Mothers and fathers often approach discipline differently – not better or worse, just differently. If used wisely, this difference is good for kids. Moms and dads should complement each other’s discipline, not compete to be “right.” It’s a question of balance.
When toddlers begin to explore their environment, mothers tend to be protectors and fathers tend to be encouragers. Dad offers a challenging “climb higher.” Mom adds a protecting “be careful.” When your toddler wakes up at night (for the third time), dad suggests letting her fuss for a while to try to resettle herself, while mother goes to comfort her. Dads encourage independence; moms ease fears. (In some families, these roles may be reversed.) Tracey and Tom are aware of these differences and work hard to make them an asset to their family. They realize that they need each other’s balance, as does their child. Their three-year-old, Nathan, is an adventurous child whose desires to accomplish a feat exceed his capabilities. He is always getting stuck in precarious situations and fussing for help. Tracey and Tom found themselves disagreeing on when to help Nathan and when to let him work it out himself. Finally, they agreed that when Nathan was stuck they would ask him, “Do you need me?”
Mothers delve into their children’s feelings, trying to understand their children’s viewpoint. When a child has a problem, moms are geared toward understanding the process that led to the problem; dads want to rush in and fix it. Mothers tend to ramble and repeat; fathers are more concerned with results, use fewer words in discipline requests, and are quicker to pull rank when psychology isn’t working. I witnessed the following example: Kyle was riding his bike without a helmet. Mother sat down next to him and launched into a long explanation of why it was unsafe not to wear a helmet. Father, seeing that this dialogue was getting nowhere, walked up to Kyle and respectfully, yet authoritatively, said, “Kyle, you know the helmet law. You didn’t wear your helmet. Now put away your bike for a week.”