Dear Grandma Maggie,
I am 20 years old and I have a 17-month-old daughter and a second child on the way. My husband and I are very excited about our second; we didn’t really get to enjoy our first due to family disputes and outright anger towards us. However this email does not concern my second pregnancy. It concerns my 17-month-old daughter, Liberty. See, my husband and I have totally different ideas of parenting. I believe a child should have stability and structure such as a bedtime, meals at certain times, a bath time and quiet time. Now I know my child is a little young for some of these things but my husband believes in natural parenting, meaning no structure, no discipline, really no anything. I have tried to talk to him, but it doesn’t help.
The worst part is he is only home on weekends as he is a truck driver so I’m left to deal with her alone during the week. This poses a problem as I can’t implement my ideas of parenting on weekends although I try. So from Monday to Wednesday I’m stuck with an unruly little brat and then Thursday and Friday she a little angel. When Daddy gets home Friday night it starts all over again. How can I change this from happening more and again with our second child?
I have tried his way when she was younger but all that accomplished was her becoming a cling-on and extremely whiney every time I leave her whether to go two feet away or to the store. I feel if I let this go on she will turn out to be a spoiled little brat. Also when she gets too out of hand for him and he can’t control the situation he yells at her like she is another adult. His 12-year-old daughter is proof of his bad parenting skills as all she does is sit on the couch watching stupid TV shows that my 17-month-old shouldn’t see and eating cereal out of the box. No matter what you ask her to do she refuses or puts up an argument which I know is somewhat expected. I guess I’m asking how to stop it from happening again with my 17-month-old.
Of course parenting styles and skills should be discussed before becoming parents. It might also be better if the negative words like ‘spoiled little brat’ and ‘stupid’ could be eliminated.
The word discipline means “to teach” and if a parent does not teach their children appropriate behavior, that could make those children unwelcome in social situations, and then the parents are to blame, not the children. Parents have to be able to be the person to enforce the rules, once in a while being able to risk being the bad guy. I know this must be hard when your husband is gone part of the week, but it is also his responsibility to all his children, as it is yours to any child in your home.
The rules you are trying to set down for your child are important as children feel secure when they know what to expect next, and in the long run they behave better. This is not a competition between you and your husband. It’s a matter of doing what is best for all three children.
If he is not mature enough to see that, then perhaps some family counseling would be helpful to help him understand exactly what it is that children need.