What Is the Difference Between Undermining His Parenting vs Sticking up for Kid?

Updated on August 12, 2011
S.J. asks from Cherryville, MO
17 answers

Something is really bothering me moms, and I need your thoughts. This is really a touchy subject, so I ask you please try to be kind in your words, disagreement or otherwise.


This am, I heard my husband repeatedly yelling at our son "Tell me why". Our son was crying and saying "I just wanted to" with a sad look on his face. So I ask what happened. Dad tells me "I walk in and son has some money behind his back, I ask him what he is doing. Son tells me he is bring money to his friend James." Dad asks why son is bring James money. Son just keeps repeating "I just wanted to, he is my best friend" Dad is not satisfied with that answer and keeps drilling son for a "real" answer. Keeps lecturing son that we don't give away our money in a harsh way.

I intervene. I say, husband, that is his reason, let's drop it. He was just trying to be nice to his friend. Son is crying pretty hard at this point. I bring son into bathroom, grab his little face and say "that was a very nice thing you were trying to do. Don't you ever let anyone make you feel bad for being nice" However, you need to ask mommy or daddy before giving anyone your money".

Husband gets upset w me that I intervened, said I underminded his parenting - I maintain I was sticking up for son. Poor son was crying and so upset and he didn't do anything "wrong" in my opinion. He was trying to bring his little friend a few dollars to be sweet. He has such a big heart. I don't want this to discourage. This is an ongoing thing lately in our house. Dad is too harsh I think, he thikns I am too easy, we argue. HAd I not intervened, I wouldn't have felt OK w that. And yes, we have tried talking in private about stuff - husband doesn't give an inch. Says the kids must fear him or they won't behave, etc. I am at a loss. Should I have kept my mouth shut? And do I have to each time I disagree w how he is handling it? I just wanted the yelling to stop! Had I not stepped in, it wouldn't have. What do I do? Please provide your suggestions.

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So What Happened?


Addition - When dad says no or otherwise gives an order, I ALWAYS follow that. I never go behind my hubby and say yes or something different. That to me is what undermining his parenting means. I felt today as I was sticking up for my son. I feel hubby expects him to act older than he is, and that his answer of "I just wanted to give money to my friend" was his real answer. He is only 6!! Drilling him and making him cry was going nowhere. Plus - what a horrible way to start our morning!

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answers from Detroit on

I think you did the right thing. Moms can read their kids better than dads can (well at least I can), when my husband is out of line, I will no doubt stick up for my kids.
No one is perfect, even dads make mistakes. I would just have a talk with him later about better ways to handle things.
Just this morning, my son got mad at me and kicked me, my husband saw it and kicked him back. Really? Yeah, daddy was in trouble!!!! I knew, he just needed to go back to bed for awhile, Dad thought different.....

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answers from Reno on

My husband and I have been through situations like this several times...still do on occasion, only I'm the yeller and he's "non-supportive" (from my point of view <wink>).

Here's what we do. If things escalate to the point of stalemate (me yelling, kid...usually my 13 year old son...repeating the same answer or yelling back), my husband steps in and says something like, "Son, why don't you go to your room and we'll all cool off. Be assured we will discuss this later." My son will stomp off to his room for a good pout and I go find something to do that will calm me down. Then, my husband and I will have a very frank chat about what's going on (this will be during a walk, in the office or during a car drive, out of earshot of the kids). We find consensus on what's going on OR one of us backs down.

Then, we reconvene the discussion, and everyone lays their cards on the table. Generally, this is when the "real" answer comes out..."I wanted to give James money because I lost my lunch and he bought me one yesterday" or something like that. We work out a reasonable solution (sometimes it's a compromise, other times it's simply laying down the law) and apologies given and accepted (not for being angry, but always for yelling).

There are times when we go through this and I still feel like I'm not being supported, but I also know that sometimes--many times--I want more than my son can give due to age, maturity, etc. Over the years, I've learned to trust my husband's judgment. It's not that I'm wrong or he's right but that my delivery system has gotten out of whack.

It sounds like your husband had a good message to share (giving money away wisely) but his delivery method was ruining the message. You were right to step in, although perhaps words other than "let's drop it" would've conveyed that you were simply trying to de-escalate the situation a little better. Also, I would not feel bad about the aside ("don't ever let anyone make you feel bad about being nice"), but I would also try to explain dad's point of view in a way your son could understand, "Sweetie that was a lovely thing you wanted to do. Next time, though, keep in mind that Dad feels very strongly that we give money for the RIGHT reasons...and "I just wanted to" isn't enough for him. Does that make sense?"

Ultimately, it's ok to disagree, but those disagreements are, I feel, best handled outside the earshot of the children. Discipline is a team effort. In our house, we've agreed on "parameters" rather than rules. Think "Pirates of the Caribbean"...the Pirate's Code was more guidelines than actual rules. In our house, parameters offer guidlines with room for tweaking if necessary. Plus, it's easier to remember three parameters rather than a library of rules.

Remember, in the end, it's about what's right, not WHO'S right. It sounds like maybe you and your husband need to sit down and have a long conversation about the "how" and the "why" and the "when" of your team discipline philosophy. What does he need from you and what do you need from him? What does your son need from both of you and how will you get there? It's not a win-lose. It should be a win-win. It's hard, but it can be done. Don't worry about what works for anyone else; find something that works for you both.

I hope this was gentle enough. Apologies if it wasn't.

Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

BTW< I would've done the same thing!

SInce you asked, The differance is - disagreeing with dad in private or in front of the child. In a perfect world, when you disagree, it's best to say, dad, can I have a word with you in private. Then take dad behind closed doors and tell him what you think. Listen to his point, have him listen to yours and both agree how to proceed. Then the 2 of you come out as a unted front. That's taking up for the child. Intervening when dad is in the middle of it, kind of is undermining his authority. I sure would not like dad coming in and changing the tone of what I'm trying to do, parenting wise. If he asked me to step to the side and told me privatley what I thought, I would be less embarassed and irritated.

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answers from Honolulu on

A Husband or Dad... is NOT IN ANY WAY A DICTATOR.
AND, I do not believe in that saying "whatever the man says, goes..." sort of thing.
That is, chauvanistic.
And, we are not, door mats.

Anyway, there is a BIG difference, in undermining and sticking up for a kid.
Undermining, is 'sabotaging' on purpose.

NOW... your Husband, DID NOT HAVE TO CONTINUALLY YELL AT YOUR SON TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF HIS QUESTION. He merely could have, sat down with your son, and asked him why and discussed it with him. NOT yell at him.

The REASON your Husband was yelling at your son... IS BECAUSE YOUR HUSBAND DID NOT GET THAT ANSWER THAT 'HE' WANTED. He wanted your son, to say to him, what he wanted your son to say.
Like being interrogated, and brainwashed into saying what the person wants you to say. It is called, using FORCE.

Your Husband, was REALLY MEAN.
And wrong.
And, I would have stood up for my kid too.

As a Parent, your Husband should go to parenting classes.
He is really.... a Bully.

Now, how old is your Son?
And yes, why is he bringing money to his friend? If this is a 5 year old kid, I can understand.
But if your son is maybe 15 years old... then why is he bringing his friend money?
And... whose money was it? Your son's? or yours?

A kid who 'fears' their parent... will grow up HATING that parent. And not loving them and growing up to become ABUSERS themselves.
Is that what your Husband wants????
To raise abusers???? And caveman Neanderthal mentality boys????
How, pathetic.
Your Husband, is stuck in a time-warp.... of centuries ago.

NO, you do not keep your mouth shut.
You stand up for wrong-doing.
You and your Husband, do not have the same values nor about child raising.

I, stand up for my kids too... if/when I feel my Husband is wrong.... and my kids KNOW that.
But, we DISCUSS it with our kids, together. Me, Husband, and my kids. And we do NOT yell at them. NOR force them to say things, that are not what happened.

He needs, LOTS of Therapy.

If I had a Husband like that... I would be BACKING UP MY KIDS, everyday. Your Husband is very, wrong. Very wrong.

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answers from Detroit on

I'd say that purposely wanting your children to fear you will only make a bad situation worse as the kid(s) get older. There WILL be resentment and anger.

My mom always used to... Even still does... Expect things out of me that most wouldn't. My grandmother had to point it out several times to her. It made me feel like I couldn't be myself around her. I really still can't for the most part... Not unless I want a huge fight with her... Because (even if you prove she's wrong) she's ALWAYS right. It's no way to feel growing up.

I don't think this was undermining. This was an intervention.

My husband just mentioned that maybe your hubby doesn't know any other way to get kids to behave other than fear of him.

But fear is NOT the right thing here.

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answers from New York on

Well S., it does sound (as you describe it) as though you did undermine his parenting. Whether or not he is being too harsh is really an opinion, but I think the point he was trying to make was that your son was caught stealing.

In saying that what he was doing was "nice" you negate the stealing component. Stealing (even for a nice reason) isn't okay and you just told him that it was. If he stole a candy bar for James would you have the same reaction? You also don't know that he was telling the truth about his reasoning... kids lie when they are caught and you also don't know the circumstances surrounding James' request, etc.

You just wanted the yelling to stop is right on the money- fearing their father is not. Many men confuse "fear" with "respect". I've had this conversation with my husband more than once. Our son is 3 and was being a complete s&$t head one night. I put him to bed and shut the door. 30 minutes of screaming later (his, not ours) my husband SLAMMED his door open, banged on the dresser and yelled for him to STOP AND GO TO BED. Well, the crying stopped but DH and I had a chat about "why" it was not okay to scare him that way.

The next morning when our son woke up he came out and the FIRST thing he asked was whether or not daddy was still mad. He wasn't, but our son was really hesitant all day with him. My husband LIVES for our son, so the message got across.

Talk to your husband in a couple of days. Don't accuse him of having a different parenting style or anything else that will set him off. Do, however, talk to him about the fact that YOU want your son to respect his father and not just fear him.

IMO- you should not have stepped in at that moment. Whether you think your actions did/didn't undermine your husband, they likely did. You could have stopped the argument without undoing what dad was trying to get done. You could have come in and told your son to go to his room and calm down while you and daddy talk about the consequences. Give your son time to pull himself together and give dad a chance to tell you what he was really upset about.

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answers from Chicago on

I agree with you that undermining him does including changing answers behind his back. However I also think that your getting involved when your husband was trying to handle it, also can be considered undermining.

I "get" that you were stepping in to stop the yelling and crying.

It seems that you are assuming that your son was giving money to be nice. I would still dig further into this issue.

I understand that the yelling needs to stop.

Perhaps you and your husband can agree to let each other handle an issue, so long as there's no yelling and screaming.

My husband and I had to agree that we don't interfere in the other's parenting. I think if you have an issue with the way your husband is/was handling something, you should talk about it with him out of earshot of your son next time. You need to have a united parenting front.

Added: I understand that you want your son to control his little stash of money, but he's 6. You can still ask what he's doing and he should answer you. You never know, maybe someone is bullying him into giving them his money - esp if he is a sensitive soul.

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answers from St. Louis on

Sounds like Dad has a control issue. Was Dad is the military to make him yell in a militant style? Has Dad always been this rough on you and the child? Maybe Dad needs some counsiling (sp?). A child be scared of a parent is not a good thing and doesn't make them listen any more. At 6 all kids are sensitive that is the great thing about being a kid. Taking money was wrong did your son understand that? You did the right thing by telling and explaining that if he wants to give money away he needs to discuss it with you or Dad first. I really feel for your son as this doesn't sound like a good situation.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You were fine in doing what you did.
Sounds like dad was too harsh.
If only more moms stuck up for their kids or talked to the child later
rationally like you did, we might have less kids being traumatized by
one parent over the other.
Tell dad privately once that you are not undermining him in any way but if
you see him being overly aggressive to your young child like he was
you have every right to step in and do your share of consoling.
Don't let him tell you otherwise.
Tell him he needs to discipline in such a way that you WON'T need to feel
the necessity to make sure your child is ok.
Again, you have every right to console your child.
Let dad know there is a way to discipline/teach w/o being an ogre.
Nobody needs to yell.
Again, yes you were fine to step in the way you did.
Dad is an adult (or should be acting like one).
No need to go crazy on a child when you're trying to teach him something.
Good luck!

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answers from Kansas City on

Oh wow, so sorry you are having a hard time!!! I think you handled the situation the right way, I have also stepped in when I felt my hubby was being to harsh with our oldest son. I dont think it is undermining his authority, i agree with you with what you said in you "so what happened". If my hubby says no, that means no, and vice versa. If i disagree with how my hubby is handling the situation I try to wait until we are alone, unless he is just being to harsh as in your situation, to say anything because by that time he has usually cooled off. I talked to my husband several times about his temper and he finally agreed to start taking some medication. We both have tempers and i have issues with really bad mood swings so I take and SSRI to help me and my husband started taking one of mine that I couldnt take and it worked wonders for him. He even told me that he notices a big difference and that so much stuff doesnt upset him anymore. He has since made an appt for the doc next week to get a prescription for himself. It was a major deal, I never thought he would do it, his family is old school european and it took me forever to convince him that it was okay to ask for help or to take something if he really needed it, didnt make him bad or less of a person. I havent read your other responses so I dont know if someone already mentioned that idea or not but maybe he needs a medication to help? I dont mean any offense by that so I hope I dont sound to out of the way!!! Good luck!!!

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answers from Washington DC on

I would talk to DH further about the situation. Your son seems to have a big heart. Why is it black and white to DH? I can see that DH doesn't want your son to be taken advantage of, but it is doing the kid no good to feel punished for being generous. I liked your answer better. Give...but at this age, let Mom and Dad know.

If he wants the kids to fear him and you do not agree with that, perhaps family or marital counseling is in order. Or maybe take some parenting classes together to give your DH new ideas. Many people are raised "spare the rod and spoil the child" but fear doesn't = respect. It just teaches kids to be scared and meek and sets the stage for rebellion later in life.

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answers from Birmingham on

I don't have a whole lot of advice, but I wanted to say that I would have and have done the exact same thing. When I see my husband being more harsh than necessary and my child looking at him through tears with fear on his face, I HAVE to step in. I can't stand the thought of anyone breaking my son's pure, sweet spirit. It's just not necessary. You can comfort your child without "undermining" your husband. Those are 2 very different things. Shame on him for demanding why your son was doing an act of kindness. What if he was giving his friend money for food because he didn't have anything?
Good luck with working through this!

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answers from St. Louis on

lately, hearing stories about any little kid crying or being upset really upsets me. As my LO starts to show his own sadness or hurt because of something someone says to him or does it just tears me apart so I know how you feel with that.

It sounds like your husband comes from an incredibly strict background and that can be a hard road of parenting. The only suggestion I would have is when you talk to your son, use phrases that support your husband while still trying to calm him down, like "your dad just wants you to be honest with him about what you are planning on doing with the money." Can you give us more details about why you think your friend needs the money? Your father just expresses his questions differently from mom.

It sucks that your husband feels the kids need to fear him to respect him. See if you can get him to try it a more calm way some time and see if the kids listen. I wish I had some better advice, but I can tell you that I completely understand where you are coming from with feeling that way. Hearing your little one cry like that will just break your heart!

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answers from St. Louis on

I know you've already responded, but here goes:

I am soooo sorry that you're going thru this. Been there, done that. A lot of Dads feel they have to be militant & don't want Mom creating a "baby".

That said, the sad truth is: boys cry until they're about 12. It sucks, totally sucks! My sons are 15 & almost 24, & I have an army of nephews. Every single one of these boys cried! OMG, the girls in the family would make fun of them....the parents were frustrated....& the boys hated being cry-babies.

If your husband could realize this is part of boyhood, life would be easier. Unfortunately, most dads can't see past the tears. With my sons, I just worked very hard at drawing their attention to the fact that life's issues can be handled without tears. It's a long hard haul....but it does end.

Now here's where my honesty comes in: I do think perhaps when you intervened, it felt like you were undermining your DH's authority. I'm also thinking that if you had said, "Husband, may we please discuss this privately?" ....which would then have created a separation, a period of cooling off ... maybe things would have gone a little bit easier for all 3 of you.

.....& I want you to know that I truly have been there with this & worse with my sons/DH. & it becomes harder with teens. Please, please find a way to diffuse each event without creating a division between the men in your life. The rewards in the end are wonderful!

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answers from Cleveland on

I didn't read any other answers, so I apologize if this has already been said.

I think you both need to go together to "parent counseling". It helps parents get on the same page with their parenting styles. My friend has been going with her husband, and it really is helping. (They were WAY off on the way they were handling things before - going behind each other's backs, telling the children not to listen to the other parent, each favoring one of the children, screaming hateful things at each other in front of the children. It was BAD.)

The sooner, the better. Poor little Ian is caught in the middle, and I know you don't want that.

Good luck!

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answers from Provo on

That is a tough one, I feel that way sometimes, as does my husband about me:) I think the one that is trying to do the disciplining sometimes gets over emotional about it and cant "see" what is really happening and what a better way to handle it is.
What my husband and I have done is to talk about it when there is no problem. We have come to an agreement, that if one of us feels like the other is being unfair, irrational or over reacting, we can say, Do you want me to take over?, or you need to calm down a little.
Once the spouse has said that, the other parent can take a breather, or a different approach, leave it for now and resume latter or let the other parent take over. It does need to be said in the utmost gentle and respectful way though. It is painful to hear "you are out of line and need to calm down" words, but it is the child that we need to be more concerned with, not our prideful feelings.
So perhaps if you tell your hubby, "dearest hubby, there are some things I would like to talk with you about, tell me when a good time is".
That will allow him time to be prepared to "hear" some criticism, and be open to improvement. As you can let him know you don't want to undermine him, but you don't want to damage children either. And that you are willing to have him do the same for you. Also that it is not for the benefit of either of you being in the "right" but for the benefit of your children's mental health.
If by chance he doesn't give you the chance to talk with him, he may respond to a respectful love letter. And give blank paper and a pen with it so that he may write you a response as well.
Good luck, hopefully you can find a solution that will work for both of you,

P.S. It might be good to have a discussion about what your definitions of undermining is. Sometimes just doing that will solve a lot of unmet expectations and negative feelings

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answers from Kansas City on

Wow. It sounds like your husband has some real problems besides being a jerk to his son. I'm sorry. But being loving and giving and generous is what we were designed to be. But fighting about the kids in front of the kids is a TERRIBLE thing to get started. I swear they will learn to use that against the two of you. As they age they will know they can get the two of you fighting so much that you will forget all about them.

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