).

10 Comments
  1. Hello Ms. McCready, unfortunately I heard about your webinar too late. Could you please email me the webinar (if you ‘taped’ it) so I could listen to it? Thank you. Jessica

  2. me and my husband are having hard time agree on a discipline yesterday i decided to set our foundations for discipline and set some rule , and we put them on a paper in our bed room with a fee should be paid from whoever breaks the rule :)
    i hope it will work :)

    • Keep us posted Hadeel! Thanks for posting and good luck!

  3. I am having trouble with positive parenting with my husband. I find that he invalidates our toddler by telling her she will be ok, before listening to her. The thing about it is that I have noticed him doing this with me as well. When I brought it up today, he became defensive and upset. I ended up apologizing for something else he brought up that I did but we didn’t solve anything in the end. I feel we are on such different pages of parenting. IF I had known this sooner, I don’t know we would have had children. What do you recommend for a couple like us?

    • Hi
      I am working on a new CBS show and we are covering the topic of parents who disagree when it comes to discipline. If you are interested in sharing your story with us please contact us at melissa.recine at cbs dot com

      Thanks

  4. I am looking for advise for my stepdaughter and her husband. They have 5 children ranging in age from 13 to twin 5yr olds. You can imagine that they have a busy, sometimes chaotic life. The basic issue is that husband, while being a great guy,hard working provider, won’t set behavior guidelines, or agree to positive reinforcement or consequences for things like school work not completed, unacceptable school behavior, etc. The 13 year old has learned to manipulate, getting no from mom and running to dad for yes. Father has stated that mom ” wants her kids to be perfect”. Her response is that she doesn’t expect them to be perfect, but has expectations for school nehavior and respect for teachers, school behavior. However, mom does want things her way and feels if her kids don’t do we’ll, it’s a poor reflects on her. I have offered suggestions that the kids won’t change their behavior until the parents change theirs, told them that people change behavior for 2 reasons, to get something positive ( ie, work toward something they want or positive self feelings,) or to avoid something negative (ie. taking away privileges). Mom has asked twice for dad to sit down and make a list of chores for kids to earn allowance and it hasn’t happened. I’ve also suggested that they spend 10 minutes every Sunday night to review calendar for week so that they are not always reacting at last minute which causes stress. Dad is not a planner and is a bit of a procrastinator. Any other suggestions I can offer? Mom is really overwhelmed, feeling like she is the only one doing the parenting and is seen as the bad guy.

  5. My wife doesn’t think that it is her responsibility to discipline our two sons. She let them eat junk food to the point that they will no longer eat good food! When I step in the door she thinks that she no longer has any parental responsibilities! She does the same when her parents walk in the door! I keep saying that her parental responsibilities are 24/7 just like mine! I come home to a filthy house, have to wash the clothes and dishes, and then give the boys a bath! If she wants something and we can’t afford it she will nag and badger me until I give in.

  6. I wish that there was something for us to agree on. My wife doesn’t think that it is her responsibility to discipline our two sons. She makes no effort to discipline them nor does she make a effort to stop them from fighting! Unfortunately, the oldest knows that she won’t do anything so he continually harasses and picks on his little brother! She lets them eat junk food to the point that they will no longer eat good food! When I step in the door she thinks that she no longer has any parental responsibilities! She does the same when her parents walk in the door! I keep saying that her parental responsibilities are 24/7 just like mine! I come home to a filthy house, have to wash the clothes and dishes, and then give the boys a bath! If she wants something and we can’t afford it she will nag and badger me until I give in. I am afraid for this pattern to be carried on by my sons!

  7. My husband and I are just can’t seem be be on the same page with parenting our teen son. I find that When we set expectations, my husband gives in before my son has had an opportunity the learn from his mistake. Even when we discuss consequences and have agreed privately, he later publicly in from of my son and younger daughter rescinds the discipline. I feel our children take advantage of us beIng on opposite spectrums. And frankly, I tired of it. I don’t feel supported by him. I feel consistent, natural consequence with a foundation of high expectation is best and my husband has no expectations, just let’s play it by ear sort of parenting style. Please help.

    • We have two boys, fifteen and twelve and a girl, 9. I am the only one insisting that the kids take out the garbage–they make so much fuss it’s more work than taking it out myself–and my husband is constitutionally unable to discipline or set limits. By nature he’s a sweetie. He likes to listen to people. I find all the qualities with which I fell in love turn out to be exasperating when I see their impact on the boys. When I send him to tell the kid to do whatever the kid was supposed to do and is refusing to do, he ends up sympathetically listening and believing the kid who makes up some story about how he’s upset about this or that so didn’t put out the garbage. Or hang up his towel. Sometimes the kids are behaving horribly and he’s in the room ignoring it. We’ve talked, I’ve read every forum, googled everything, and I see it’s not going to change. I can’t live like this, but I am living like this, and more a witch each day as I am forced to do all the discipline and feel that the kids hate me.

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