I think my wife is too lax with our kids

Taupo Times - - YOUR HEALTH -

Q: My wife and I have a boy aged 7 and a girl aged 4. We ar­gue a lot over the kids and it comes down to dif­fer­ent par­ent­ing be­liefs.

I’m def­i­nitely more strict and I ap­pre­ci­ate that my wife is more easy go­ing. But she re­fuses to teach them good man­ners; she will laugh when my son does some­thing stupid like chuck a hand­ful of wet sand at some­one at the beach.

She doesn’t teach them to say hello or good­bye to visi­tors – they don’t even re­spond some­times when their grand­par­ents, for ex­am­ple, speak to them – and that’s fine with her. But it’s not fine with me.

I get sick of be­ing the one who nags the kids to be re­spect­ful and it goes in one ear and out the other be­cause I don’t have their mother’s backup on it. It’s like the three of them are on one team and I’m on the other.

If I try to talk to her about it, she lists all the things she does for the kids and the amount of time she spends with them com­pared to me. I ap­pre­ci­ate all that, but then I work in a full­time stress­ful job and she doesn’t. And this is a sep­a­rate is­sue – I want us both to raise po­lite, re­spect­ful kids, but it seems that she doesn’t. A: When I read your let­ter, I’m forced to think this is about way more than a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion on whether or not man­ners are im­por­tant. It seems as if you haven’t agreed on how you want to raise these chil­dren you share. I’m no mar­riage coun­sel­lor but I do know when a sit­u­a­tion might ben­e­fit from some out­side help.

A ba­sic con­cept of par­ent­ing, is that you back each other up. You don’t have to al­ways agree; in fact, you can say things to kids like, ‘‘I don’t feel so strongly, but I’m sup­port­ing your mother and you’ll do as she says…’’

I’m a bit du­bi­ous that any mother would rel­ish bad man­ners in her chil­dren, so your wife’s be­hav­iour makes me sus­pi­cious. Dis­agree­ing with you pub­licly or laugh­ing with the chil­dren at your ex­pense is surely a power game.

You say, ‘‘It’s like the three of them are on one team and I’m on the other.’’ That doesn’t sound like an en­vi­ron­ment your chil­dren will feel se­cure in be­cause chil­dren, es­pe­cially as young as yours, thrive on con­sis­tency and bound­aries. They’ll be look­ing for a weak spot in the fence and even if they ap­pear to be de­lighted when they find it, the con­stant dis­agree­ing be­tween you both will un­nerve them.

If chil­dren live in an en­vi­ron­ment where par­ents back each other up, they learn to sup­port oth­ers and ac­cept sup­port for them­selves. The con­se­quences of your power strug­gles will be un­set­tled, naughty chil­dren.

So, I sug­gest the two of you get some help to sort some rules and guide­lines for you as a cou­ple and for your par­ent­ing. The fact that your wife lists all the things she does for the kids etc, makes me re­alise she’s feel­ing un­happy too. You need an en­vi­ron­ment where you can both be heard. ❚ Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and writ­ten two nov­els for young adults in­clud­ing Com­ing Home to Roost. As one of seven sis­ters, there aren’t many par­ent­ing prob­lems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a ques­tion email life.style@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz with Dear Mary-anne in the sub­ject line. Your anonymity is as­sured.


I want to raise po­lite, re­spect­ful kids but my wife doesn’t seem to care.

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