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We have a 3 year old cautious and sensitive boy. My husband and I often have different opinions on parenting and sometimes it led to arguments. For some reason, my husband tends to listen to third parties more than me so I'm hoping experienced parents here could give us some suggestions.

My primary goal is to raise a happy child so I try to meet the boy's needs as long as it's not a discipline issue. I always think a child especially a sensitive one will be easy to become unhappy if he/she is often disposed to unhappy situations. My husband thinks child should be trained with some tough situations and should always listen to parents even if the parents are wrong. I figured it may be clear to list few cases that we disagreed with. By the way, I'm not seeking for answers of who is right or wrong, but suggestions of how to deal with similar types of situations more reasonably and properly.

1) One morning we were in a hurry to go to work. At the door the boy held a reusable piggy sticker from Melissa and Doug Sticker Pad and wanted to take it with him. My husband didn't let him because he thought it would be lost. The boy started to cry. But I thought it was not a big deal and let the boy go with it. My husband was very unhappy - he said I should support him to be consistent as he already said no.

2) My husband always teased the boy stating that the boy should be trained to get used to similar situations that may happen to him in the future. Being teased continuously, the boy said no first, then raised voice, and then yelled. I was very frustrated about it as I think the boy will get used to yell and be mad.

3) When the boy started to walk at early age, my husband didn't like the idea of protecting the boy from the sharp furniture edge/corners as he thought it's over protecting and wanted the boy to learn to avoid them. Although we did protect the edges/corners, I was totally speechless when hearing his reason.

4) Since the boy is 3 year old now, he understands a lot but still says no to us a lot of times. Many evenings it is a struggle to take the boy to brush teeth and have a bath. When the boy didn't want to do what we expected, I usually distracted him with other interesting talks and he would do it. But my husband simply grabbed him to the washroom and fighted to get things done. Of course the boy cried, screamed, and struggled. Last night the boy cried for few seconds while asleep "daddy, no. daddy no". I can't say 100% sure it's because of the struggle while having bath, but I'm afraid that it's related.

5) My husband is a game lover and I understand some people need gaming to relax. The only thing I don't agree is to teach/show such a young boy gaming. It's easy for kids to get addicted to it and I think it's important to help the young kids to develop good life habits while they are young.

Although we have a lot of disagreement on parenting, we both want to be good for the boy. Your valuable suggestions will be much appreciated.

  • Just checking. Are you in the UK? – user19912 Sep 29 '16 at 16:47
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    No, I'm in Canada – techmom Sep 29 '16 at 16:58
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    You asked this question with a co-parenting tag, yet there isn't any indication that this is a divorce/separation situation. Could you please clarify? – 200_success Oct 3 '16 at 19:59
  • @200_success oh, I didn't even think about that. When I typed in parenting for tag, this was the only one popped up. Now that you mentioned, I think it should be something else. – techmom Oct 4 '16 at 13:44
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    Actually I up voted this question because when my boy was 12 months old we had the same problem but we had to talk about how we would raise our son together without such conflicts. I fathom that mum's want to do everything for their kids to be safe and many other things, but problem is the baby will get attached to one parent. Take for instance if you go for a trip would he cop with dad? Those are things to consider. So let dad do stuff if he cries tell him it's dad's time to put you to do for example. Goodluck. – Madonah Syombua Nov 1 '16 at 21:49
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Here's my personal take on this...like you, my husband and I often disagree on parenting issues, and we have managed to work out some practices that help deal with these differences.

  1. I'd say your husband was correct in that you need to provide a unified front, especially on such minor issues. If you disagree with what he has said, you need to withdraw in order to discuss it out of earshot of your son. Then you need to decide what the policy is going to be going forward. After you decide, you can either come out and let your husband announce that "mommy and daddy have talked about it and we've decided you can take the sticker" OR you can announce "daddy is right, you might lose it and you'll have to leave it here so it can be safe".

    The important thing is to demonstrate to your son that the two of you are in harmony. Fighting in front of your kids is always a bad idea, unless you are able to come to an agreement without negative feelings, and I've only met one couple personally who is able to achieve this. Fighting in front of your son has two possible consequences. First, it can make your son feel unsafe. In this age of divorce-R-us fear of the stability of your home breaking up beneath your feet is a very real fear. Second, it teaches him that if he doesn't like the answer he's getting he can go to the other parent and get the first overruled. He'll take advantage of this and start playing mommy-vs-daddy games. This is normal, kids do it if they can, so just anticipate and head it off before it begins.

  2. Your husband is wrong, IMO. You are his parents. Your job is to support him and make the environment safe, not to model the unpleasant things that he will have to deal with outside the home. They will occur soon enough, and when they do he will be able to come to you for comfort and advice. He will not do this if he doesn't think you are on his side; you'll just be another hostile force in his life. When bad things happen, your job is to sympathize and make him feel loved, and discuss what to do if/when the situation occurs again. Telling him "I told you this would happen" or "toughen up, kid" is counterproductive and destructive to his trust.

  3. I'm seeing both sides on this one. Sharp corners are going to happen. If it is something that can actually harm him (like the edge of a glass table, metal spikes, etc) you should protect it but don't overdo it. Bumps happen. They cry, you hug them and distract and they move on. Covering every possible hazard sends the message that a child isn't safe even in his own home and may lead to anxieties.

  4. Very much disagree with your husband. Forcing a child and possiby frightening him is never good. Your tactic of distraction was the perfect thing to do. At that age, kids are just learning about the concept of "no" and they are trying it out and often falling in love with it :) It's harmless...just a stage. As long as you don't make a big issue of it, the stage will pass but if you turn every "no" into a battle, you will be teaching your child to resist you by reflex. Or you will damage his spirit and make him afraid to express himself.

  5. I'm taking your husband's side on this one, but I may be prejudiced because my entire family games :) It's one of the few things that I can do with my handicapped daughter which we both enjoy doing together. I'd say don't worry about "early addiction" and just treat this as a chance for together time for them. It might be that your husband is trying to find a way to connect with his son which is pleasurable for both of them. Please don't discourage this. Not everyone enjoys interacting with children in equal measure, sometimes you have to make some adjustment.

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    I agree 95% - re. gaming I would add that there is a difference between playing with the child (age-appropriate games etc.) and daddy playing while child watches. Unfortunately the latter is quite common.... – Stephie Sep 29 '16 at 18:57
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    I hadn't considered that, @Stephie, but you are right. If he is just using it as an excuse to get some gaming time in while his son is his responsibility, he's not being a responsible parent. It also isn't a good idea to leave a 3 year old playing video games by himself for long periods of time. They need more human interaction. I was thinking of games like World of Warcraft or Minecraft, which can be played as a team. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Sep 29 '16 at 20:56
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    Generally agreed except for #4. Three year olds tend to be contrary and sometimes you need to be firm with them. The father shouldn't grab the kid when it's the mother's responsibility to get him into the bath - he should let her use her own methods - but when it's the father's responsibility, picking up the kid and putting him in the bath is an acceptable approach. – Warren Dew Sep 30 '16 at 9:53
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    Thanks all for the suggestions! Probably it's because I already got the negative feeling towards my husband being gaming too much. We live in a small apartment and my husband's computer is in the living room. In most of his spare times he sits in front of the computer gaming or surfing. Our son is very interested about it. I've talked to my husband not to play games while the boy is around. He kind of listened. He does teach and play with the boy child appropriate games. Actually he himself plays a lot child appropriate games. – techmom Sep 30 '16 at 15:23
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    @techmom, I agree with you that non-electronic interaction would be best. Reading aloud, toys, etc. But if your husband spends a lot of time gaming it may be that he uses gaming as a stress reliever (because of my ADHD I retreat to the computer whenever I am stressing, it helps me to focus and relieves the stress) and he finds it difficult to interact with his son one-on-one. Is it easier to get him to interact if you join in? I often rely on my husband as a buffer when I want to connect with the kids. He's very good about facilitating without making me feel inadequate for needing help. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Sep 30 '16 at 17:41
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I would would make two changes to your approach.

First, you and your husband need to parent as a team. You need to coordinate on your general strategy in situations like the sticker situation - either you let the kid take things he might lose, and then let him learn that he loses things sometimes if he takes them, or you proactively keep him from taking things that he might lose - but don't wait until the situation comes up and argue back and forth in the kid's presence. One thing that might help would be to make it clear which parent is in immediate charge of the child in each situation, then give that parent authority to make the detailed decisions in line with the approach you've generally agreed on.

Second, you need to recognize that the parents' job includes both protection and support, and also preparation for the child to live more independently as the child gets older. Parental teasing is okay as long as it's friendly and helps the child learn coping strategies, but it's not okay if the child protests or breaks down in tears - the child needs to know that the parents support him and are a source of safety, not stress. If your furniture has unusually sharp edges, they should be protected or you should get different furniture, but normal square edges on finished wooden furniture the child needs to get used to, and that will involve some bumps and bruises.

Mostly you and your husband need to discuss these things and agree on general guidelines. It can be difficult to find time to talk with a kid around, so get a babysitter sometimes and go out and talk with just your husband on these issues. And realize that both of you are going to have to make compromises to your preferred approaches - you're going to have to give in sometimes too.

  • Thanks Warren. I agree that I should work as a team with my husband and we ever talked about it but didn't work well. Your idea of "make it clear which parent is in immediate charge of the child in each situation" is good. I'll grab my husband to read this post :) – techmom Sep 30 '16 at 14:47
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" I always think a child especially a sensitive one will be easy to become unhappy if he/she is often disposed to unhappy situations. My husband thinks child should be trained with some tough situations and should always listen to parents even if the parents are wrong." In this, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Children are going to experience negative emotions, and they can occur frequently. The more often they occur the more opportunities your child has to learn adjustment and resilience. That said, I think those things occur naturally. Life presents those situations daily, on it's own. The parent should not be the source of that unnecessarily. There will be times when the parent is the necessary source of negative (for example, my daughter would have a conniption every time I washed her hair, but that must happen on a fairly regular basis. I didn't back off because she wailed, but I didn't make it more traumatic than necessary either. I would empathize with her feelings, but assure her it was important and had to happen).

If your husband likes outside sources, ask if he will listen to Setting Limits for Your Strong-Willed Child with you. The book is the most balanced book on child-rearing I've read. Your child doesn't have to be strong-willed for it to be of value-> it's a wonderful book for all parents. My partner and I were having some difference of opinions over parenting and I asked if he would listen to it. We actually listened separately, but in the same time period, and then discussed it. We both loved it, and by asking him to read the book we could then discuss the book rather than getting caught up in emotional arguments about things that were already sore discussions. We listened on audio - trust me I know as a parent you sometimes don't have all the sit-down reading time you want :)

I agree with Francine accept when the action of the other parent seems abusive. Disagreeing with him about the sticker is a way to teach your son disrespect for both of you. If, on the other hand he's rough, I think it's okay to gently stand up to your husband. My boyfriend used to pick my daughter up abruptly enough to startle me, and I would simply tell him so. I didn't start fights about it, I just let him know that it startled me, and I could relate to her anger at it. Even then, I would save the adult side of that discussion for when she was out of earshot. Thankfully I've never dealt with anyone being more physically or verbally aggressive toward her than that. However, if it ever did come up - that there was name calling, physical, or emotional abuse I would say something, in front of her. Outside of those situations I agree with Francine. Take disagreements about parenting out of the room. Perhaps, if emotions tend to run high, rehearse taking those conversations out of the room with your husband. You may both need time to cool down before discussion. But doing these things will pay off in the moment and have the added benefit of teaching your child to honor emotions without impulsively acting on them. By modeling in highly emotional moments that you and your spouse will cool down first, then talk, and then act you will teach him to do the same.

  • Thank you for the suggestions. My son is sort of strong-willed. That's why I always tried to talk him into doing something instead of forcing him. I'll check out the book soon. Thanks again. – techmom Sep 30 '16 at 14:55
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There is probably more room for common ground than you think, if you can both step back and analyze situations rationally.

  1. I find it funny that your husband wanted to let your child learn about furniture corners the hard way, but wanted to protect your child from losing some stickers. Losing stickers would be no big deal for adults, and a lifelong lesson for a child. "Daddy thinks it is a bad idea to take the stickers out of the house, because he thinks they could easily get lost, and then you might be unhappy. If you leave them here, they'll still be here when we get home. If you lose them, we're not buying you another. What do you think?" Let the child decide, and whatever happens, happens. But don't overrule the other parent unilaterally.

  2. Teasing is inappropriate when done by kids to other kids. It's even worse when done by adults to kids, due to the power imbalance. Setting a bad example would teach your child to disrespect you and other kids. Please tell him to cut it out.

    (One narrow exception: If you live in a very rough neighborhood, then toughening up might be a survival skill. But that would be one of the unfortunate costs of being poor, where disadvantages pile up.)

  3. He does have a point (no pun intended) that pain is a useful feedback mechanism that exists for a reason. The danger from furniture is on a different scale than the danger from, say, kitchen knives. Why are you "totally speechless"? That reaction deserves some self-examination.

  4. If you think you can handle the bedtime routine better, then that would be a win-win-win situation. "See, daddy has already bathed and brushed his teeth. I'm going to do your bath now, while daddy relaxes with some gaming before he goes to bed." If your gentle method works, then everyone wins! But if it doesn't, then prepare to be equally strict about getting it done, else you will lose credibility with both your husband and your son.

  5. Gaming can be OK, and can even be beneficial in developing hand-eye coordination and reflexes. Some modern game systems involve more physical activity than pressing buttons on a controller. Make sure it's age-appropriate and time-limited.

  • Thank you so much for the comments! My husband is watching this posts as well and I believe he will stop teasing the boy from now on. Regarding gaming, I do agree that it's beneficial to some extent, and I let them play together sometimes at weekend. Maybe I should have said more precisely - I don't like though during weekdays when the boy only had an hour or so to play and it's occupied by computer gaming (we got back home at 6:30pm, have dinner at 7pm, and bath at 8pm or 8:30pm). – techmom Oct 4 '16 at 14:13

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