I think my wife is too lax with our kids
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 email@example.com 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.