Friday - - Advice -

QOur 12-year-old son is a very strong char­ac­ter and my hus­band and I are ar­gu­ing over how to dis­ci­pline him. My son be­haves badly, my hus­band shouts at him and then I get up­set. I think my hus­band is too harsh and he thinks I’m too soft. We aren’t able to find a com­pro­mise and in the mean­time our son’s be­hav­iour is get­ting worse. Please help as this is caus­ing se­ri­ous dam­age to our re­la­tion­ship.

AWell, you both seem to be as­sum­ing that you’re in the right and this is where the dif­fi­culty is orig­i­nat­ing. So let’s peel back the lay­ers and re­ally be­gin from a point you both prob­a­bly agree on; you both love your son and you want the best for him.

The dif­fi­culty with ar­gu­ing about par­ent­ing is that it ac­tu­ally takes your eye off the real is­sue. What is caus­ing your son to be­have in the way he is? It could be this ques­tion that needs fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

You don’t men­tion whether you have other chil­dren, so I don’t have enough in­for­ma­tion to de­cide whether his be­hav­iour is un­usual within the fam­ily. Only you can de­cide that. If this is the case, then I would ad­vise fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion by a trained pro­fes­sional and also a meet­ing with his school to es­tab­lish whether his poor be­hav­iour at home is spilling into his time at school. In the mean­time, I would sug­gest that you dis­cuss things with your hus­band away from the au­di­ence of your son. Ar­gu­ing in front of

chil­dren is never ad­vised as it is desta­bil­is­ing for the child and can trig­ger an emo­tional up­set (some­thing that may be con­tribut­ing to his cur­rent be­hav­iour pat­tern). Added to this, some­times, when chil­dren see their be­hav­iour is caus­ing ten­sion be­tween par­ents, they can play one off against the other in or­der to gain what they want.

The aim of your dis­cus­sion should be to come up with a frame­work of bound­aries for your son that you both agree on. Then a course of ac­tion that both of you can im­ple­ment when those bound­aries are crossed.

At the mo­ment you are both be­ing re­ac­tive par­ents. By this I mean, you are sim­ply re­act­ing to each sit­u­a­tion as it arises and this is dis­in­te­grat­ing be­cause you don’t agree.

In­stead, be proac­tive. Have a plan that in­volves both re­wards for good be­hav­iour and penal­ties for cross­ing the line. Make sure you both sit down with your son in a re­laxed and in­for­mal way, ex­plain this clearly to him, pre­sent­ing a united front, and then most im­por­tantly stick to it to­gether.

Con­sis­tency of word and ac­tion is the key to im­prov­ing his be­hav­iour and al­le­vi­at­ing the pres­sure it is putting on your re­la­tion­ship with your hus­band.

You seem to sug­gest that you are the softer par­ent and that your hus­band is more likely to get up­set and be­come an­gry. Nei­ther of these meth­ods is cur­rently work­ing, so in or­der to achieve pos­i­tive re­sults, you have to try a new ap­proach.

It’s im­por­tant to keep love for your son at the cen­tre of this and re­mem­ber that clear bound­aries are an ex­pres­sion of this.


is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

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