Mother And Daughter Caught In A Battle Of Wills

Dear Dr. Bill,

My 9-year-old daughter and I are ALWAYS arguing.  She’s reluctant to obey and when I discipline her by removing privileges, it turns into a bitter, emotional contest.  My husband does his best by supporting me and creating a playful environment for our kids, but he leaves the discipline to me.  Now I worry that I’ve become too emotionally involved in this conflict with my daughter.  What do you suggest we do?


Dear Sonia,

I feel for your situation, and I’m sure many other parents can relate.  You and your daughter have entered a destructive cycle, and it’s harmed your relationship.  Now you need to work toward turning things around.

You mention that your husband creates a “playful environment” for your kids, but he leaves the discipline to you.  Although it’s great that he’s a fun dad, he’s left you to set all the limits.  So the kids see him as the “good cop,” forcing you to always take the “bad cop” role.

Let your husband know that you need him to take an equal role when it comes to discipline, even though he may not be comfortable with setting limits or doling out punishment for bad behavior.

He needs to understand that his role is to be a PARENT to your children, not a buddy.  Being a parent means that sometimes you need to provide firm guidance and structure, even when your kids don’t like it.

Given the pattern that’s developed between you and your daughter, let your husband be the “bad cop” for a while.  You should focus on rewarding your daughter for her good behavior, and let him punish her when she misbehaves.

Concentrate on recognizing the positive attributes in your daughter, so your relationship can begin the road toward healing.

Thanks for writing Sonia.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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