Is one parent strict while the other one coddles? How do you discipline your kids when you don't present a united front?

“Argument of the Week” is a series written by Brenna Jennings. It will feature the daily domestic battles she gets into with her husband Steve. Arguments I guarantee will sound very familiar. 


My seven-year-old’s bedroom is rarely clean. She’s on the iPad too much and the list of what she will not eat reads like a hunger strike handbook. She still sucks her thumb and sleeps with a blankie, and sometimes she forgets to brush her teeth.

Kids are a great source of angst; right now Anna is skateboarding up and down the hallway, but she’s occupied and I’m able to write in relative peace. I choose to be okay with her helmetless antics because for starters, I reached my personal nagging quota just after breakfast. I’d also rather meet my deadline than spend time getting her off the thing, repeating, “Put it back in the garage” 42 times, then listening as she whines relentlessly that she’s bored and starts asking me to text around for playdates.

You’ve got to pick your battles.

Steve tends to venture into combat more than I do. It’s important to him that Anna grow up to be self-sufficient, law-abiding, and able to do at least one respectable pull up. His goals for her are solid and I’m grateful for his dedication and love, but when it comes to our day-to-day parenting style, we aren’t always aligned.

Steve thinks I give in to her too often, like when I know she won’t touch the Pad Thai I’ve made for dinner and agree to let her have just the scrambled egg part, or when I carry her to bed upon request because she’s still small enough to lift. He might actually contact a social worker if he knew how often I say, “Fine, but you’ll brush your teeth as soon as you get home because WE HAVE TO GO.”

If Steve were writing this, he’d say something like, “I tell Anna to feed the dog, and there she is on the couch having a snuggle fest with her mother.” He’s sometimes right. I’m very affectionate with her (and with him). And I’m acutely aware that snuggle fests will end, she’ll soon become too heavy to carry, and she won’t want to sneak into my bed in the morning while Steve starts his daily routine. I know one day I’ll miss having two tiny heels in my back and an elbow in my boob. I also know that in parenting, it’s important to present a united front against our adorable tyrants.

The Confrontation:

Steve told Anna to clean her room, and then stood over her with running suggestions as to where she might store her shoes and how to efficiently distribute her 500 stuffed animals. I could see her growing frustrated with him, and really, I think she can handle getting her room into decent shape on her own.

“Honey, she’s seven. Just let her clean her room.”

Steve walked out of the mess and let her keep at it. Of course, this meant that in the time it took her to finish, we’d completed the New York Times Sundaycrossword, cleaned the tub, and solved the debt crisis.

I apologized to Steve for contradicting him in front of Anna, and explained that I worry she won’t remember all the fun they have together because he’s so diligent about keeping her on the right path. I said that it would help if he were a little more physically affectionate with her, and if he would just sometimes let her eat the broccoli with her fingers because OH MY GOD, she’s eating broccoli!

The Resolution:

To be honest, this one isn’t totally resolved, and that’s okay. I’ll still carry Anna to bed and let her skate through the house, and Steve will still hover as she cleans her room. Our parenting styles will never fully align but we respect each other completely; no one could be a better father to her, and I trust that he’s always, always thinking about her best interests.

We may discipline Anna differently, but neither of us is single-handedly ruining our daughter. We outsourced that to YouTube.

How do you and your partner fall on discipline? What are your struggles and how have you worked to manage your differences? Tell us in comments.


Read more from Brenna Jennings on Suburban Snapshots.