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Struggling with husband over parenting

Community Member

Hi everyone,

I've been struggling a lot in my marriage lately as my husband & I have different parenting styles with our 2.5 year old. He is much more of a disciplinarian (doesn't put up with much) where as I am a little more easy going. I still discipline, however not as quickly or forcefully as I should (according to my husband).

My son is going through what I believe is a phase at the moment where he only really wants me to play with him/help him do things & this has left my husband feeling very rejected. I have told him that it's just a phase but he gets extremely angry, yells at our son & blames me for not disciplining him enough.

I think that my husband is also very upset about the whole situation because his 3 other children (to his ex-wife) have nothing to do with him anymore & I believe he thinks that this is somehow happening again, even though our son is only 2.5 & not a teenager like his others are.

I don't know how to handle the situation. I'm not sleeping, I'm over-eating & I find myself with a very short fuse & don't want to take it out on my son.

Any suggestions or ideas to navigate this situation would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks 🙂

10 Replies 10

Hi ElectricBlue,

Thank you for sharing this here. It sounds like you're a loving and supportive parent, and a really understanding partner. This must be incredibly difficult, and we hope posting here, and hopefully hearing from our lovely community members, some of whom may be able to relate to what you're going through.  

It sounds like this issue is affecting your sleep, and it must be causing you a lot of stress. We wanted to let you know that is something you could discuss with the counsellors here at Beyond Blue, whether on the phone (1300 22 4636) or via webchat. There’s also Parentline who provide free telephone counselling to parents on 1300 1300 52, (9am to 9pm Monday to Friday, 4pm to 9pm on weekends).

If you have any concerns about how you or your child are being treated, you should reach out to 1800 Respect on 1800 737 732 or via webchat here. 

Thank you again for posting, it’s a really great step to have taken. It's a really safe and nonjudgmental space, filled with really understanding community members. 

Kind regards,

Sophie M

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi ElectricBlue,

Im sorry this is happening I understand it would be difficult.

Maybe your husband could go along to a child health nurse appointment or gp appointment with you so he can understand that a child at 2.5 is too young to choose to not give your husband attention he’s simply to young to be doing this. Maybe if your husband can hear it from a professionals point of view he will be less likely to think harshly..

Your husbands behaviour isn’t necessary maybe he could have a chat to his gp and discuss how he’s feeling.

Im sorry that you are not sleeping well…. Maybe you could discuss your symptoms with your gp?

You sound like a great Mum.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi ElectricBlue

You sound like such a kind, deeply thoughtful loving mum. With my own kids now 16 (son) and 18 (daughter), I've learned kids can be good judges of character from an early age. I imagine your son fits into this category.

Like the rest of us, a child will choose a guide and playmate who is reasonable, fun and not overly judgemental. If you had to choose a guide and friend in life, would you choose such a person or would you go for someone who rarely listens, barks a lot of orders at you and then reverts to 'friendship' mode whenever it pleases them? A child will intelligently pick the parent they best vibe with.

It was actually my daughter who taught me to be a more reasonable person. Like my husband, I began parenting more so 'old style'. You know, 'Don't question me, just do as you're told'. I'm fortunate to have such a challenging daughter who never gave up on challenging me. Some say bold, yet I say persistent 🙂 One day, when she was about 11, something in me just clicked. While being told she couldn't go somewhere, she asked 'Why? Why can't I?' I actually had no good reason other than 'That's the way I was raised (not to go out on a Sunday afternoon/evening because I had school the next day)'. How insane. Here was a brilliant opportunity to have fun and I was stopping her, when she would have easily have been home by 7pm. It got me thinking 'How many times have I never given reasons through my 'Don't question me' attitude? How many times had I simply just shut my kids down? I actually thought 'How disrespectful of me, how inconsiderate'. While we continue with our mutually reasonable, respectful, considerate and fun relationships, the kids could not possibly be more distant from their father, who has stuck to his guns with that old style parenting.

It's interesting what you hear from old stylers

  • Toward the other parent: 'Why are you trying to reason with him/her, they should just do as they're told without question, without reason'. Kids develop skills and respect through reasoning
  • Toward the child: 'I DON'T CARE (what you have to say), you'll do as you're told!' Say 'I don't care' enough times and a kid will come to believe it
  • Exercise a lack of patience and a child will always turn to the parent who has patience

The list goes on.

Old stylers tend to alienate their kids and blame the kids for the poor relationship, when those kids have had more than enough and simply detach.

Is your husband willing to open his mind a little more?

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Electric blue,

I am experiencing this same problem at the moment with my partner, but with our new puppy lol! Not exactly the same but the outcome is similar. My pup was a fearful, timid little pup when he came to us and my partner is of the opinion that he needed to “toughen up” whereas I am more of the opinion (as well as everything I read) that all he needed was exposure and reassurance so he could go out in the world a bit more confidently, knowing that I was there if he needed. As a result, my pup would avoid him and run to me when my partner came near him. And so my partner would get really angry and blame me for “coddling” him, because underneath it he was hurt. But he just couldn’t see that his way was really hard and scary and damaging the bond that he could have. So I tried to do things that would encourage them to spend more one on one time together doing activities. Going for walks, or to the dog park, etc. My partner became a bit more patient and caring when he was reliant on him and seemed to soften. It’s a tricky situation with your husband and I’m not sure what will work because it’s clear that he obviously sees his parenting technique as the right one and yours as the wrong one. Despite all the evidence showing that it really isn’t and can be quite damaging to their relationship. Was he raised in a similar manner with a parent who was a strict disciplinarian? If so, how did that make him feel and what was his relationship with that parent? He may just be parenting the way that was modeled to him but on closer examination he may realize that it wasn’t the best either. Could you consider going to someone like a family counselor where you can raise your concerns/issues and a professional can advise? Just wondering if the words of a professional may carry more weight?

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor
It might be helpful if you can find activities in which you all can participate as a family - son may still have his preference but will need to share the engagement to sustain the activity.
A few examples...
- tossing a ball from one to the other in a circle
- putting on a puppet show with two characters (performed by you and your husband)
-playing flash cards or even simple card games like 'Snap' and rotating the dealer
Shared responsibilities should accompany the recreation for son to find boundaries unique to each - ideally he will be a combination of the two parenting strategies where one is not superior to the other.
This should strengthen bonds for one and all as husband feeling left out may not solely be down to the reduced attention of his son, but a certain degree of neglect from his wife.
In general, it should be helpful having the 'good cop, bad cop' environment in future as finding a happy medium will give son a good grounding in balance, limits, and compromise in his life experience.
But you are correct, kids go through the mummy/daddy phase as part of formulating their identity. The key is to provide ample opportunity from both perspectives.

Community Champion
Community Champion


(Not that people in my family or friends come here... that I know of, yet I feel I have to be careful in what I say)

I know some people in a similar position to you where one partner is stricter than the other. And in some cases can be a little OTT. In one case the children did not play with their dad in case they got in trouble for making a mistake. So there is that issue. I was speaking with someone today who was talking about her own son and grandchildren. To some degree it is helpful where both parents are on the same page but that can be difficult based on own experiences etc.

That horrible cliche... "you are not alone" applies here and there is no easy solution except to find some middle way as suggested by Juliet_84 through a counselor/therapist or similar.

I am listening... I hope there was something helpful in my response.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello ElectricBlue, goodness me your son is only 2.5 years old and they want to play, learn but not in a disciplinarian manner, they become frightened, so your husband has to learn to grow and love his son, otherwise he'll lose him just as he's lost his other kids.

Children as young as this, do things that aren't appropriate, they're too young, so they have to learn and will obviously stay with the parent who teaches them nicely, fear the parent who treats them harshly, so he has to back off, otherwise, it's going to cause problems in the marriage.

He might be right, but he has to alter how he teaches your son, he's only 2.5 years old.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni
I agree Geoff…

Community Member

Thank you so much for all your replies. It has been really comforting to know that I am not alone in my thoughts & take on this.

My husband comes from 2 very strong "old school" parents that, although he saw them as strict, he really respected them. That has made changing his ways a little more difficult since he doesn't exactly have bad memories of it. That parenting style obviously worked well on him but I have tried to explain that it doesn't necessarily work for everyone & clearly isn't.

I have had a few arguments with my husband but then we both calmed down & spoke in a reasonable way & I believe we have found a middle ground with our parenting (at least for now). I take a bit more of a role in disciplining. I am not as lenient as I was (not giving a million warnings when he is doing something wrong) but my husband has noticeably "lightened up" in the last few days & their relationship already appears to be improving. Hopefully this positive reaction shows my husband that this method is the correct one for our son.

I think the way I have to move forward is that I have gone as far as I'm willing to go with changing my parenting style but if he takes the same stance I'm honestly not sure how we move forward... I guess that's an issue for later though, if it comes up.

Again, I really appreciate all the responses.