How to Handle Disagreements with Your Spouse About Discipline Style
Arguing about how to discipline your children can cause stress in your relationship, as well as your home. That's why it's important for both spouses to work together to resolve conflicts and come up with mutually acceptable parenting decisions. You can handle discipline disagreements with your spouse by talking it out, compromising with each other, and remembering to keep your kids first.
Talking it Out
Stay respectful.Decide that no matter what your spouse says, you are going to remain respectful. Ask them to do the same, as well. Your disagreement likely already has you seeing red. You don’t want to add fuel to the fire with insults and name-calling.
- For instance, before your conversation, say, “I know we have a difference of opinion here. However, I think it’s important for the both of us to stay respectful of each other and our beliefs.” Gently remind your spouse to remain kind if you feel the conversation is heading down a destructive path.
- If you cannot do this, then you are not yet ready to have the conversation. Ask for some time to cool off and collect your thoughts, and then discuss things when you're in control of your emotions.
Use “I” statements.Avoid pointing blame at your spouse when attempting to come to an agreement. Starting sentences with “you” makes it seem like you are saying that it is all their fault or they are the person who is causing problems. Using “I” can help you get your point across while still having a respectful conversation.
- For example, you could say, “I felt hurt when you chose that type of discipline when it’s something I don’t agree with.”
Stick to the facts.When talking to your spouse, don't make assumptions or accusations about what the other person was thinking or trying to accomplish. Let them explain themselves so that you can see things from their perspective.
- For example, avoid saying something like, “You disciplined our child that way even though you knew it would upset me.”
Consult with a counselor.A counselor may provide assistance if you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement together. Speaking to a therapist is also extremely helpful if you find that your upbringing is getting in the way of being the type of parent you wish to be.
- If you experience hesitation from your spouse about going to a counselor, you could say, “I think going to a counselor is a good idea. We can’t come to an agreement ourselves, and a professional may be able to give us the insight and suggestions we need in order to understand each other.” You could also suggest that you try it at least once and discontinue going if your spouse doesn’t believe it will help.
- Suggest that your spouse find and pick the counselor themselves if they have reservations about it. Avoid going to see a counselor you already use individually, as your spouse may feel they are biased toward you.
Compromising With Each Other
Identify each of your non-negotiables.You likely have a few statutes you hold dear when it comes to your discipline style. Your spouse probably does too. Pick a few and have your spouse do the same. Then make a pact that you will not argue about these. While it’s okay to have a couple non-negotiables, understand that you must be flexible in other areas. Compromise means that you are going to make some concessions.
- For instance, you may be adamant about having a no spanking rule. Your spouse may feel that withholding works the best. Choose one or two methods of discipline that you feel the strongest about and work together to make sure both of your wishes are granted.
Create a mutual plan.Already having a plan in place for certain behaviors can stop you from disagreeing when it’s time for discipline. Discussing how you want to resolve the problem before it shows up allows you to maintain a united front. It can also prevent arguments between you and your spouse when it’s time to take action.
- For instance, discuss what disciplinary actions you will take for common misbehaviors, such as talking back, getting bad grades, fighting with siblings, and staying out past curfew. Attempt to come up with a punishment that you are both comfortable with.
Take turns.Suggest that you try your way of disciplining for a month and then offer to try your spouse’s way. Taking turns gives you both an opportunity to try what you believe will work. It can also prove helpful if you’re having difficulty finding a style that is effective with your child.
- For instance, you could say, “Let’s try my way of grounding this time. Then we can try your method of taking away the electronics the next time. Perhaps we will settle on whichever works best.”
Praise them, if their way works out.Tell your spouse that they did a good job with their choice, if the child responds the best to it. Avoid withholding a compliment just because your idea wasn’t the most successful. Offering support to your spouse is not only encouraging, but may strengthen your relationship, as well.
- For example, you could say, “It looks like your way was the best way. Good job and good idea.” Your spouse will likely appreciate your humility and courtesy.
Avoid overcompensating for your partner’s parenting style.Often, one parent will be far too lenient or go overboard on treats because they think the other person is too strict. Other times, one parent will become hyper-militant in their parenting because they think the other parent provides no structure. This damages their relationship with their child. Do your best to compromise in a way that allows you and your spouse to carry equal weight.
Keeping Your Kids First
Consider what is appropriate for the child.Don’t get so caught up in wanting to win this fight that you forget what is best for your child. Consider the child’s age and temperament when deciding on what discipline style would work best. Head to the library or seek out some research-based information or help concerning age-appropriate disciplinary techniques from a mental health professional to determine what expectations are realistic.
- For example, you may think that using a time out is the most effective type of discipline style. However, your child may scream and cry the entire time which makes them even more upset and ill-behaved. This could be because they are too young for a time out approach.
- Ask yourself if the time out is actually working, or if you are just holding onto the method because you want to prove you are right. It may be time to consider a different tactic.
Maintain a united front.One of the most effective methods of parenting is maintaining a united front. Showing your kids that you cannot agree on this matter can make them feel uneasy and that their family may not be as strong as they thought it was. It may also give them an opportunity to take advantage of this weakness between you and your spouse.
- For example, your older child may figure out that you can’t decide what punishment works best on them. As a result, they test you with bad behavior. They may think that because you can’t agree on what to do, that you may not do anything. Simply end the argument and wait until the kids are gone before finishing it.
Avoid criticizing your spouse’s technique in front of the kids.Your spouse may deliver a punishment in the heat of the moment without discussing it with you first. Although you may be upset, avoid telling your spouse what a bad idea that was in front of the kids. Not only will it likely start an argument while the kids are watching, but it shows them that you aren’t on solid ground, which can be frightening for them.
- Instead, talk to your spouse about it afterwards. Simply say you wish they would have consulted you before they doled out the punishment.
- Try to find some empathy for your spouse, as parenting is a full-time, ever-changing job and mistakes are going to be made when anyone is thinking on their feet that much. You will want them to extend you the same courtesy.
Video: Handling disagreements with spouse in a healthy way
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