(Another) Mean-Mom Question Time: Are You and Your Partner on the Same Page About Discipline?

So he's posing with Peeps in his mouth. He's a strict dad. Really.

This morning, I got to talking to a woman at my gym. Normally, I don’t talk much at the gym (too focused on getting in, working out, and getting out!), but as it happens we were hanging around waiting for a Zumba instructor who never showed up! (Grrr… does she not know that I only just became addicted to Zumba, and now she’s messing with my high?).

Turns out this other frustrated Zumba-er was annoyed for a similar reason as me. Well, a similar one aside from the addiction thing (didn’t ask her about that; wouldn’t be seemly, right?). She was pissed off and antsy because she works at home. Like me! So we got into a conversation about how every time you step away from your home-office desk during your designated work hours, the background drum beat of your divided life starts to pick up in your inner ear, and you hear: you are not making money/you are slacking off/you have to pick up the kids in 10, 9, 8, 7…

She asked me what I did at home. When I told her, including mention of this very blog, and the book I’m working on (that is, when I’m not heading to the gym for my Zumba fix), her eyes lit up. Mean, it seems, suited her fine (“I’m European, you might have noticed my accent,” she said, as though the fact that she’s Hungarian is explanation enough for a devotion to discipline.)

But it didn’t, she said, suit her husband in quite the same way. Their daughter, who is two, can bend her father right around her little finger. While this mom could clearly imagine the end result of all this finger-wrapping and giving in to whining (a future, only about 14 or 15 years on, when this same little girl, now possession of a driver’s license, takes the keys without bothering to listen to the “hold on there!” coming from behind her), all the father saw was an occasion to say, “oh, just this once.”

But just this once turns into just this every-single-time. And then you get the defiant kid with the keys. Okay, maybe you get that anyway — the scary part of having teens, so say moms I know dealing with that age, shudder — but my point is the whole journey is a lot harder if you’re battling not just your whinging toddler-future teen, but the person who helped you create her.

“What we do now has an impact on how they are later!” my gym-friend said.

Um, re-phrase the subtitle of my book for me, why don’tcha?!

On my way home (after running on the treadmill without my iPod because I’d come for Zumba, not solo running!), I thought about how my husband and I are on the same page when it comes to how tough, or strict, or authoritarian, or whatever you want to call it — mean, let’s say — we naturally tend to be. If I say “no, no more Wii today,” there’s no running off to daddy for a different verdict, because they ain’t gonna get it.

(In fact, even before I had kids, I was prescient enough to realize that my future kids would not have that play-one-parent-off-the-other luxury, knowing my husband as I did. He’s German, after all. Joke, relax. I mean, yes, he is German but that’s not why he’s tough.)

Also, he manages to be both tough and awfully soft. He’s far more likely than me to, say, play endless rounds of Uno Attack or some made-up game with a Nerf basketball in the dining room that only he and James know the rules to. In fact, I do wonder if, like my Hungarian gym friend’s husband, he’d be flummoxed and turned to flan if he had a daughter batting her eyelashes at him. I doubt it. My father was a softie with me — the original Daddy’s Little Girl — but that doesn’t mean he bent rules. Like, ever.

So here’s my question: Are you and your partner on the same page when disciplining your children? What’s that led to, discipline-wise, in your house?

8 responses to “(Another) Mean-Mom Question Time: Are You and Your Partner on the Same Page About Discipline?”

  1. debbie koenig

    My husband and I were just talking about this last night, after yet another round of let’s-clean-up-now-get-your-pajamas-on-now-let’s-brush-teeth torture with the kid. By the end we felt like we’d ganged up on him a little, given him nowhere to turn for relief. Which left us feeling both mean and, um, proud. We’re on the same page, for sure, and we think/hope it’ll be good for the kid in the end.

  2. Bee

    Yes, we are – that’s why we hardly ever fight over parenting questions. Sometimes I feel it’s almost uncanny the way we believe in the same things, set the same limits and act/react in the same way. To be quite frank, I sometimes feel it would be good if one of us was more lenient than the other, or stricter or whatever in a given situation. There were times when we were simply both too strict – and later on I felt that we overdid it. Or times when at least one of us should have been strict about something. But what can you do – we simply have the same principles and the same convictions as to how to put them into practice. Back to the treadmill – the three gentlemen are setting the table for dinner. Bee

  3. Bee

    Denise – what you have just said is so true. Exactly the same thing happens to us when we both end up putting pressure on them. And yes, my husband and I usually talk it over afterwards. We always do. I feel that one of the biggest mistakes when it comes to being a parent (or indeed a teacher) is not to reflect upon your actions. Reflections gets lost only too easily on the way – especially when days are long and chaotic – but I feel it’s worth it. It has definitely helped us over the years and has made us act more wisely in similar situations. Anyway, better get some sleep. Greetings from Vienna, Austria! Bee

  4. Never A Dull Moment

    Thanks for talking about this! When children get different messages from different parents, it leaves them happy with neither. They feel that they have to guess all the time. Guess which parent to ask, which rule to listen to, who to go to for what. And that amount of responsibility for the outcome makes them uncomfortable and angry on some level. You nailed it with the job of parents. Build the envelope with no weak spots so that the kids can push to their hearts content, with the comfort of knowing that they may bulge it a little but will not be able to break it.

  5. edj

    Yes we are. Once in a while we disagree, but we swore that a child would never be able to play us against each other. We always agree in front of the child and then discuss it later if we don’t agree. I think this is super important.

  6. Danno

    Fortunately my husband and I rarely butt heads in terms of disciplining the kids. We have definitely lost our cool on occasion and felt compelled to take the other aside for a simmer down session. I agree with edj 100% on that subject.