dad discipline


Hi Will,

My husband Chris and I have 7-year-old twins – a boy and a girl. They are both good kids but my husband lets our daughter get away with anything while he is very strict with our son.

I feel that we should discipline our kids the same way but my husband says that boys need more tough love.

As a guy, do you agree with him?

Tina, Atlanta


So, Chris is saying that his son needs more tough love. He’s saying that boys are naturally a little rougher than girls; therefore you have to be a little rougher on them. He’s saying that his father was tough on him and he’s glad because it helped turn him into the man he is today. He’s saying that a firm hander is more necessary when it comes to raising a son.

…And I’m telling you… it’s a crock!

He may be telling you that those are the reasons that he’s harder on your son. He may even believe it and there may be a tiny bit of truth to those reasons. But not nearly the whole truth. Here’s the rest of it.

When it comes to your daughter, your husband is a sucker: He’s not as hard on your daughter because he CAN’T be. Most dads can’t be, yeah, me included. It’s not that that we don’t want to, or that we don’t try; it just doesn’t come as naturally as it does with our sons. Fussing at my son seems to come as easy as it did when my pop fussed at me, but fussing at my daughter is more of a struggle. I still do it because I have to as a dad, but it’s harder to do, so I probably do it less. Is that a double standard? Absolutely.

We understand little boys because we were little boys: You know that little grin your son does when he’s trying to get away with something? Your mother-in-law has pictures of your husband doing that same grin. That thing your son’s voice does when he’s not telling the truth; your husband’s been trying to hide it in his own voice since he was six. As dads, we’re more aware of our son’s actions, reactions, thoughts, feelings and attitudes because we were just like them not very long ago; heck, some of us are still waiting to grow up. On the other hand, women, even tiny ones, are still a mystery. Chris knows all of your son’s “tells” so he just can’t get away with as much. Is that fair? Not really.

She’s a little version of you: She already has your eyes. She laughs like his sister did when they used to play together. Sometimes, he even sees just a little bit of his mother in her face. How in the world can you expect him to be tough to his own mother’s face? And here’s a little something you already know, but probably didn’t think applied here. MAN LAW-Men try to make women happy! It’s part of your hubby’s nature to keep her smiling, and try to make it all better for her. He puts up with more from his daughter than his son because he puts up with more from his sister than his brother and he puts up with more from his wife than he ever would his best friend (assuming his best friend’s a guy, and if not, I’m betting this would be a whole different letter).

So, what can you do about it? It’s a simple fix. All you have to do is take up the slack on the other side of the rope. And I’m betting that won’t be a problem. That little smile your daughter does to steam roll right over your husband? It won’t work on you, because you know it well. It’s the same one you used on YOUR father. And she’s not fooling you with that sweet act because, as a woman, you know that it’s really the girls that you have to keep an eye on, not that sweet little boy of yours. You husband thinks he’s tougher, but you know your baby boy is all heart. Those big soft eyes of his, they look just like your dad’s eyes… how could anybody ever be expected to fuss at him?

And so that’s probably how it goes in your house, definitely in mine. And there’s a good chance, in most houses around the world. Where do you think the terms “daddy’s girl” and “momma’s boy” came from? Exactly. We can’t completely fix the problem any more than the generations before us did, but at least now you know what to look for.

Tell your husband to watch for it and think about it before he starts in on your son, and ask him to do the same for you with your daughter. But the best solution would be to try to make as many discipline decisions as you can together as a team. Remember; it’s not you against Chris or even you and Chris against the kids. It’s your family against the next set of problems that come up. Good luck, and I hope I helped.

Will Jones

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.