Parenting is not just a mother’s job, it is the parents’ job. Dads have a big role and influence in their kids’ lives. Aside from sharing diaper duty and scheduling regular quality time with the family, we also need to participate in important parenting decisions, like how to discipline the kids. It’s not fair to say, “You handle it, you’re the Mom.”
My wife and I definitely take a full-court press approach in our parenting. We help each other out, and make decisions together. During most of our conversations and dinner dates, we end up discussing our kids. As we talk about what they did or need, we also think of strategies on how to help them. We also try to take a unique approach for each child, knowing their personality and age.
Decide what’s important to both of you
As the boys transitioned from preschool to grade school, we mutually decided to clamp down on discipline, making sure the kids abide by rules, and teaching them to be more responsible.
All couples need to have this discussion on disciple. What rules do you want to set, and what are the consequences? Are there some non-negotiable rules, because they’re part of important values or habits that you want to impart to your kids?
Communicate with each other
Sometimes, you and your partner will disagree on discipline. Something may happen that bothers one more than the other.
In that case, communication is important. Try to understand your partner’s perspective. What was the situation, why did s/he use that strategy, what kind of behaviour do you want to change, and was that the best way of doing that? Process it together, so you can align with each other and think of a better way to handle a similar situation in the future.
It’s not bad to be the Bad Cop
You may have heard of the phrase Good Cop/Bad Cop where one parent is very forgiving while the strict parent is feared. Often, the dads end up being the Bad Cop. “I would often hear my wife telling him, “Do you want me to tell Papa what you are doing?”
It sounded as though merely mentioning my name would change the situation and make my son listen. At first, I wasn’t comfortable with this role, but I’ve learned to see it another way. While we set consistent rules that we agree on, being the “Strict Parent” allows for my voice to be heard even when I’m not home and present during a discipline conflict. It helps remind kids that Dad does have a say in this, too, and that he won’t like what is happening either.
Look at your children’s emotional cues
When one of us gets upset or disciplines the kids, the other parent observes the boys and tries to understand their perspective and read their emotional queues. Do the boys understand what is happening, and are our methods effective at stopping the undesired behaviour?
Embrace and take advantage of your differences as parents
My wife has a natural positive disposition, and is more nurturing and kind. I, however, often call upon the stern “just do what I say” tone.
We also differ in what we pay attention to. I value punctuality for events and activities, while she stresses over cleanliness and matching outfits.
And we can also differ in the way we react to an issue. I worry about what life for my kids would be without me or how I never want my boys to be a problem for someone else to look after. My wife, who prefers to stay in the present, just focuses on the particular incident.
Differences are normal and can help you become better parents. You can balance each other out, and take on different roles in different situations. Discipline can be very organic, as you realize how to use your own strengths and personality to bring out the best in your child.
It is a good working dynamic given how the boys have evolved and gone from stage to stage in their childhood and early adolescence.
Dads need to get involved in discipline
I never want someone else to discipline my boys beyond what my wife and I are comfortable with, or have someone else tell us that we’re not doing enough and that our sons are out of control or mischievous. I’m sure many Dads feel the same way. That’s why we need to be involved in discipline, from making choices together with our wives, to helping implement the rules and consequences.
About The Writer
Vicente Bunuan is a full-time husband and father, and part-time Running Coach at InVINCIble Running. He has been married for thirteen years, and has two boys aged 6 and 12. Born in the Philippines, he moved to the U.S. as a child, and had all formal schooling there. He attended Georgetown University and graduated with a B.A. in Sociology and Psychology. He has worked in both higher education and in the non-profit industry in the U.S., as well as in Training & Development, and Marketing corporate companies in the Philippines. He and wife are also active in their sons’ schools as batch parent coordinators.