“You’re grounded for three weeks, young lady. No excuses.”
“That seems a little harsh, don’t you think?”
Before 8-year-old Katie can even open her mouth to protest her father's unjust ruling for not cleaning her room, her mother beats her to the punch. Thus begins another heated debate in which Dad's labeled an over-disciplining drill sergeant while Mom's the soft touch who lets the kids run all over her.
Arguments like this happen all the time in households across the country, but what do you do when Mom and Dad can’t agree on how to handle a discipline issue? Difficult behaviors -- from a toddler finger-painting a masterpiece on the kitchen wall to a teen “borrowing” the family car without permission -- can be daunting to discipline as is.
Throw in a parental power struggle and they become downright devastating.
While it’s normal – and healthy – for parents to disagree from time to time, frequent discipline debates can leave a family with more problems than just a 5-year-old who fights bedtime. Inconsistent messages from Mom and Dad can leave kids unsure of what is expected or appropriate. Plus they feel guilty that their behavior has caused a conflict. Not only that, arguments can strain the relationship between parents, and leave kids favoring one parent over the other.
Fortunately, these disasters can be avoided. Use these five simple solutions to bring some parenting peace to your discipline discussion:
1. Find some common ground. Talk with your partner or spouse and make a list of all the areas of parenting and discipline where you do agree. This will serve as a foundation moving forward, setting you up for success by focusing your energy positively rather than on topics where you disagree.
2. Negotiate the non-negotiables. Certain rules in our kids’ lives are pretty much cut and dried: bedtimes, bike helmets, polite language and behavior, and TV/Internet time limits, just to name a few. Discuss and agree on the expectations and resulting discipline for these non-negotiables ahead of time and clearly communicate the rules to everyone. Then follow through together each and every time; this will let your kids know that you are a united front.
3. Select a signal. It’s okay to disagree on some discipline issues – just don't do it in front of your children. Instead, set up a signal ahead of time that indicates “we clearly don’t agree on this one, let’s discuss it away from the kids.” Since 95% of issues don’t need to be solved on the spot, this gives both you both a chance to take a breather and later decide on a course of action.
4. Commit to consistent communication. Set aside time one night each week, after the kids go to bed, to discuss the week's progress. Take note of the issues that have come up most frequently and agree on a correction method to use from that point forward. Keep in mind that your goal is not to “win the battle” with your partner or spouse, but to find the most constructive plan to help your children make good choices, thereby reducing future misbehaviors and training them for adulthood.
5. Know when to get help. If after some focused effort, you and your partner or spouse continue to disagree on parenting and discipline issues, consider taking a parenting class together or visiting with an objective, third party resource – such as a family therapist.
While the task of solving discipline disagreements can seem daunting, these five strategies -- and a little time and effort -- will put the two of you on the path to success. Before long, the big discipline debate will be happily in the past.
Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the 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. For easy-to-implement strategies for happier families and well-behaved kids, follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.
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