The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 052 · Duration: 00:11:36



My Husband Undermines My Parenting

It’s hard enough when you have a control battle with your teenagers, but what do you do if you have a control battle with your spouse too? Today we’re hearing from Toni, a Mom from Boston Massachusetts.

Toni writes,

I’ve read your book and I listen to your podcasts and they are spot on for our situation. My daughter and son, 16 and 13, are good kids, but both are quite challenging in there own ways. I want them to apply themselves in school and to invest in healthy activities. Right now my daughter is getting C’s and B’s with an occasional D. She has a lot of friends and she will hang out with them and be on her phone all day and night if we let her. My son has to be pried from his games to get him to do his work, which he can do easily, but could care less about. Here’s my problem, while I want them both to do better, my husband says they are just being teenagers and I should back off since they are good kids. How can I end a Control Battle with my kids if I’m in a Control Battle with my husband? He says that he didn’t apply himself in high school either and he turned out all right. How can I convince him that we need to hold our teenagers to higher standards? How can I get out of all these Control Battles in my life?

This is a common dilemma Toni, I see it in my office every day, so thanks for bringing this issue up.

The Control Battle can be complex and take many forms. Sometimes it’s helpful to think of it as choreography. In situations I’ve worked with like yours a common choreography is:

  • Kids under perform,
  • Mom gets upset and sets limits,
  • Dad thinks Mom is too uptight and won’t back her up,
  • Mom gets defeated, doubts herself and backs off.
  • Then, Mom puts up with under performance until it hits a new low,
  • Mom gets upset, Dad agrees kids need to shape up,
  • Kids improve slightly for a short period of time.
  • The dance goes on.

Toni, I don’t know if this is exactly your situation but I’ll bet some elements are accurate.

When One Parent Undermines The Other

Here are some basic principles that I think are important for all families and then we can talk about how to apply them in your situation.

The first principle is:

  1. If parents disagree about whether or not a child can do an activity, the child cannot have permission unless they both agree.
  2. If parents disagree about an acceptable standard, then the child is accountable to the higher standard.

Some of you may be thinking, Neil: What if the parent with the higher standards has unreasonably high standards? What if they are unreasonably restrictive?

Then, parents need to take that conversation off-line, and if they can’t resolve it, they need to get therapy and address it together. But parents should not undermine each other’s authority with the kids.

Parents should not undermine each other's authority with their kids. Click To Tweet

Toni, It sounds like that’s what’s happening in your family: you are being undermined. Now the question is why. My guess is that this is a long-standing pattern with you and your husband.

Your husband could be hard to get through to. He might be strongly attached to being a “nice guy” and has to play that role with the kids.

It might be that you carry around significant self-doubt, so when you get push back, you give in. It might be that because you allow others to discount you and over-step your boundaries, that when you set limits, you do it with frustration and emotion. Your family is responding to your tone and not the message. It becomes a way to discount your message and your limits. It may be a combination of those elements or maybe some I haven’t mentioned.

So, if you want to turn things around, let’s start by building a more empowered you. An empowered you will have a positive vision of your terrific kids and your well-meaning husband. Now, you will need to have a positive vision of yourself and believe that your standards and expectations are not only reasonable, but vital to your teenagers’ development.

Your standards and expectations are not only reasonable, but vital to your teenagers’ development.Click To Tweet

It’s Time To Implement A Change

Toni, you might be in burnout from worrying so much, trying so hard and not getting support or results. If that’s the case, first take care of yourself. Where can you get personal support? What can you do to get calm and de-stress? Once you are on a healthy emotional place, you can take some steps forward.

You’ll want to be clear about what your expectations are. They can include:

  • Limits on when kids have access to their devices
  • Quality of their schoolwork
  • Involvement in healthy non-academic activity such as music, art, sports, or performing arts
  • Home responsibilities

Make 100% sure that you aren’t going to allow yourself to end up in an argument or an emotional discussion with your husband or your kids. Expect resistance, because when you change your participation in a pattern, others will keep trying to bring you back into it, except this time, you aren’t going there.

You may need to take control of devices and you can do this by simply turning off the Wi-Fi or going to your cell phone carrier and suspending your daughter’s data plan. That will let your family know that you actually mean what you say. You aren’t going to argue. You aren’t going to fight. Your limits and expectations are real. You are happy for your kids to have their privileges, and I mean privileges not entitlements, they simply have to have their priorities straight.

Set the standard & stick with it: in order for your children to have privileges, they need to have their priorities straight. Click To Tweet

When your husband intervenes on their behalf, simply tell him that you want the kids to be happy just like him, and you want the kids to like you just like they like him. But, your first obligation is doing what’s best for them. It’s okay if he has different standards and values than you, but you are going to hold them to yours since you are a parent too.

Perform A Parental Self-Check

Listeners, I want all of you to ask yourself this question:

Where am I giving away my power? What would be different if I had a more positive outlook and brought my best thinking, my highest standards, set limits and eliminated self-doubt?

My guess is that, overall, you will be more effective, less resentful, happier and everyone around you will respect and appreciate you. Don’t take my word for it; give it a try!

Thanks for tuning in today everyone and a special thanks to Toni from Boston, Massachusetts for her question.

If you have a question you’d like me to address on this podcast, don’t be shy, I’m sure plenty of other folks will benefit from your question! Feel free to submit yours here

And please, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.


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