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He just wants to hurt me...

My problem is this. Recently my ex-husband let our 14 y/o ride a 4 wheeler without supervision or helmet. He had a bad accident and in the hospital for 8 days. He knows I do not allow this but seems to let him do things like this. Of course you want to be with the parent that lets you roam free. I cannot get him to understand we need to be on the same page. I am willing to compromise, but he just wants to hurt me. I am not sure how to handle this and some of the trouble I have with my son is from this. Any suggestions.

Thanks, M.


Hi M.,

Parents who have significantly different child-rearing styles are more likely to have kids with behavior problems than families who have similar styles.

A parent who gives in to his kid's every demand in the hope of satisfying them almost always finds that the opposite happens: Instead of letting up, the kids continue to push for more and more, looking for a sign of how much is too much.

A similar thing happens if the parents cannot decide how to discipline and set limits on their kids. It's healthy for kids to see how their parents reach a compromise or settle a disagreement if it's done peacefully and effectively. But if the parents can't reach an agreement, the kid's behavior often gets worse as they search for the reassurance of stable boundaries to their lives.

In those situations, the main issue of using discipline to teach kids appropriate behavior gets lost in the battles between parents for an illusion of control. The kids become confused and respond by continuing to act out, both to assert their own power and to figure out which rules are really important.

It's not surprising that parents have differing views on the best way to discipline their kids. Working out those differences requires clarity and perspective. Safety issues (e.g., " have to wear a helmet") should be the first consideration. They also require the greatest amount of agreement from both parents.

Other matters can usually be resolved by agreeing on which parent will set the rules about particular issues. Even so, forming a united front on discipline is often more easily said than done. Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Be prepared for behavioral problems. Remember that many changes in kid's behaviors are linked to their stage of normal development. Talk ahead of time about how each of you would handle these predictable situations. That way you'll have fewer conflicts when they occur.
  • Don't be trapped by your past. That includes both your own childhood and the style of discipline you may have used in an earlier marriage. Look for ways to explore, with your ex-spouse, your unquestioned assumptions about disciplining kids. One good way to do that is to take a parenting class together. That does two things: It helps you realize how differently other people respond to the same situations you face as parents, and it gives you and your spouse a common base of information from which to develop your shared approaches to discipline.

If your ex will simply not work with you on any level, then bear in mind that a weaker parenting strategy supported by both parents is much better than a stronger strategy supported by only one parent.

Finally, your son will have to learn to operate under two different sets of house rules -- yours and your ex-husband's.


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1 comment:

Unknown said...

I had an ex boyfriend whose dad parented like this. He had a 13 year old brother who wanted to play Grand Theft Auto. My bf and their mom, of course, both said no as it's R18. So Dad immediately says yes. In that case, it's not putting the kid in danger immediately. But letting a kid ride a motorbike or quad bike without a helmet? Insane. I'd talk to him and ask him if he really loves his son. If he does, does he really want his son to end up in a rest home as a teenager because of his neglect? After all, he's already had one accident. If this doesn't change it, I'd sue for full custody citing neglect.

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