Teaching Our Boys Responsibility (While Keeping Mom Happy)
Question: I try to teach my son a sense of discipline and faithfulness to duty and commitment, but my wife often discourages this, saying I am being too hard. How do I do what I think should be done, yet also honor my wife’s perspective?
Answer: Dads, this is an important question.
This is really quite a common concern with many couples – seeing such situations differently – and it actually provides a good healthy balance for our sons and daughters. I deal with this topic in depth in Chapter 10 of my book, Secure Daughters, Confident Sons (Operators are standing by!), but it comes down to understanding the generally different ways that mothers and fathers encourage responsibility and discipline in their kids.
Moms have a greater tendency to protect their children from the harms and difficulties of the world. Nothing wrong with that, for they need that protection. Dads typically want to make sure their kids – both boys and girls – are prepared for the harms and difficulties they are likely to encounter in the world. Now, preparing kids for these harms can be dicey because, well, it requires dealing with the possibility that they might actually face these harms. Most dads probably don’t need to show a 6-year-old son how to kill a rattlesnake, then tell him to try it for himself. But helping him learn to defend himself from a schoolyard bully is good.
In some situations, Mom will have to understand that it’s important for Dad to teach your children these skills. And Dad needs to be sensitive to Mom’s concerns and work together to make sure both are comfortable with a particular lesson.
In this particular case, it is important for children to learn that they need to follow through with their responsibilities and commitments. Some parents tend to make excuses for their kids, such as “he had a bad day at school,” or “she’s tired from not sleeping well last night.” It’s true that kids need this kind of grace once in a while, but Dad is more likely to say, “Hate it for you, but you have to do what is expected of you.”
At moments like this, Mom should realize that children need to experience a father’s gentle but firm directives. After all, you are trying to prepare your kids for the real world. A police officer will generally accept your excuse for speeding when you’re taking your buddy to the hospital because he cut his hand off with a band saw. (Showing him the severed hand usually helps.) The officer will likely not demonstrate the same understanding when you gently explain that you’re in a hurry because the football game is on in 10 minutes.
Children need to realize there are consequences for not doing the right thing at the right time. But they also need to know that Dad will cut them some slack here and there. Recognize as parents that there are times when Dad needs to let Mom comfort the children and sometimes make allowances for circumstances.
Bottom line: Kids need what both mothers and fathers have to offer. At the same time, parents need to understand that they will likely experience conflict simply because of how men and women are wired. Moms and dads need to work out those differences – always keeping in mind their children’s temperaments.