08/15/2014 05:15 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2014

Dear Family Whisperer: Letting Him Do the Small Stuff HIS Way

Dear Family Whisperer,
How do my husband and I work out our rules on the small stuff? For example, the bedtime routine -- bath 6:30, stories 7:00, bed 7:30 -- often turns into bed at 7:45 or even 8 because he doesn't stick to the timing and also does things in a different order. He will let our son come out of the bath and then put him in PJs after he has finished reading stories (because he is desperate to keep him warm and avoid him getting ill -- I just insist he gets dry and dressed ASAP). The result of this is that everything takes longer. It's the same for the morning routine. When DS and I are at home, we are out of the house on the dot. When DH is at home (he takes DS to before-school club most mornings), he lets things slip and is therefore late for work.
-Frustrated Wife

Dear Frustrated Wife,
A lot of women complain about their husbands not doing things their way. They also tend to blow those differences out of proportion. The result, sadly, is that husbands, fearing criticism, often do less and less, a situation that leads to "chore wars" and, often, a less happy marriage.

Here are some suggestions that will help you gain a more level-headed perspective:

Remember that your husband's problem is not necessarily yours or your son's. Reread your own question. You acknowledge that you're upset with SMALL stuff. After all, your husband's timing doesn't cause an hour's delay in bedtime or result in your having to deal with a seriously overtired child the next day. You aren't saying that your son is chronically late to school. Rather, your DH is late to work -- which is his problem.

When one of your husband's parenting strategies bothers you, take a step back. Ask yourself two questions: "Is this really important?" and "Is my husband's 'way' compromising our son's health or welfare?" If your answer "no," then consider (and tell yourself the truth about) whether there might be more than one way to do the task or handle the moment? Usually, there are -- even though it's not your way.

Accept that you and your husband are different people. Each of you brings a lifetime of your experiences to the table. How can you not handle the day differently? The good news, is that your child will learn more, and have a broader repertoire of choices, because of your differences.

Talk about the big stuff as a family. The household isn't your domain. It's not just your job to establish routines and make rules and then expect everyone to fall in line. A more family-centered approach would be to sit down with your husband and talk explicitly about your values and what you hope your family will stand for. Set goals together, and be open to his ideas about how to achieve them.

Don't watch. Rather than endure the frustration of seeing your DH do post-bath activities with your son, leave the room. Go do something nice for yourself and be grateful that you aren't on duty!

Have a family question for Melinda Blau? Tweet #DearFamilyWhisperer or email Check back next week to see if your question is featured! Real names will not be used, no topics off limits. Adults and children welcome. These columns are brief. You'll find more on this topic in FAMILY WHISPERING, co authored by Melinda and (the late) Tracy Hogg. Also check out the website: and follow @MelindaBlau.