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Home Family Parenting Advice The Competent Parent: Mother/father differences

The Competent Parent: Mother/father differences

Headshot2011Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Mother Father Differences

Dear Dr. Debbie,

Why is it that I have no problems maintaining discipline with our 2- and 4-year old children, but my wife is always complaining that they give her trouble?

Easy Dad


Dear Dad,

Could be many reasons that would explain this simply based on male/female differences. Many women report the unfair advantage that fathers have with a deeper voice. It is also typical that women use more emotion and are more affected by emotion when trying to coerce children to do things. “Honey do you want to sit here? I’d really like that.” Men tend to be more matter of fact. “Sit here.”

Little boys are often held to a higher standard of behavior and therefore when they become parents, they are firmer with their discipline. Little girls often have more experience talking through conflicts and expecting a compromise. Then when they become parents, they may be more likely to want to hear and consider all sides of an issue. So children learn that Daddy means business and that Mommy’s requests are negotiable. Not a totally bad thing, just requires more work.

If Mom is the primary parent, she may be more worn down than you are, which tends to make children behave less well. Contrarily, children are more positive and cooperative when they feel they are being enjoyed. If you parent only in the evenings and on the weekends, you are more fresh for the job. Maybe Mom needs more relief time.

Or it may be that Mom’s idea of misbehavior is your idea of age-appropriate behavior for 2- and a 4-year olds. They need attention. They need frequent feedings and liquids. They need movement. They need rest. And they need intellectual stimulation. As long as a child’s needs are being met, they don’t misbehave. To prevent losing patience with the children, the adult must recognize that she is largely responsible for getting their needs met.

Here are some more quick tips:

• Be clear about what is a suggestion (‘Would you like to read a book with me?”) and what is a directive (“Scootch back so I can buckle your car seat.”)

• Base your directives on three principles: health and safety, cost (including time), and consideration of others.

• Back up every directive with enforcement.

• Discipline need not be harsh, just reasonable, clear and consistent.

• Both Mommies and Daddies can do it.

Dr. Debbie

Don’t miss last week’s post on toilet accidents.

Dr. Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at editor@chesapeakefamily.com

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