1. I really feel strongly about certain types of discipline with our children, but my husband just laughs it off and does not support me. How do I handle this situation?
Disagreements over styles of discipline are fairly common for one simple reason: we each grew up in different families. We tend to discipline like our parents did, or if we believe that they treated us unfairly, we tend to do the opposite of what our parents did.
How do we resolve these differences? It is not likely that you will ever totally agree on this matter, but you can find a workable solution. It begins by each of you making a list of the basic rules you think you should have for the child and what the consequences should be if these rules are broken. With these lists in hand, you have a parental conference in which the two of you work through your lists. Check off the ones on which you agree and negotiate agreement on the others. Both must be willing to find common ground. Don’t insist that your way is the only way. With these in place, it is then a matter of making sure the child understands the rules and the consequences, and consistently applying the discipline when rules are broken. Kindness, but firmness, is the key in applying discipline.
2. I feel like I am always the one who has to discipline our children and my spouse comes out looking like the good parent. How can we come together to agree on this issue?
Because we grew up in different homes, we often come to parenting with different perspectives. Nowhere is this demonstrated more than in patterns of discipline. Most parents will have conflicts over discipline of children. The answer lies in recognizing this reality and finding a plan to deal with the conflict.
One place to begin would be to share a book on discipline. Both of you would read the book, a chapter per week, and discuss the content. This will expose you to sound principles of discipline. You might try, Making Your Children Mind Without Losing Yours, by Kevin Leman, published by Fleming H. Revell Co. A second step is to call a family conference and focus on your present struggles with discipline. Such a conference might involve listing the rules you feel are appropriate for the children and discussing what each of you feel are appropriate consequences for breaking the rules. If you don’t agree on consequences, then negotiate. Be willing to meet each other in the middle. Once the rules and consequences are in place, these should be shared with the child. Then each of you knows what will happen if the rule is broken. This keeps either of you from over reacting in the heat of anger. Kindness, firmness and consistency are three key words in administering discipline.
For further help, see my book The Family You’ve Always Wanted.
3. Is it biblical to spank my children? If so, in what circumstances?
Physically spanking a child is only one way of discipline, and not always the most effective way. Remember, the purpose of discipline is to teach the child the wisdom of following godly rules, by demonstrating that disobedience always has negative results. This is what God does for his children. Read Hebrews 12:5-15. Please note that “scourging” or whipping is the last step in God’s plan of correction. First there is “rebuke”, then “chastening or discipline” and then “scourging or whipping”. Spanking should never be the first step in correcting a child. It should be administered only after all else has failed.
If a parent uses spanking as the usual way of treating all disobedience, the child will likely be hardened by the spankings, and become even more rebellious. The first principle of discipline is that the punishment must fit the crime. Spanking for minor infractions is irresponsible parenting. Also, spanking administered out of parental anger will almost always engender resentment in the child. Such angry behavior often leads to child abuse. The best way to avoid such parental failure is to decide ahead of time what punishment the child will receive if he violates a rule. Then administer that punishment when the crime is committed. This will save the parent from over-reacting in the heat of emotion.
It is helpful to remember that children respond differently to spanking. For some children, spanking will be totally ineffective as a means of correction, which is the purpose of all discipline. Also, the child whose primary love language is “physical touch” will be more deeply hurt when spanked. The parent is using the child’s primary love language in a negative way. This child will feel the pain far more deeply than a child who has a different love language.
For more information see The Five Love Languages of Children.
4. I am having trouble relating to my child. We don’t enjoy doing a lot of the same things. How do I relate to a child that is very different from me?
All of us are different. If we don’t enter into each other’s world of interests we will never develop a close relationship. In the early stages of life, you must go to the child’s interests. When they are in the sand box, then you enter into the world of sandcastles. Later on, we can bring them into our world, but the process must always be a two-way street.
The beauty of all of this is that your own world is enlarged. If your child is interested in sports and you have never been a sports enthusiast, you will discover a whole new world as you explore the world of sports. The goal is to foster the innate interests and gifts of the child, while exposing them to areas of life in which they may have little interest. This is the way all of us grow into well-rounded individuals.