(The Root) —
“I don’t like the way my husband disciplines my 9-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. He doesn’t speak down to her or hit her or anything, but he seems unnecessarily hard on her sometimes by taking away her electronics or TV access for long periods of time or restricting her activities excessively. He doesn’t have any children yet and insists that he would discipline the children we have together the same way, but there’s no way to tell because, again, we don’t have children together. I asked him to let me handle any discipline from now on and told my daughter that would be the case. I was trying to solve the problem, and instead it started a big argument with my husband. I want to respect my husband, but I also want my daughter to be treated fairly. What do I do?”
Disciplining children is a common point of disagreement between partners, and it’s even trickier in blended families like yours, where there is a nonbiological parent taking on the full-time responsibility of raising a child. From your letter, it’s clear that you are frustrated (and your husband is, too). But the good news is, with improved communication between the two of you and your daughter, this can be fixed.
I’m going to guess that since you married him, your husband is a good guy who wants the best for your daughter, just as you do. It’s time for a candid conversation to fix the discord between the two of you. You have two major issues to address: disciplining your daughter and fixing the rift that you caused by pushing him out of a necessary family dynamic.
Even when parents disagree, it’s important that they put up a united front … well, in front of the kids. As the child of parents who were all too aware when they didn’t see eye to eye, I learned early how to exploit it to my advantage, which only caused more problems (more so for them than for me, but still). By taking away your husband’s ability to discipline and informing your daughter of this, you’ve undermined his position in the household. No adult would take kindly to that.