I have a 14 year old son, and we always seem to be angry with each other. I try to be patient, but whatever I do seems to annoy him and vice versa. My husband takes a different approach than me, and this also causes conflict between us as he lets our son get away with bad behaviour by ignoring it. If our son is rude to me, he doesn't say anything, he just says that I should deal with it. What can I do?
I believe you have mentioned 3 issues here:
1. anger control problems (between parent and child & between wife and husband)
2. father uses an indulgent parenting style
3. husband and wife are not united and bonded on some issues
Let’s look at each one in turn...
Re: anger control –
Power struggles can create frustration, anger and resentment on the part of the parent and the out-of-control kid. Resentment can cause a further breakdown of communication until it seems as if all you do is argue with your out-of-control kid.
In order to end such arguments, it must be the parent that begins to take charge in a positive way. However, the most effective step, to simply stop arguing, can also be the most difficult. It sounds quite simple, just stop arguing, but in reality, it takes discipline and effort to change the pattern of behavior. By refusing to participate in the argument, the power of the out-of-control kid disappears. The out-of-control kid only continues to have power over you if you allow them to.
To stop the power struggle, prepare yourself ahead of time. Sit down, after your out-of-control kid is in bed for the night and it is quiet, and make a list of the times that you most often argue. Is it getting ready for school, doing homework, completing chores, getting ready for bed, etc? For each situation, determine a few choices that you can give your kid.
When preparing the choices, make sure to list only those that you are willing to carry out. If you are not willing to pick up your out-of-control kids and bring them to school in their pajamas, don’t threaten to or they will know that they still have control of the situation. Once you have decided on the choices you will give your out-of-control kid, stick to them and practice your self-control to not yell. Walk away, leave the room, and wait outside if you have to. But an argument can only happen if there is more than one person. With just one person, it is simply a temper tantrum.
Re: indulgent parenting style –
Parenting style has two elements: sensitivity and strictness. Sensitivity refers to the extent to which parents provide warmth and supportiveness. Strictness refers to the extent to which parents provide supervision and discipline.
Categorizing parents according to whether they are high or low on strictness and sensitivity creates four parenting styles:
Indulgent parents are more sensitive than they are strict. Children of these parents tend to have high self-esteem, but low motivation (e.g., perform poorly at school, do few if any chores). Also, they are more likely to have behavioral problems at home and school.
Authoritarian parents are very strict, but not very sensitive. Children of these parents tend to have high motivation (e.g., do well in school, do chores at home), but have very low self-esteem. They also have poorer social skills and higher levels of depression.
Uninvolved parents are low in both sensitivity and strictness. Children of these parents tend to have both low motivation and low self-esteem.
Assertive parents are both strict and sensitive. Children of these parents tend to have both high motivation and high self-esteem.
Thus, it might be in your husband’s best interest to adopt a more assertive parenting style -- for his son’s benefit!!
Re: not being united and bonded –
When mom and dad are not on the same page with their parenting strategies, several negative outcomes result:
1. One parent is forced into playing the role of the “bad guy” (this is probably you mom).
2. The child is always able to play one parent against the other (e.g., if he gets a “no” from the more assertive parent, he will go to the indulgent parent to get a “yes”).
3. The child is always able to convince the indulgent parent that the more assertive parent is “mistreating” him.
4. Due to the above outcomes, resentment builds in the more assertive parent, thus creating tension between husband and wife.
Thus, it will be important for you and your husband to sit down together and come up with a united plan. A weaker plan supported by both parents is much better than a stronger plan supported by only one. When husband and wife do not develop a united front, it is often the kiss of failure (i.e., the child continues to suffer emotional and behavioral problems).