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Most parents have strong feelings about discipline and what's right for their kids. It's not always easy to figure out the best discipline strategy, but it's even harder when you and your partner can't seem to agree on the best approach. What do you do? We've asked Dr. Nancy S. Buck, author of How to be a Great Parent: Understanding Your Child's Wants and Needs, how to deal with such a tricky situation.
Consider the in-laws
"Most parents learn their parenting practices from their own parents," Buck notes. "It is not surprising that you and your spouse may approach and disagree on discipline strategies. Really who you may be disagreeing with is not with each other but with your in-laws’ discipline strategies." Remember, even if you and your spouse are not on the same page, you are on the same team. You are two separate people with unique experiences that have shaped your approaches to life and child-rearing. As frustrating as it can be, see this as an opportunity to learn from each other, hone your communication skills and get closer as a couple.
Discuss your beliefs
Buck says you might want to start a conversation about what you and your spouse each believe regarding the purpose of discipline and how you'd each like to approach it. "Do you believe your child needs to be taught lessons when she misbehaves? Or do you believe your child is attempting to meet his needs and misbehaves because he doesn’t know a better, more responsible and respectful way? If you believe the former, then some kind of punishment is reasonable and understandable. If you believe the latter, then on the spot teaching a better, more responsible and respectful way is what’s needed without a punishment or deprivational consequence."
Try these questions:
- What discipline strategy did my parents use that I agree with and want to replicate with our child?
- What discipline strategy did my parents use that I disagree with and never want to do with our child?
If you believe a child's "acting out" is the result of unmet needs, you might want to check out peaceful parenting approaches.
Don't ever stop
This is just the beginning. You and your partner will never stop having differences of opinion, which sounds a little depressing, but if you keep asking these questions and never stop communicating as your child moves from one developmental stage to the next, those conversations will get easier. You will find compromises easier and more quickly. You'll understand your spouse better. And, you'll model great communication for your kids, which is one thing we can all agree is important.