How Disciplining My Child Changed My Marriage

“Get in the car or I’m going to lose my ever-living mind!!”

Toddlers push buttons. Some toddlers are super master-level craze-inducing minions {balanced with being perfect angels of course}. We had two toddlers in the house, and they took turns melting down, flipping out, bolting off in parking lots, throwing out of this world fits, and obstinately standing in a corner refusing to GET. IN. THE. CAR.

Most all of us have been there. {I see you, mama!}

And generally, I get the support of my husband who also lives out these intensely frustrating parenthood episodes with me. However, one day we have found we weren’t a united front in addressing toddler tantrums.

The Good Cop, Bad Cop, and Godzilla Approach

Disciplining children was something we talked about before we actually had kids. We gave ourselves a big ol’ pat on the back and checked that “must discuss” topic off our list. We moved right along to retirement accounts.

Then life got busy.

And busier.

My general approach, that I thought loosely mimicked what my parents did for me and my three siblings, rang of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in Rush Hour. I scolded, pleaded, and begged incessantly while side-eyeing my under-the-radar husband to swoop in handle up.  Some times he came to my rescue and other times I was just mom prattling on…again. 

Until either me or my husband reared up, developed ugly monster face, and snarled scarily at the offending kid(s). Godzilla generally evoked tears and made the kids retreat far, far away, but hey, at that point, we’d take that result.

The Day the Vacation Ended

Disciplining didn’t become an issue again until it was an ISSUE. We went on vacation, and the scoreboard clearly favored the toddler team of two. Parents were decidedly down in the count. But this is how it works right? Toddlers throw tantrums. Kids have meltdowns when they are over-tired. We start off happy sun, and then all lose our collective minds right around lunch time, cause a very public scene in the resort pool area, and then retreat to our cramped hotel room to regroup {or privately vent all of frustrations until we passout}. 

My husband thought differently.

He thought that life didn’t have to be this way, and I was not addressing the problem.

Say what?

I was the only one begging, pleading, bargaining, and giving bribes to toddlers! How dare he?

Taking the Time to Realign

My husband researched disciplining methods and bought a couple of books. He sought advice on how to handle strong-willed children. I dug my feet in and said what I’m currently doing is working and normal. In my mind having daily battles was a rite of passage. Besides, I did not have time to learn a new skill.  I was maxed out navigating my toddlers’ fits!

I felt entitled to be right because I thought I was doing the heavy lifting. {Not literally though. My husband was usually the Jackie Chan swooping in kung fu style to carry off an obstinate toddler from the restaurant parking lot.}

Despite my resistance, my husband was able to impart some wise nuggets that he picked up along the way. I took a deep breath, slowed down, and noticed that how I apply continuous improvement to other areas of my life were missing in my approach to disciplining and setting boundaries for my kids. Following what I perceived to be my parents’ style and what I thought my husband and I clearly aligned on in our pre-parenthood days was not a thoughtful approach. It was reactive and instinctive.

Likewise, he did not have the right tools to deal with these toddler flare-ups. 

We regrouped and plotted out a new deliberate plan of action.

Being Deliberate

The lesson for us as a family was that we have ingrained habits that should be questioned and looked at newly.  The reality is that life does get busy. We stray off the course of where we would ideally like to be. Marriage and parenthood both require these forced stops to reassess and be deliberate in a new approach. Otherwise, we may find ourselves very “right”, but not very happy.

Suggested Resources for Setting Boundaries & Discipline

Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child by Robert J. MacKenzie

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Parenting With Love & Logic by Foster Cline & Jim Fay

The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears by Elizabeth Pantley

Resources for Moms at the End of Their Rope

Moms, you are not alone. We have all had those days that life has pushed us too far. Please reach out and ask for help. Here are some resources::

Mental Health of America Greater Houston/ YCMF

Kristin Brooks Hope Center
Suicide Hotline:  (800) 784-2433
Since the suicide of his wife Kristin in April 1998, KBHC Founder Reese Butler has made it his life’s mission to offer help and hope, and the option to live, to those in the deepest emotional pain.

What are your favorite books or methods for disciplining children?

Comment below and help your fellow moms out!


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