Am I the only mom that struggles with this? For example, it takes me around an hour of begging and threatening to get my toddler to go to bed (he finds this whole process hilarious), but my husband gets him to sleep in minutes. I often have to tell my six-year-old several times to do something, but my husband just tells her once. My husband theorizes that I’m just not doing it right; I’m not stern enough, I don’t discipline enough, I’m her friend more than her parent.
It’s possible that this plays a role. Personality may have something to do with it, but I think something else is going on. You see, it’s not that I don’t enforce consequences. It’s not that I’m just nice and sweet all the time. In fact, I often yell at my kids more than my husband. Scratch that. He almost never raises his voice to the kids. So what’s going on? Is he just a better parent than me?
I’ve talked to a number of moms about this, and we’ve all come to the same conclusion. Being a stay-at-home parent is a different dynamic in terms of disciplining and behavior for a few reasons. First of all, I understand that the parent at home is not always the mom. Just usually. I’m saying “mom” just for the sake of simplicity.
One reason I think your kids may respect your husband more than you is that they’re with you so much more than him. You’ve heard the expression “familiarity breeds contempt” (kind of a spin-off of Proverbs 25:17). Basically, they’re comfortable with you, so they’ve lost that healthy fear that causes them to jump and obey.
Another reason that gets overlooked, however, is energy level. This is huge! The parent who stays home with the kids has significantly depleted energy, energy that is crucial for enforcing discipline. What should be happening is that when your kids don’t listen to you the first time, you deliver a consequence. Unfortunately, this is a challenge, especially if you have several young kids, because the enforcement requires energy. Which you have a limited amount of. Not only are you caring for your kids, you’re cooking, cleaning, scheduling doctor’s appointments, play dates, and birthday parties, grocery shopping, paying bills, not to mention all the work you do in addition if you’re a work-at-home mom like me.
So what often happens, at least for me, is that they don’t listen the first time, so you add threats the second time, hoping they’ll just obey, and you won’t need to interrupt you ginormous to-do list to put your kid in time out or take away their toys. Still not paying attention to you, probably because they’ve learned by this point that they can push you, so by now maybe you start raising your voice, which takes still less energy than losing your momentum from washing the dishes to discipline your kid.
Obviously, this is not ideal. Ideal is implementing the consequences immediately. No yelling, your kid learns to listen immediately. I’m not here to beat you up, though, or add to your mountain of mom-guilt, because THIS IS ME!
On the one hand, I think God provides for us by providing the balance of a spouse who makes up for the areas that we lack in. Yes, I know there are many parents who are doing it alone and don’t get to enjoy this blessing. I’m praying for YOU GUYS! This parenting journey is challenging enough even with a partner.
But I’m going to challenge all of us to see if we can start small, and even though we have a limited reserve of energy, to ask God for an extra dose so we can push through and enforce the first time! Maybe start with just one kid, or with one type of transgression, like every time they talk back, or whine, or don’t do what you ask, try the immediate discipline, because once you set the pattern of immediate consequences, your kids will learn to expect it and fight you less.
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