Wife undermines my authority - FamilyEducation
Wife undermines my authority
04/25/2007 at 12:12 PM

I’m frustrated with my wife.  Every time I punish our boys, they go to her and she reverses the punishment.  This completely undermines my authority, and I have no credibility at home.  I have tried to talk with her about this, but she maintains that I’m far too strict with them.  This is beside the point.  Now, my words carry no weight, because my sons know they can go running to Mommy, and she will overturn my decision.  I don’t know what to do…

Hi Tough Dad,


This is a very common problem.  But, boy oh boy, will your kids learn fast to play one against the other.  A united front is one of the most important parenting tacits.  I think that you need to talk to your wife about this--the two of you need to come to some compromise about punishment and rules.  They may have to be a little more strict than she wants and a little less strict than you want but they need to be family rules and they need to be consistent.


Here are some great articles about discipline, maybe some of them will be a good jumping off point for you and your wife.  Good luck!


Discipline and other discipline resources - FamilyEducation.com




Hi Tough Dad,

Well, I have to agree with Marti here, both parents need to be on the same wavelength before the children. However my problem is in reverse. My husband is a good Father and loves and enjoys his children very much. I appreciate him for that and encourage our children to love him. I try to support his decisions when he disciplines the children as much as possible but I dare say he needs practice as a husband. Sometimes I think I am apart of the children's discipline aswell especially when I disagree with him, please bare in mind I don't want to be in the habit of disagreeing since I know it isn't a leading example for our children .I know my children must see we can resolve our differences openly and respectfully but it sure is hard for me sometimes.  I often joke he is the militant type because on the rare occasion I think he goes too far with his disciplinary methods. That is when we conflict and it seems it is his way or the highway. I'm on the highway at the moment.


I am on the highway with you. I also have a husband that is that way. When he disciplines the kids I will support him, even though I REALLY don't agree. We have a boy with ADHD and dad chooses to not educate him self on it. He thinks because he said so then my son should just do it. If only it was that easy.  He even was so frustrated with his son that he called him a brat one day. Of course, guess who used that word all day, and he had a horrible day that day. This morning, he said, in front of the kids, "there are days I wonder why we had kids." Nice huh.. And he doesn't see anything wrong with it. He thinks he can raise his kids the same way he was raised. I am unable to get through to him and I am at my wits end. I know that my parenting isn't perfect but we are such opposites that I don't know how we are doing any good for our kids. I do my best to praise my son, because he does have such low self esteem. I see the pain in his eyes when he does everything possible to please his dad and gets no where. Then he acts up and get over punished. The poor guy just can't win. I honestly don't know what to do.. Any suggestions?


Hi jkohtz

Well, I am not an expert on these things  but I have  mighty fine examples around me of what an ideal marriage looks like which is what really is the issue here and not the children at all because when mum and dad are unified and in love it all just flows down hill into the children.  So I will answer you from the knowledge and experience that was once been given to encourage  me. It's important not to focus too much on what is going wrong but to focus more thought and energy on what we can do to help someone else. However, I found after a personal analysis of myself that I needed to keep dealing with my own feelings and moods first before talking to my hubby about his. I put this to prayer. It doesn't happen over night but a humbling of the heart and confession to the husband does wonders for the soul and marriage and makes a good starting point. I try to focus on the good in my husband and let him know it, it puts a smile on my face because that same affection and encouragement comes back in other ways though I may have to sometimes wait it seems always worth it. But this is where it gets tricky for me. I don't know your temperament but when my husband is moody or tired I try to think, o.k maybe his work is getting him down or a combination of a sleepless night is why he is over correcting or nit-picking at the children. I have to watch my temper (emotions) when I get hurt from my husband and learn to bite the lip to wait for a better time to talk. Remember that a man and woman have different needs because of their design. I believe a man needs to feel he is the leader of his home and esteemed and respected from his wife (right or wrong) aswell as the woman needs to feel honoured and loved from him (right or wrong). My husband has his ideas firm at the moment concerning the children and so I guess I have to persevere until a light bulb shines over his head or over the both of us since I think he is wrong and I am right. I can't meet him in a compromise but in the meantime it's important the children see us as "one" or else the children can come into the habit of playing one parent with the other. I have chosen to submit to this issue for the time being since I feel I have more to loose if I don't.  Our country at the moment is divided over a smacking bill- they want to abolish smacking children (although their are fears that even a light smack could convict a good parent -  if it is passed). The reasons for the bill is because of the high numbers of abuse cases recorded and the courts are having trouble proving what is considered "reasonable force" used to discipline children. You know the more I talk the better I feel as I have talked my way into solving my own problem.I didn't realise I had all that upstairs in my mind. I aired my frustrations in the last email and I am so glad you responded with your email as it has given me time to evaluate my situation without the emotion. It's also nice to have a shoulder to cry on once and a while since we are not all perfect.  If none of this helps you I am sure it has helped me and I will say a pray for you and your husband also! It was once said that marriage knocks all the corners off you and  I say it will either make you or break you. The people I draw my experience from are Christians and some have more then 50 years of marriage to celebrate. They look so sweet and so much in love with eyes only for each other and I want that  so bad for my husband and I. But I know it wont come into full beauty without trial and patience, love and forgiveness. I have been married 10 years now and I love my husband very much and I know he loves me. Our greatest strength has been our loyalty to one another having stuck together through thick and thin but there are better years for us to come. 


hi when my husband now and i found out that i was pregnant he broke up with me we went through some rough times. when our daughter was born i spelled out excatly what i expected of him. ( i was a little harsh). not only after quite sometime did i realise that i may not agree with his parenting that there was some bigger issues going on then our parenting. i would always tell him that i didn't like they way he was doing things or that his parenting style was worng until someone pointed out to me that i was using our child as a pawn to get my anger out on him and that if i didn't stop our daughter would learn to play us against each other. Maybe your wife is trying to tell you something by using the children as her pawns. I'm not an expert or anything. Maybe there are some bigger issues then just your punishment. You need to sit down and ask your wife what her motives are and whats really bothering her. I was reading a book and one of the things was to turn around how the situation is. for example when your son does something wrong tell your wife to deal with it. Don't get in to an arguement just tell her he did something wrong. don't acknowledge what you son did. basically avoid dicsiplining your kids and when she asks for help pull her into a quiet room and explain to her that you feel whenever you dicspline that she doesn't agree so you are letting her do it to avoid arguement. If she wants help that's fine but she cannot interfere with it.. i don't know i am not at that stage yet but i ope you can work it out

Hey there tough Dad, i think it is great that you obviously have morals and standards and that can only but make you a better person, which you are tyring to teach your children! I would suggest taking a backseat for a while, you start enjoying your children and leave the punishing up to the mother - just for a bit, i can guarantee she will soon become frustrated with this and meanwhile you are building a positive relationship with your kids thus earning your respect. Turn the tables and let her come to you!!! Dont butt heads for too long cause you will just end up missing out on the fun years, time goes too fast and the little darlings grow up too fast so saviour every bit - point out your morals and beliefs along the way!


P.S  it's good to be a 'mean' parent it pays off in the end and they will love you for it later in life..... 


I know this is a letter from 2007 but, I have the same issue within my family. Whenever I discipline my children my wife will not allow my word to stand. My situation is a little different however. If I verbally discipline my children my wife will quickly scold me in front of the children protecting them. I consider this to be sabotaging. I try to talk to her about this issue but we can never come to an agreement. Maybe I am wrong sometimes but I do know one thing my children need to see us parents in agreement when we discipline them. Any suggestions? (I would appreciate your comments)

Suggestion 1: Never discuss discipline issues in front of the children. Exception: one parent is threatening or perpetuating bodily injury upon the child. In that case a request for the other parent to stop and both parents to go out of the child's hearing to discuss the issue. Best case scenario: Start out on the same page. Before having children both parents discuss parenting and discipline and formulate a consistent plan for raising the children. As children grow and personalities emerge and issues change, the parents remain in open communication and thus on the same page. In your case, it sounds as if you and your wife are off track. Your wife needs to be reminded how harmful it is to the children to ever hear one parent "scold" the other. You are right that your children need to see you and your wife in agreement regarding discipline. It is good that you are able to admit that you are sometimes wrong. That shows you are willing to change and grow for the benefit of your children. Good for you, Dad! Suggestion 2: Establish a set of clear family rules. You and your wife sit down when the children are not present and set up consistent guidelines for discipline. The first unwritten rule must be for both parents to respect one another. This teaches your children to respect you both and each other. Next set up a discipline system that will work for your family with clear expectations and consistent, appropriate consequences. (Examples: We keep our hands and feet to ourselves, speak respectfully to one another, do chores correctly and in an acceptable time frame, eat all fruits and vegs before dessert.) The rules and consequences will vary according to your family and the ages of the children, but the key is consistency!!! Once you have the rules in place and consequences decided upon, write it all on a dry erase board or large piece of paper. Put it in a place where it can be easily seen by the entire family and refer to it as necessary. In a short time, harmony should reign in your household. Best wishes to you and your family.

My wife is excactly the same with my daughter. Who now plays on the fact that i cant tell her what to do. The scary thing is its started to happen with my son now and i dont know what to do for the best??

There's no doubt about it, this is a recurring scenario. Whenever my son (13 years) displays behaviour that falls short of what I expect, I address the point as a responsible parent but end up getting negative fall out from my wife. This has happened on several occasions and it is effecting my relationship with both my wife and son. For fear of the irretrievable breakdown of my family unit I am submitting and throwing in the towel. My wife can call the shots. She may well ask for my input and/or help but I'm not getting involved. It's a sad state of affairs but appears to be fairly common. Incidentally, I recall from my childhood that my mother was the main chastiser. My parents are still together after 40 years. Might be something in that. Merry Christmas to committed fathers everywhere, neutered or otherwise.

There is a wonderful magazine called ADDitude that is for anyone who has to deal with ADD in their home/work . It will actually give you and your husband tips to deal with ADD and let you know your not alone. I am a teacher and I can not talk to my students that way nor can I use corporal punishment (spanking.) I have to use alternative methods of discipline or I would not have a job. You will find good, research based advice from professionals and people who suffer from ADD or ADHD. You can't ask for more than that. They have an online magazine. It was recommended by a doctor to me, for my ADD son.

I honestly don't know what to do anymore.

Hard to pass opinions without knowing what kind of punishments you've been giving for what misdemeanours, but I agree that you both have to be on the same page with discipline and her reversing your punishments is counter-productive and undermining you. You really need to get together and work out how you are both going to discipline the children and stick with the decisions you have made together.

Only solution...get a divorce or be her whipping boy for life.