Hax: Respect is at center of disagreement

Carolyn Hax:

October 21, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have a toddler who has never been spanked. We have differing views. He’s old-school and thinks kids need a spanking occasionally. I both abhor the idea of hitting my child and fear I might take things too far if I don’t draw a bright line in the sand that our family doesn’t hit. I’m not a violent person and I have never gotten in fights, but I used to really take my younger sibling to task when she got on my nerves.

We did discuss this pre-child, but we remember the outcome of that conversation quite differently (which probably signals its own set of issues). Any advice? He’s not someone who finds “the research says …” compelling.

ANONYMOUS

That in itself is cause for concern. “The research” is an idea that warrants skepticism, certainly, because it has been used to justify all kinds of contradictory things over the years. Still, taking a dismissive position is different from being skeptical. That has more than a whiff of his thinking his way is right and everyone else — science, you — can stuff it.

And that’s a problem especially when it comes to raising kids, for two main reasons: (1) He is not a sole parent, he’s a co-parent, and he doesn’t get to act unilaterally. If he won’t take anything you care about into account, then he’s starting out your child’s emotional education by undermining half of his/her emotional world. Thanks, Pops.

(2) Kids’ personalities, temperaments and needs aren’t one-size-fits-all, and an arrogant or overly certain parent is going to miss the fact that being flexible can sometimes be more “right” than being right.

I realize this is all warning and no advice so far, but the warning is why it’s time to tell him you feel very strongly here — about the spanking issue in particular, and the need for compromise, flexibility and mutual respect as co-parents in general. Say you’d like to reopen the topic with him. This isn’t about getting your way — parents will disagree on things — it’s about getting your due respect. Spell that out for him, too.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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