Q: “We can’t agree on how to discipline our 13-year-old. I tend to be lenient, but my wife is less so. She worries that I’m making a mistake. How can we work this out?”
T.P., Orlando, Florida
I’m the mother of a 12-year-old and have recently remarried. In the past, my new husband was extremely strict with his six children, but he has since realized that this approach doesn’t work too well. I was too lenient with my kids after I divorced, so my new husband and I are trying to find some middle ground. We agree that setting clear rules and consequences shows our daughter that we love her. Being lenient might make her our friend, but it won’t make us good parents.
A.S., Eagan, Minnesota
When my daughter was 10, my husband thought I was too lenient with her. She was rebellious that year—wearing whatever she wanted and insisting that nobody ever come into her room. I thought these behaviors weren’t worth fighting about, but my husband disagreed. He and I talked with a counselor, and he finally realized he was making too big a deal out of behaviors that weren’t going to hurt anybody. At the same time, I realized I was making things worse by siding with my daughter. After that, I focused on staying out of their struggle. Also, I told our daughter that, even when her dad and I didn’t agree about discipline, he deserved her respect. That helped.
L.E., Memphis, Tennessee
Our 13-year-old daughter knows from experience that her parents don’t always have the same viewpoint about discipline, and that’s to be expected. But she does know that when one of us says “no,” the other parent is not going to say “yes.” My husband and I check in first to decide what our final answer will be.
H.M., New York, New York
My wife is more lenient with our daughters, who are 8 and 11. But I think that’s okay. It’s the old good cop/bad cop routine. One hand is generous; the other is stern. What’s wrong with a girl growing up with the knowledge that the world includes both soft touches who will let her have her way, as well as growling bears she will have to learn to recognize, respect and learn to deal with?
H.H., San Jose, California
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