Monday, April 12, 2010

Getting My Husband On Board?

The Question:
Dear Jane,

First off- thank you so much for the time you spend on answering so many questions.
I really admired your letter to your readers. I really want to focus more on my relationship with my children as opposed to just disciplining like you wrote about. My question for you is how do I get my husband on board without sounding like I am nagging and wanting him to do things "my way"? I have been wanting to talk to him about changing our disciplinary ways with our children for a few days now, but I can't seem to find the right time or words to express to him how important this is to me. How did you and your husband work together?

The Answer:
Dear Jamee,
It was kind of a funny thing with us.  When our oldest children were young, my bible was "Children the Challenge" by Rudolf Dreikurs.    It is based on natural consequences.  It made sense and I had to train my husband in all of its ways.  We would sit around and brainstorm about appropriate consequences for various offenses.  We got pretty adept at natural consequences, but as I've mentioned before, I felt uneasy about the "outward vs. inward" motivations involved.  As I became converted to the loving approach and became more and more excited about it, I had the job of convincing my husband that we needed to scrap the old method.   He was really skeptical-- because in theory, it sounds permissive, inconsistent and ineffective.  But I started using it and pointing out the successes and little by little, he became a believer. 
I'd have to say though, that even after all these years, we're really different in our styles.  Neither of us are harsh but we don't handle things in exactly the same way.  I think that's ok.  Children really seem to adapt to and even benefit from those differences.
I suggest that you just ease into new ways of doing things and discuss them as you go along.  Explain the theories behind a loving approach and then try it out.  My good friend has recently had to go back to school, and her husband primarily cares for the children.   She told me that one day her husband was trying to resolve a conflict between two children.  Instead of punishing the perpetrator (which he would have done before), he focused on the injured child, assuring him that no harm was meant.  The guilty child looked on for a few moments, then ran forward and apologized--on his own.  The father was surprised and excited to see this apology without any outside prompting.  He began to catch the vision of the whole approach.
It's not a change that can be made overnight.  But as you both see positive results and talk about them, you'll likely move in this direction together.
All my love,


  1. A friend told me about this blog and I have LOVED spending a few hours reading through the advice, opinions and stories you have to share. Thanks so much for being so detailed, not too cheesy or preachy! This was a great question b/c my husband has not been as excited about the information I am gaining as I had hoped. I am going to try to teach by example the things you are talking about. Discipline is always a tricky subject with couples, but I think that there can be a good balance. Thanks so much.

  2. I have only been doing the loving parenting for a month or so since I discovered this blog. Immediately I told my husband about it, and hit on the big points - developing their conscious, not paying for their misdeeds with a consequence, fostering the relationship, as Jane has said. He was a little skeptical, but it made sense to him. I picked out my favorite phrases Jane has said (I can tell Jane you majored in English - your answers are well-written), and they make sense and ring true.

    But when it comes to applying it, it is another story. I, for the most part, have switched over really easily. I still slip sometimes, but what I like about this approach vs love and logic (natural consequences), is you don't have to brainstorm ideas, as Jane said. I would call my sister with love and logic, "What should I do" and we'd think of creative ideas. Not that it's not good to get advice, which is why we all write in to Jane, but just the creativity behind it, it's hard to come up with effective consequences. With this approach it's so easy. How would I like to be treated? That is so much easier for me to think of right on the spot. And if I can't think of anything else, I just think, "It's all about the relationship."

    Anyway, so my husband sort of agrees, but when he asks nicely and something doesn't happen the way he wants, he goes back to the old ways, "One, two..." (Note: I only do this next part because he really is trying to do the loving approach, so I wouldn't do this to undermine his authority), but sometimes here I step in, pick up the offending child, snuggle with him in the corner, and talk to him. I tell him I love him, and we discuss the offense. And he comes back genuinely sorry. Or, depending on what's been going on, I distract him out of the tantrum (he's 3). Anyway, I try to keep it positive. Every time my husband sees this, he is agreeing more, and learning, and getting better himself.

    This is just from my short time doing this, but my experience.

  3. I too had a hard time convincing my husband to jump on the love approach train. I read the book, read all the posts and comments, pondered and discussed it with my friends and mom, and finally got the nerve up to talk to my husband about it. He comes from a VERY strict and structured home, and consequently does not have the same type of open and deep relationship with his parents that I want to have with our children.

    I am the primary care-giver for our 2 year old daughter, Leah, so I knew that even if he didn't agree I was still going to do it. (I am lousy at consequences and punishment!) He listened to my points, and understood some of the connections and benefits. He said that if that's what I want to do, thats fine with him. I was totally relieved, until he said that "as long as she knows that we are the boss and no means no." Apparently I didn't explain it well enough! ;)

    But I changed my approach with Leah a few months ago, and I started to see benefits within a few days. We had some setbacks, but after about a month, she and I had really got into the groove of things. I am now able to deal with situations the right way, and have him watch her reaction and see how great she is, and I can tell that he is sold on it. It doesn't come natural to him, but I can tell that he is watching me and learning, and a few times I have caught him mimicking my parenting style with her, and it melts my heart. Things have been wonderful, and their relationship has improved IMMENSELY. For my husband, seeing was believing.

    Depending on how in depth you want to go with him about it, I would just say, "I've been trying (or want to try) this new parenting style for a few weeks that I've been reading about. If it works, I think I would like to talk about it more in depth with you, if not, we'll go back to the old ways."

    Good luck!

  4. First of all, thank you so much for this blog! I am a mother of 2 young children (2 years and 8 months) and plan to have lots and lots more. This has been a great resource so far.

    I'm SO glad you mentioned "Children The Challenge"! It's been the book we've been trying to use (all of my in-laws swear by it and I do think it has some practical advice in it), but I've had a hard time with some of it. I was actually going to send you a question asking if you'd heard of that book. I'm so happy you know it and still decided to go with the loving approach! I'm excited to continue to follow your blog and learn more about it.


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