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How to Create a Unified Discipline Strategy

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Do you and your spouse agree on discipline? Is one of you softer than the other?

Before I became a mother, I never wanted the words “wait until your father gets home” to fly out of my mouth. Those words meant admitting defeat, and they certainly weren’t creating a unified discipline strategy.

When my kids misbehaved in my presence, I wanted to be the one to handle the situation. I didn’t want my kids to be scared of their father or to think that I was incapable of disciplining them.

Fast forward to the present (two kids and a farmer-husband later), and I’ve actually wanted to say those words.

The farmer is a tougher parent than I am. If the kids color on the walls, he simply has to look at them and they’ll hang their heads. Meanwhile, I’m the type that says, “Oh, you colored on the walls? That’s ok. Have a cookie!”

Whether you’re a total pushover, like me, or the “tough parent,” like the farmer, it’s important to create a unified front. When you have different parenting styles, creating that unified front is the tricky part. Here are five steps that can help you create a unified discipline strategy in your house:

1. Discuss your experiences with parenting

Chances are, you and your spouse were raised differently. Maybe one of you was raised in a household with a hands-off discipline policy. Maybe one of you was raised in a strict household. Regardless of your upbringing, it’s important to learn where the other parent is coming from.

Some points to talk about:

  • How was your spouse disciplined as a child?
  • How did that differ from your upbringing?
  • What did both of you like (and dislike) about your parents’ discipline techniques?

2. Consider your parenting styles

In addition to your parenting experiences and upbringing, your personality will play a large role in your parenting style. You and your spouse may have completely different personalities (and that’s ok). Talk about how you feel comfortable parenting. What does your ideal parent look like?

There’s a great list of parenting styles on Mom Junction. Compare your parenting style to your spouse’s and discuss the following:

  • How are your parenting styles similar?
  • How are they different?
  • Is there a way to blend both of your parenting styles into one so that you’re both comfortable?

3. Create a list of house rules

As a family, create a list of house rules. Things like “treat each other with respect” and “help with household chores” are great starting points. You’ll open the doors for an excellent conversation, and you may be surprised by the results!

4. Develop a list of consequences

You may have heard the phrase, “the punishment should fit the crime.” This is true in disciplining children, too. If your five-year-old hits his baby sister, the consequences should be different than if your five-year-old forgot to make his bed.

Discuss some discipline techniques with your spouse, and come up with a few that you both feel comfortable using. If you don’t agree with spanking but your spouse does, find an alternative that you can both agree on, like “taking a time out.”

Once you and your spouse have agreed on some discipline tactics and consequences, involve your children. Refer to your list of house rules and get their feedback. What do they think should happen if they tattle or hit their sibling? What if they don’t do their chores?

5. Research other parenting techniques

If all else fails, read a parenting book together or research different parenting techniques. One of my favorite books about discipline (you can read my review here) is Parenting with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Foster Cline, M.D. It gives you an arsenal of ideas to make parenting fun while training your kids to be responsible people.

In the end, it’s not about which parenting style is “better.” Creating a unified disciple strategy is about raising your kids well and showing them that mommy and daddy love and support them. Kids crave structure and they want to feel secure, but if your discipline strategy is the polar opposite of your spouse’s, they won’t know what to expect. They may even end up revolting and not paying attention to either discipline strategy.

By creating a unified discipline strategy, you will help raise secure, happy kids. By considering your parenting experiences, discussing your preferred parenting style, creating a list of rules and consequences, and researching other ideas, you’ll create a unified front that your kids will understand.


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Wednesday 10th of February 2016

I think unity and consistency are more important than style! Excellent post.

Alison Lange

Friday 12th of February 2016

Thanks, Helene!

Anna Welliver

Wednesday 10th of February 2016

I am a step mom and my husband and I have a hard time with discipline. I know it is different for biological parents but I think that this should be implemented in with my situation because kids do need stability and respect no matter who the parents are. Thank you for this post!!

Alison Lange

Friday 12th of February 2016

I agree, Anna! Thanks for sharing your perspective.


Tuesday 9th of February 2016

This is really great advice. I think it's important to switch the "bad cop"/"good cop" roles too, so that one parent isn't always coming off as the strict one while the other is always perceived as easy-going. Keep the little buggers guessing! But most importantly, like you said, it's the united front that matters and in the end, makes the kids feel secure.

Alison Lange

Tuesday 9th of February 2016

Good point on switching the "good cop"/"bad cop" roles! Thanks, Lori!