Inside His Head: Husband’s way of disciplining the kids is too harsh, mom says

Dear Inside His Head,

My husband and I have totally different ways of disciplining our kids and it’s causing a lot of problems as you can imagine. My husband is a “Do as you’re told” type of person who just expects the kids to obey. If they don’t jump to it, he’s quick to tell them they’re grounded or send them to their room. He’s the heavy, which means it’s hard for me to not go too far to the other side and be too easy. The kids, honestly, are a little afraid of him, which is how he was raised. We talk about it a lot, but he’s not really very compromising.

I think the kids should listen to him, of course, but he doesn’t balance that very well with being playful with them, etc. I think this is hurting their relationship and that makes me sad.

Should we go to counseling? I feel like I have to be the go-between all the time. It’s getting harder to justify his gruff behavior and I find myself siding with the kids a LOT. Not great for our marriage, to say the least. Any advice for how to make him see we’re not happy?

Inside His Head husbands answer anonymous questions from NWA momsGRAY: My dad expected me to ask “How high?” if he said “Jump.” Being a military man, it’s not surprising he expected everyone to be as disciplined as he was.

When I missed cutting a strip of grass while mowing the yard, he made me mow the entire yard over again. And I can tell you – I never missed a strip of grass again. It taught me to do a good job the first time. Was it kind of a jerk move on his part? Yeah, but we discipline our children so they won’t make the same mistakes again and again.

What it comes down to is if we’re asking the unreasonable from our kids. Though it’s our responsibility to teach them the life lessons they need, it’s also our responsibility to let them have fun and learn how to enjoy their lives. Just because our lives are filled with more work than we’d like, we have to make sure we’re not taking that out on our kids because we’re resentful of the freedoms they have. I mean, they’re kids. They’re not supposed to be putting in 60 hours of work each week.

But I’m sort of getting the feeling this isn’t really an issue about discipline. It feels like you’re describing a man who is not happy with his life and is finding ways to vent his anger on his children and it’s causing a rift in your family.

Talk to him and see what’s eating at him that makes him gruff all the time. Siding with the kids may be only making him more angry, so I’d get to the bottom of it because it sounds like there’s more to what’s happening than meets the eye.

Sometimes we feel a lack of control in one part of our life and we compensate by being overtly controlling in other parts, where it’s often inappropriate. Sometimes life just sucks and we feel like everyone else ought to feel as bad as we do and we express it in odd ways. If you think this might be the real issue then have those conversations, which may require counseling. Because finding happiness should also be a family affair, not just for the kids.

Anonymous panel of husbands answer questions from NWA momsMAVERICK: I’m a little confused. This is one of those situations where I want to ask a lot more questions but since you can’t really answer back I’m just going to take a stab at this.

So, is his discipline unreasonable or is he just sort of a gruff jerk to the kids pretty much around the clock? It sounds like he’s pretty strict with them when it comes to punishments but he’s also gruff and generally less than cuddly, so I’ll go with that scenario.

If that’s the case, you might be able to approach him with a bit of a carrot and stick mindset. Tell him that while his no-nonsense discipline works when there is an infraction, his general “leave me the hell alone” attitude the rest of the time is counter-productive.

Point out that his attitude makes his discipline ineffective since simply being around him with his bad attitude works out to a minor to major punishment for the children just for being around him and that’s before they lob a baseball through the TV or shave the dog.

Point out that fear isn’t really a good basis for any relationship and that he’s somehow confusing fear for respect. Note to him that if as a grown adult he needs his own children to fear him to get their attention, well, he’s failing big time. Add that that sort of attitude doesn’t even make someone a suitable pet owner. Also note that by coming at his authority over his children from a place of fear he is erasing any good his strict discipline might have.

This guy as described doesn’t seem too self aware. Your best bet is just confront him when you see him being unreasonable. Wait for a chance to talk to him as soon as possible but when the kids aren’t around and point out the behavior you think is substandard and how he might correct it in the future.

Perhaps something like:

You: Bob, I noticed you told little Jimmy he had to walk to school for a week without shoes because he got some mud on them. Do you think that’s reasonable? Was someone mean to you when you were little? Did your parents lock you in your room? Why didn’t you have him wash his shoes and then make him wear his non-name brand sneakers for a week?


You: Bob, little Jimmy was trying to show you he made an A on his math test and you simply ignored him and kept watching reruns of Law and Order:Special Victims Unit. I know you think Ice-T  is America’s greatest actor but you only have one son. Maybe you could acknowledge his existence from time to time? It would make us all a happier family.

In the end, based what you’ve said and perhaps not said, you do need to be siding with your kids here. Your husband sounds unreasonable. Tell him so and keep it up until he not only gets what you’re saying but he changes his behavior.

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