Dear Dr. Bill,
My husband and I have three teenagers and we don’t agree on our parenting values or rules. I often feel like I need to loosen up and my husband needs to tighten up. He’s never willing to say no, often making me the “bad guy” whenever the kids want something. He’d rather be their best friend rather than guide them the way a father should. And now the kids are taking advantage of this situation, using us against each other. What should we do?
It’s critical that you and your husband get on the same page when it comes to discipline. You’re already seeing the fallout from your very different parenting styles, and things are only going to get worse.
Many couples struggle with conflicts over parenting, and their differences typically spring from the way they were parented themselves. In your husband’s case, I’m guessing that he grew up in a home that was either too lax or too strict. If his parents were overly permissive, he’s following in their footsteps. If they were authoritarian, he’s reacting to their harsh discipline and has vowed never to treat his own kids that way.
Unfortunately, by going 180 degrees in the other direction and not setting any limits, he’s actually harming your kids, setting them up for failure and frustration later on in life.
Share your concerns with your husband in a constructive, non-defensive way. Rather than telling him that your way is the “right” way and that he’s got it all wrong, ask him if he’ll agree to appeal to a neutral third party, someone who is an expert in parenting and child development.
A great book that will help you get started is “The Well-Behaved Child” by Dr. John Rosemond.
Thanks for writing Janelle. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.