Dear Mama Re,
My husband and I disagree on how we should discipline our two young boys. My husband says I am too strict with them, but he lets them do whatever they want while telling me to lighten up. Who is right?
Frustrated and Confused

Dear FC,
Parenting styles can be categorized in three ways – authoritarian, permissive and authoritative. Authoritarian parents are “controlling, punitive, rigid, and cold, and their word is the law”. Permissive parents “provide lax and inconsistent feedback and require little of their children”. Authoritative parents are “firm, setting clear and consistent limits, but they also try to reason with their children, giving them explanations for why they should behave in a particular way”.

A study I read recently measured the impact of mother’s and father’s discipline with their preschool children on their subsequent classroom behavior. One of the results was quite interesting and relates to your question directly. It was discovered that if the mother was authoritarian towards her children and the father was permissive, it tended to produce children who had more “acting out” behavior in school.

Unfortunately, inconsistent parenting happens all the time even though we know how detrimental it can be. People have always had strongly differing views concerning what they think is effective and appropriate parenting.

The ideal situation for children is for both parents to have an authoritative parenting style and to be in agreement concerning rules and consequences.

Try this. You and your husband make a nightly habit of discussing all the possible disciplining scenarios that can occur in your near future. For example you could say this: What if we are in church and our two year old decides to fall in the foyer in front of the pastor and throw a fit..what do WE do? Or our four year old is having a birthday party – what if he is rude to his little guests and won’t share…what do WE do?

Use the description I gave of authoritative parenting style as your guide, and come to a mutual agreement on how you would like to handle each situation.