My husband and I have two different parenting styles. He is from a military family and grew up getting spankings, or as he often calls it “whoopins” I did not grow up getting spanked and think it is unnecessary to hit a child to get them to obey. We have had this argument many times and most recently when he spanked our 10-year-old son for throwing his football through our neighbor’s front window. My son did not break the window on purpose, and I thought making him pay for window out of his allowance was punishment enough. I think my husband is way too hard on our son. Sometimes he is like a drill sergeant. When I try to intervene, he accuses me of trying to make our son “soft” whatever that means. He thinks that just because we have a son that he knows better how to discipline him and that he should be the only one delivering the discipline. He often says that he is teaching our son a lesson or how to be a man. I don’t know how spanking ever taught someone how to be a man. I am afraid he might break our son’s spirit.
Dear Concerned Mother:
Many people have different opinions on whether to spank or not to spank. And there are tons of books and experts out there debating the psychology of spanking and discipline and whether it is harmful or helpful. But ultimately you and your husband need to determine your policy on spanking and disciplining your children. It is critical that you both get on the same page. Many couple’s don’t talk about this before they are married or even before they have children. I have had this same argument in my own house. When I married my husband, I already had two daughters and I was very protective of them and often stepped in when discipline was an issue. Then my husband and I had two children together and I found that I was just as protective with them. I often thought my husband was too hard on our children, especially our son. My husband often jokes that I am an “Equal Opportunity Protector.” Not only would I not let him touch my children, but I would not let him touch his children either. We can joke about it a little now because we have since had some serious discussions and we better understand one another.
I had to realize that my husband has to have a role in disciplining our children if he is to be respected and involved in their lives. My stepping in sent a terrible message to our children and showed that he and I were on two different pages. Kids are smart and pick up on these things quickly. There were a few times they have tried to play us against one another knowing that I would come to the rescue. I also had to realize that he was not out to hurt our children and that just like me, he wants what is best for them.
While the discipline is taking place and in front of your child is not the right time to discuss the issue. You and your husband need to have a private conversation and see if you can come to an agreement. Both of you need to take into consideration that different upbringings and experiences can greatly affect your individual thoughts and feelings on the matter. Oftentimes we replicate what we have learned as children. Whereas you were not spanked and disagree with spanking, your husband was spanked and he may feel that was a key factor in how he turned out as a man. You both need to try and understand each other’s experiences and come to some sort of agreement.
And I have to admit, while I am not a big fan of spanking children, there have been cases when I think spanking was and is necessary. I also think there is a big difference between spanking and beating. I do not condone, support or tolerate child abuse (physical, mental, or verbal). If you feel your husband is causing your son harm then that is another issue that needs to be addressed.
Author of the upcoming book Been There Done That: And Lived to Tell About It (due out Spring 2011), Tamara R. Allen is Your Advice Guru giving REAL advice from REAL experience. Email your questions to [email protected]. You can follow Tamara on twitter @tamararallen or check out her daily column and archives at www.tamararallen.com.