The following is a Boston.com readers' query during a Q&A with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz:
Question: My husband and I often talk about our parenting ideas, and we usually see eye to eye. But when it comes time to walk the walk, he's a big old softie. For one, I come out looking like the bad guy; and two, I am sure it's very confusing for the kids.
The oldest is almost 3 -- so I want to fix this before #2 gets wise to what's going on. I may tend to be stricter... but I feel that when we are together she knows she can get what she wants from him. Any advice or past columns on this subject? Thanks.
Barbara Meltz: Boy, this feels familiar! I think all parents go through something like it and, yes, sometime ago I wrote a column on this subject. Gee, was it based on personal experience?! While it is very common (and hard to avoid) parental dififerences in styles, when you aren't together on philosophies, or when it always seems to one of you as if you get into a rut like you are describing, it's not healthy for any of you.
Meanwhile, I assume your husband is aware of this trend....that he's the softie? that she will learn to work the two of you against each other? If you're both aware of the pitfalls, you have a much better chance of working things out.
But there's also this: When there's lots of inconsistency between parents in limit-setting and in consequences, it fuels a child to push the limits even more, because it confuses them. It's almost as if they are saying to themselves, "I know what I have to do to get mom to pay attention, but what about dad? Does this get his attention? What about this?"
Do you agree with Barbara's advice? Have your say in our comments section.