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Discipline: Keep a United Front

Marriage Q & A's

Q: What if my spouse and I disagree on how to discipline the children?

A: Keep in mind that your goal as a team is to give your children limits. Your children must have consistent discipline from both of you. It's very confusing if each of you disciplines differently. You must put your differences aside and make a plan. If you cannot come to an agreement, you might find a book on discipline helpful.

Marriage Q & A's

Q: Sometimes I'm just so angry that I can't keep from yelling at my child. What can I do?

A: If you find yourself starting to yell, take a deep breath and count to five. (The child will likely stare at you wondering what you're up to!) Then you'll be able to handle the situation like a pro—calm, cool, and collected. You'll also show your children by your actions how to handle their anger.

It's vitally important to keep a united front with your spouse when disciplining your children. If one of you starts to carry through a punishment, and the other one tells them that it's not necessary, you will have undermined your authority. Your children will be the ultimate losers because it will not be clear what is expected of them. Even though they might feel good that they were not punished at the time, they will be generally confused about how they should behave. Further, you will have eroded trust in your marriage. Therefore, you must always stand by your spouse at the time, even if you disagree strongly. Afterward, in private, you can discuss how you might have handled the situation differently.

The absolute best thing for a child is to see that his or her parents are a strong unit and are in agreement, even about a punishment. Of course, all kids will try to break parents down. They are experts at sniffing out differences and trying to push two parents apart. Your child might play one of you against the other. This is very normal behavior for a child. The quickest way for a child to outgrow this phase is for his or her parents to stand strong. When a child learns it's possible to get what he or she wants by playing one parent against the other, the child is more likely to continue doing it.

The following is a list of discipline Dos and Don'ts:

Discipline firmly and consistently.Let your child play you against your spouse.
Discipline with love.Punish inconsistently.
Use time-outs instead of hitting or yelling. Yell and scream at your child irrationally.
Use the three times rule.Call your child names.
Choose appropriate punishments.Notice only negative behaviors and not positive ones.
Keep a united front with your spouse.Shame or insult your child.
Compliment your children frequentlyThreaten punishments that are impractical to follow through on.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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