Disciplining your kids is one of the biggest challenges we face as parents. From toddlers to teenagers, the myriad of reasons to discipline your children are far and wide. Now add to this already complex process, not being on the same page with your spouse! That can be a recipe for disaster. Here are some helpful strategies to unite with your spouse in disciplining your kids.
I. Parenting Styles: 4 Main Types
Determining yours and your spouse’s parenting styles is a great first step towards uniting with your spouse in disciplining your kids. Researchers have identified four types of parenting strategies:
Parenting Styles Explained:
Authoritarian parents believe children should be seen and not heard. They use the phrase, “because I said so” when enforcing rules on their children. Parents make the rules and enforce consequences with little regard for their children’s opinions or input. They also use punishments rather than discipline to make their kids feel sorry for their mistakes.
Authoritative parents put a lot of effort into creating and maintaining a positive relationship with their children. They explain the reasons behind their rules to their kids. These parents enforce the rules and implement consequences but they take their children’s opinions into consideration. They are most likely to use positive reinforcement to discipline their children.
Permissive parents are quite forgiving and live by “kids will be kids.” They are likely to set rules but rarely enforce them. They inhabit more of a friend role than a parent role. Permissive parents encourage their children to speak to them about problems, but do not try to discourage bad behavior or poor choices.
Uninvolved parents don’t devote much time or energy to raising their children beyond maybe providing their basic needs. They do not set rules, and allow children to raise themselves. They don’t necessarily know what children are doing. These parents do little to nurture, guide, or help their children.
Effects on Children Based on Parenting Styles:
Each of these parenting styles affect how children perceive their world. It significantly impacts their emotional and physical growth and development. If any of these parenting styles sounds familiar, then continue your research. The more you recognize a parenting style, the more you can learn how it will affect your child’s development. Each parenting style has been determined to impact your child’s successfulness as an adult.
Researching yours and your spouse’s parenting styles is a great first step to uniting with your spouse in disciplining your kids. It is common to not fit exactly into one of these four parenting styles, many parents are a combination. Many articles assert that the Authoritative parenting style is the most effective in creating well balanced adults.
II. Strategies in Uniting with your Spouse to Discipline your Kids
Standing as a united front is the best way to communicate a consistent message to your children. Although this can present challenges when parents have different parenting styles, creating a game plan to tackle certain disciplining issues is an effective approach. While not every disciplining moment creates an issue or disagreement, decide which ones create the biggest disagreements between you and your spouse and tackle those first.
1: Developing a Game Plan
Use each other’s childhood experiences as a point of reference to understand parenting choices. Determine which parenting choices you agree with and communicate your rules and expectations to your children together. Revise your game plan as needed. The important take away is that you and your spouse are on the same page first, and can communicate a consistent message to your kids. Do the work behind the scenes first.
2: Handling a Disagreement
When a disagreement occurs, hashing it out away from your kids is the best approach. Sometimes that requires time to calm down and have a productive conversation. To be super effective, be proactive and tackle these issues before they arise. It is better to be proactive than reactive. But since that can’t always be the case, when a disagreement arises, be sure to handle it away from the kids and in private.
3. Standing United
You may not agree on everything with your spouse, but if you’ve both decided to handle certain issues one way, be sure to back your spouse when the time comes. Decide beforehand which issues are important to each one of you, and find compromises in your parenting approach. The most important thing you can do is to show your kids you’re both on the same page. This applies to situations when your spouse may be absent and you have to enforce the same discipline style in that particular situation. If you act differently when your spouse is absent then that undermines your previous accomplishments.
III. Ultimate Goal in Disciplining your Kids with your Spouse
If you’re not ready to delve into specific disciplining issues with your spouse, then take the time to discuss what’s most important. And that is, establishing what your ultimate goal is in disciplining your children. Deciding what your ultimate goal is for your kids will guide you in a specific parenting style direction. Some parents’ ultimate goal is to have their children learn by example, and be a part of the rules, consequences, and rewards created for the family. Therefore, an authoritative parenting style might be best suited for this goal. So, ultimately, discussing your big picture goals in disciplining and parenting your kids, will create the framework for the detailed approaches later. Here are some goals to consider:
- Teaching: showing your kids what good behavior is.
- Setting Boundaries: creates stability.
- Correcting: setting rules and consequences, positive reinforcement for good behavior.
- Showing Respect: showing your kids by example how to treat each one another.
- Consistency: helps kids know what to expect and what’s expected of them.
- Cooperation: including your child’s feelings and opinions in rules and expectations.
IV. Consequences of Undermining your Spouse
There are several consequences of undermining your spouse in front of your kids. First, it affects the bond between child and parent. When children see that one parent is exerting authority over another parent consistently, your child may be interpreting that as one parent knowing more than the other. This could affect how that child interacts or perceives that parent. Secondly, your kids may learn to manipulate one parent against the other. You could be pitting your children against the other parent. Kids will lean on the parent that they consider to be more on their side. Finally, the effect on your marriage can be detrimental. Undermining your spouse can not only create conflict and arguments, but resentment too.
A happy marriage goes a along way when disciplining your kids. If you and your spouse are connected, and in a good place in your relationship, it makes disciplining your children that much easier. Having open lines of communication between you and your spouse allows for these sometimes difficult conversations. It also facilitates cooperation, understanding of different life experiences, and ultimately, compromise.
One of the best things you and your spouse can do is to make sure your relationship is healthy on you’re both on the same page. Children will feel the connection between you and your spouse and that will be the baseline for many of their actions and reactions. Take the time to connect with your spouse, so that when these hard moments arise, you’re both better able to approach these issues.
Bi X, Yang Y, Li H, Wang M, Zhang W, Deater-deckard K. Parenting Styles and Parent-Adolescent Relationships: The Mediating Roles of Behavioral Autonomy and Parental Authority. Front Psychol. 2018;9:2187. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02187
LCSW, Morin, Amy. 4 Types of Parenting Styles and their Effects on Kids. VeryWell.com. July 12, 2019. https://www.verywellfamily.com/types-of-parenting-styles-1095045
LCSW, Heston, Klare. How to Communicate About Child Discipline in a Marriage. WikiHow.com. March 16, 2021. https://www.wikihow.com/Communicate-About-Child-Discipline-in-a-Marriage
Lee, Katherine. Mistakes Parents Make When Disciplining their Children. VeryWellFamily.com. August 5, 2019. https://www.verywellfamily.com/what-is-child-discipline-620113
Steffaniak, Beth. 5 Tips for When you Undermine your Spouse’s Parenting. MessyMarriage.com. April 21, 2019. https://messymarriage.com/undermine-spouses-parenting/