“My kids treat myself and my husband very differently. They seem to respect him more… he only has to say things once to get what he wants from them. They seem more needy and whiny around me. Any advice?”
That sounds a lot like what goes on in our own home. Our two have two different behavior patterns based on which parent they’re around. This seems pretty typical across the board. Kids even do this between parents and teachers for instance. I know of a few kids who are terrible at home, but are the best students a teacher could ask for. I’ve given this a lot of thought and have come to some conclusions as to why kids are different around one parent verses the other.
1. Moms and Dads provide needs differently.
In our home Mom is the primary provider of food and care. Dad is the primary provider of fun and chores. The kids don’t typically come to me when they’re hungry. They don’t typically go to Jenn when they’re wanting to be thrown up in the air or tickled. That results in a different set of behaviors automatically. Approaching Mom when they’re hungry feels and looks a lot different than coming to Dad for some fun.
2. Moms and Dads discipline differently.
In my home I tend to be the primary disciplinarian. I tend to be a bit more demanding as I expect my children to respond the first time I request something. Jennifer is a bit softer and seems more willing to put up with excess whining or complaining. Kids know which parent they can ‘get away’ with such things and which they can’t.
I don’t believe you’re ever going to get kids to act exactly the same around each parent… nor would you want the to. Kids need both types of parents and the differences they provide. I find that Jennifer and I balance one another out quite a bit. Without her influence, I would tend to be to tough and demanding. Without my help, the kids might just run all over her. That being said, there are some things that should be consistent between parents.
1. Kids Should Equally Respect Both Parents
In our home it is my job to make sure my kids understand that my wife is to be respected and obeyed as much they do me. I literally had to sit down with our daughter and explain my relationship to her Mother and how much I love her… and that treating Mommy right is more important to me than the way my daughter treated me.
2. Kids Should Equally Obey Both Parents
Moms and Dads can get more consistent obedience from their kids by establishing constant expectations, limits and consequences. Kids act differently between parents because expectations and limits are different. Face it, if you spank… Dad’s spank harder… mom’s spank more. It’s different and garners a different behavior.
Sit down with your spouse and share what works and doesn’t work about discipline in your home. Share tips and tricks that you use to get what you want from your kids. Establish minimum requirements for behavior so that you both will know when to step in and correct behavior. Set up a series of escalating consequences for bad behavior that you both will follow. When discipline is consistent, behavior is consistent.
For more information on discipline check out an 8-part mini-series I did called Proper Discipline in Children’s Ministry. It’s written for children’s ministers… but the concepts apply at home even more than in the church setting.