My Child Listens to My Spouse and Not Me

Parenting is tough work, and sometimes nothing can be more frustrating than to feel like you’re trying your hardest to make it work and it’s just not working and then your spouse walks in and five minutes later the kids are right in line. What are you doing wrong?! Well, Kirk Martin suggested some ideas in his email newsletter today, and I’m providing that for your reading pleasure and benefit. If you want to know more about Kirk Martin and his excellent parenting advice, visit Also note that Kirk Martin will be speaking at St. Paul’s in New Ulm on Sunday, Nov. 3rd from 3-5 pm and on Monday, Nov. 4th from 9:30-11:30 am.

Here’s what Kirk has to say:

Child Listens To Spouse, Not Me  

Warning: I am going to speak very bluntly in this newsletter because this needs to be said forcefully. I am okay with you being irritated with me. I am not okay with destructive generational patterns getting passed down to yet another generation.

Please note that this is only ONE example of the dynamic in homes. Some fathers scream, withdraw or intimidate. Many are calm, connected leaders. Some mothers lecture, yell and demean. Many are the rock of the home. I chose this situation specifically because two Moms approached me at a live workshop with the same question: “Why do my kids listen to my husband and not to me?”

Because your husband gives your kids very clear directions in a non-emotional, firm, manner. He tells them what they need to do and expects them to do it. When they don’t, he takes action. He doesn’t reason, argue, explain, negotiate, ask or get drawn into an endless discussions. 

Your kids feel safe with a firm, non-emotional parent because they know exactly what to expect. They know he’s in charge. They know there will be an immediate consequence and that he’s not afraid for them to be upset at him. He doesn’t need them to be happy or happy with him. He leads and they follow.   

 But here’s what you do. You ask your children sweetly if they will get in bed or do what you want. You ask for their consent and permission. And they rightly decide, “No, I don’t want to.”

You respond by explaining, rationalizing and talking. “Honey, it’s been a really long day and we’ve had a lot of fun. It’s getting late and you need to get a good night’s sleep so you’re not tired in the morning. The doctor said you need at least 10 hours of sleep. Otherwise, you’ll be crabby and you have a big test. I’m really tired and just need you to get in bed. If you do what I ask this time, I promise tomorrow we can do something special.” You go on and on about why it’s important to YOU that your kids get sleep, but they simply don’t care.

When they begin to negotiate or argue, you become resentful. You react. “After all I do for you…I make you special meals…I run you around to all your events…all I’m asking is for you to go to bed. Is that too much to ask?”

I want it to sink in that that is your issue. You choose to do all those things and run yourself ragged. You must examine why you feel obligated to try to make everyone happy, but don’t feel worthy to make yourself a priority. If you do not break this pattern, your kids, spouse, and friends will take advantage of you.

When your child continues to dawdle, you get emotional. “I don’t know why you can’t just do what I ask once in a while. Do I ask too much of you?” And then you may even get personal and say something hurtful. When you react emotionally, guess who is in control? Your child is. It makes him feel insecure and unsafe because he’s not supposed to be in control–you are.  

Your husband gives instructions firmly, expects kids to follow his lead and then takes action. You ask permission, plead and negotiate, get upset and resentful, and then bludgeon your kids to death with endless words. But you don’t take action. Your kids know they can push your buttons and control you.

But this is so hard! Of course it is. But the purpose of relationships is transformation. It forces us to deal with our own issues and grow up. You have two very clear choices:

(1) Just ignore this, put it off and hope your kids change. But you know inside you need to address this. If you don’t, you are going to pass along this same pattern so your kids have to deal with it themselves as adults.

(2) Break the pattern once and for all. Deal with those internal issues. Learn to discipline firmly, without yelling, lecturing or explaining.

I know this is tough, but today is the day you decide to stop these negative patterns that have hurt your relationships for years. Today is a new day and YOU get to decide to handle it differently. Today you give your kids the gift of a new family tree.

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