Parents Can't Agree on Discipline

Q: I just came back from my kid's school after being called in due to him getting in trouble for hitting another student. My wife wasn't able to go because of her schedule but when she came home she was very angry. I explained to my wife the situation was handled—no videogames for two weeks. But my wife seemed to have a problem with that and told me (in front of my son no less) that my "punishment" wasn't "meaningful" enough. We got into an argument about what the punishment would be for our son. She wanted my son to write an apology letter to the kid that my son hit. I felt that was a little risky because if that letter ever got in the wrong hands, it could easily be used as bait to make fun of my son. Not sure how you go about disciplining your child when your wife is on a completely different page. Any advice? -Wesley, 35

Dr. Anna: They key here is better communication. Hitting is a pretty serious issue, so it's easy to see how emotions could run high on all sides. What's done is done, but next time you could try to do things differently. Instead of making a decision without her, explain to your son that this is a serious issue and you'll need to think about it and talk to mom before deciding anything. Talk to your wife first—behind closed doors. Explain your thoughts and give her a chance to explain hers. Practice listening. Practice calmly talking and thinking through all sides. If either of you have reservations, keep talking until you can negotiate an agreement on what to do next. Then the two of you sit down together with your son and explain the behavior, why it is inappropriate, how he should do things differently next time, and explain the punishment. Remember, you and your wife are on the same team with the same goal—raising your child in the best way you can. If you two are still having a tough time agreeing, a few sessions of family counseling might go a long way in giving you skills you can use to handle these types of situations better.

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