When you say no, they run to him because they know he will say yes. They finally begin to follow the rules, but he never follows, let alone enforces them. You can't even count the times you have sat down with him to discuss how important it is to present as a unified front.
He always agrees with you and promises to follow through. This, however, rarely happens. You are worried about the mixed message you are sending your kids. You are also tired of always being the bad guy.
You are beginning to think you should just throw in the towel and give in. You have, however, seen the result of permissive parenting; teens who grow into young adults ill-prepared for the realities of a rule bound world where expectations are high and tolerance for anything less are low. You therefore realize giving up is not an option you can comfortably accept.
What can you do? You are tired and frustrated, angry and agitated. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this dilemma.
Here are a few suggestions on how to handle what may feel like a hopeless and helpless dilemma:
1. Enough talk, time to take action. Be firm with your spouse. Create a set of consequences for him if he fails to follow through. It is imperative that you follow through if he fails, or else your promises are hollow.
2. Have him acknowledge that your word trumps his with the kids. If the above suggestion is not something you are willing and/ or able to try, you may have to insist that he agree to let you be the lawmaker and enforcer at home. This means instead of rendering his own opinion when questioned by your kids, he agrees to defer to you.
3. Writing it down makes it real. One good way to avoid confusion or controversy is to clearly define house rules and consequences. The best approach is to make this process a family affair. Everyone should be given an opportunity to offer opinions. Of course parents have the ultimate authority. Put the rules in a central area in your home. Give all family members a copy. If issues arise, no argument is necessary, just refer back to the rules.
Sometimes the differences that arise in your parenting styles are truly a result of different beliefs or underlying philosophies. While presenting as a unified front for your children is a must, it is not always easy. Here are a few hints on how to reach a solution in a situation that may feel frustrating and futile:
- Compromise. Sometimes it is not about being right, especially when your kids are involved. After all, you both have the same underlying interest.
- Agree to try it out. If you are truly at a stalemate on an issue, this may be your best option. Set strict parameters regarding the implementation of the rules including a time frame as well as indicators of success or failure. Agree on a back-up plan if it doesn't work.
- Renegotiate when needed. We all know that when raising kids, flexibility is a must. If you realize some of the rules are useless or ineffective, don't be shy about renegotiating them with your kids. The key, however, is for you and your spouse to remain a unified front.
Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg are authors of the hit book, "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual." They've set up an interactive website for parents and teens to listen, learn and discuss hot topics and daily dilemmas. You can find it at www.talkingteenage.com.
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