Fathers and Sons with Mothers in the Middle

Fathers and Sons with Mothers in the Middle
If you’re a mother, then this article will resonate with you. If you’re a father, then this article will *definitely* resonate with you. The topic of fathers and sons, and their interactions with them, and how mothers react to those same interactions, is a tricky one in many households.

The simple fact of the matter is that fathers and mothers interact differently with their sons - sometimes vastly differently. There are mothers who can be very tough with their sons. In many houses, mothers are the primary disciplinarians. In some families, obviously, mothers play the roles of both father and mother, and, thus, this article does not have as much relevance for them. In many households, though, the following scenario should sound remarkably familiar:

Son (of any age) misbehaves. Father calls Son on his misbehavior in what Mother perceives to be an excessively harsh tone or manner. Mother tries to bite her tongue (sometimes), realizing that it is best if she and Father appear as a unified team, speaking as one voice. But then Father keeps haranguing poor Son. Mother just can’t help herself when she sees her baby being pushed to the limit. She gently, or not so gently, as the case may be, suggests to Father that their son gets the point now, and perhaps they can all move on.

Oops. Perhaps Mother knows she has erred before the words are even out of her mouth. Perhaps it takes a dirty look from Father or a grateful look from Son to bring that key point home. Maybe the family dynamic is such that this situation is just par for the course, and everyone goes about the business of the day. Whatever the result of this one particular encounter, damage has been done, and, depending on how often this scenario is repeated, will continue to be done.

Strong and successful parenting depends on unity between the parents. It is crucial for each parent to back the other up in any disciplinary situation, no matter how small, each and every time. The minute your son senses a crack in the parental unit, he will exploit it mercilessly until you and your husband become adversaries, rather than advocates. All of a sudden, you are left wondering what happened. Your best friend and strongest ally has become your adversary, and, somehow, your son has become your ally. Clearly, this situation is not as it should be. For the sake of your family’s sanity and happiness, remediation is required!

First of all, don’t fret. All is definitely not lost, and it is never too late to get back on track. Before any more time has passed, though, sit down with your son’s father and agree that each of you will support the other in all disciplinary situations in front of your son. Absent abuse, neither parent will contravene the other in front of a child. If there is disagreement about how a situation was handled, that disagreement can be discussed at a later time, behind closed doors. As far as your son knows, though, both of you are on the same page at all times.

If your son appeals to you directly for help, gently but firmly tell him that his father has already addressed the issue, and that you agree with his father. Your son needs to understand that, however things might have operated in the past, they will be different going forward. Similarly, though, you and your husband both need to have an understanding with each other that situations involving your son are open for discussion behind closed doors. Attitudes of, “It’s done now; we’re not talking about it” won’t work. Both parents need to feel as if they have a say in the discipline of their son. Feelings of powerlessness will not result in a peaceful and united family any more than parents arguing in front of their children will.

This advice seems like a vast oversimplification for what is really a very real problem. The fact is, though, that merely not interfering in disciplinary matters in front of your son really does work. It can change the dynamic of your family, and it can do so relatively quickly. Discuss with your son’s father the changes you would like to implement, and then give them a try this week. You may be surprised at the benefits that accrue to your family!

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Content copyright © 2022 by Laura Delgado, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Laura Delgado, Ph.D.. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Laura Delgado, Ph.D. for details.