Different Takes on Discipline
Q: My wife is such a softie when it comes to our 3-year-old daughter. She is very nurturing but a little too giving when it comes to raising our little one. By giving, I mean, she seems to give our daughter whatever she wants when she starts crying whereas I don't want to end up with a spoiled brat. I don't mind listening to her cry, but my wife accuses me of being "insensitive" and complains that our daughter may begin to resent me. Personally I think that's a bit harsh, considering I'm only doing this for my child's own good. What might you suggest? I think my wife is just being a little too overprotective.-Justin, 31
Dr. Anna: Boundaries and discipline are important parts of raising happy, healthy kids. But so are love and flexibility. The trick is finding a balance and keeping it fair and predictable. Talk with your wife about coming up with some clear rules consequences that are age appropriate for your daughter and work together to enforce these. Reasonable consequences for a three year old are things like temporarily losing a toy privilege or 3 minutes of time out.
Communicate your expectations clearly to your daughter, so that all three of you are on the same page. She is three, so she is going to need a lot of reminders, and that is perfectly normal. When she breaks a rule be sure to enforce the consequence, otherwise you do risk raising a kid with no boundaries and a sense of entitlement. But be sure to avoid punishment when the rule wasn't clearly broken. Punishing a child for a rule they did not know about or understand will lead to a lack of trust and resentment. Parenting is always a work in progress. Keep doing your best and working as a team, and you'll get through it in one piece.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.