How can parents discipline their children when they don’t agree on rules?

anesha asks: How do and my husband and myself both agree on the proper way to correct my son? We don’t always agree and afterwards he then realizes that sometimes I am right.

Hi anesha –

You are absolutely correct to ask about this.  Experts on parenting all agree that (within certain bounds) what the rules of your home are doesn’t matter nearly as much as does the consistency of them.  For example, some homes allow dogs to climb on all the furniture, and some don’t allow any of that.  Handsome decided that it was okay with him for me to climb onto his bed, but not any other furniture, especially his white couch!  And since he was clear about that, I learned the rules very easily.  But if there had been someone else in the house telling me I wasn’t allowed onto the bed, or that it was okay for me to get my paws on the couch, I’d be very frustrated.  And… and here’s the most important part… I’d lose respect for all the

rules!  I would have known that rules don’t always count, and that they’re something to argue or negotiate about.  Which would have been terrible.  And that’s exactly what happens to kids in homes where the parents don’t agree.

So I don’t have any great solutions on how to make you and your husband agree; it’s really a case of you two needing to sit down and plan it out, and compromise compromise COMPROMISE!  What’s really important to each of you?  What are you willing to give in on?  What would you not allow under any circumstance?

And if you get to an issue that you simply can’t agree on, one good compromise is that the stricter rule applies for a certain period, and then the lighter rule kicks in.  For example, if you insist that he can never watch TV till he’s done all his homework, and your husband wants him to be able to plan his time the way he wants, have your rule be the case for two years, and then let him go by your husband’s rule – as long as his grades stay up.

The most important part of what I’m suggesting, anesha, is that this is all discussed in advance!  This discussion can’t happen after your son has broken a rule, or while he’s trying to reset the rules.  It won’t work.  Imagine if you drove a car over the speed limit, and the police pulled you over but then debated between themselves as to whether or not you really broke the law!  It’d be absurd, right?  You and your husband need to reach an agreement on what the rules are, and what the consequences for breaking them are, before any sort of disciplinary system with your son can ever work.

But let me add one more suggestion here:  the fewer the rules you have, the more likely he is to follow them.  If you can keep it down to a small number, it’ll be quite easy for you, your husband, and your son.  But if you come up with a list of fifty subtle and specific ones, you’re going to struggle with them every day.  Keep it light, and keep it simple.  And life will just get better and better.








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anesha - February 16, 2012 Reply

My husband and I will try this and let you know how it turns out. Thanks for the advice it should be very helpful. I also do appreciate that you took the time to respond.

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