singlemom41's picture

Partner undermines my discipline

Hi, I need some advice. Last night, my son asked for a donut and I said no because it was late, they aren't good for him, and he had already had one. So, he went and asked his father for one. With his dad present, I said to my son "What did mommy say when you asked?", then I left the room for a minute. When I came back, the two boys were heading upstairs and my partner had given our son another donut and was trying to tell him to be quiet about it but our son announced to me that he had gotten another. That upset me so much! When I tried to talk to my partner about it this morning, he tried to play it off like he didn't know I had said no. Then when I called him on the fact that he was trying to sneak out of the room and keep our son quiet, he got defensive and said something rude to me. He thinks I'm over-reacting about the entire situation and won't apologize or talk with me about it. I'm not sure what else to do--I tried to have a civil conversation to tell him how I felt and now we aren't speaking. I strongly believe that we should both be on the same page concerning all discipline, but I always end up being the "bad cop". Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I really don't have anyone else to talk to about this. I tried to talk to my son about it to explain that it's wrong to go to the other parent when one says no, but he's only 3.5 yrs old and he didn't really understand what I was saying.

Laurie BJ's picture
Laurie BJ

I am so sorry this happened! Disagreements like this are very common, and stressful and can hurt relationships between partners.

If I had noticed my son had a donut after I said no, I would have asked my partner if he gave permission. If he had, I would have calmly taken the donut away from my son, saying, "I said no, so you can't have it even though you asked your dad. You shouldn't have asked him when I already said no."

My husband and I decided long ago that we would uphold each other's decisions and that we would let each other make little decisions. And what the first parent says "goes". Our kids also know that if they are caught asking the other parent when one already said no, that they will get a consequence (lose a privilege for a day or something).

I would talk to your partner from the standpoint that you are concerned for your kids. Inconsistency between parents is very bad for kids, especially as they get older and use it to manipulate parents into getting what they want. It would be good to decide together what limits are important to place on your kids too, and that will decrease inconsistency and arguments. You can compromise and both get a little of what you think is important (for instance, maybe donuts or other food is okay before bed, but soda with caffeine isn't).

Good luck. Your children are lucky to have a caring parent who asks questions and get support when they need it!

Laurie Berdahl