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Discipline Dilemmas

Marvin and Cynthia Roemer have been married for 7 years and live in Hettick, Illinois.

Marvin's Side:

She's a Pushover

My parents were strict; they expected my brothers and me to behave. So when we had our two boys, that's what I wanted from them. If I came down hard, it was because I wanted them to know what was expected of them. I wanted them to learn to respect us. When I asked something of them, I wanted them to do it without grumbling or talking back.

Cynthia felt I needed to praise them more and criticize less, but I just wasn't the type to clap and cheer over every little thing they did. I express my affection differently. When I tickle or roughhouse with them, or take them fishing or sledding, for me that's love in action.

Cynthia became frustrated with me whenever I yelled at the boys for being too rowdy. Her view was, "They're just kids!" But my thought was, "They could learn not to be so wild!" I do admire her patience with them. I couldn't have handled all the getting up at night, baths, diaper changes, and clambering all over her that she has. But I wanted her to realize that just because I wasn't as tender with them as she was, that didn't mean I loved them any less. I just had a different way of showing it.

Cynthia's Side:

He's Too Strict

I love encouragement and in turn love to give it. I'm forever telling our sons, "Good job!" and, "Thanks for helping." Yet if Marvin was around, our four-year-old would often look right past me and say, "Look, Dad, I cleaned my plate," or, "Look what I did," as if to say, "I need your approval as well as Mom's!" But instead of praise, Marvin's usual response was, "Why can't you do it like that all the time?"

As their mom, it was obvious to me our sons needed both of us to praise and encourage them. But when I raised the issue with Marvin, he said, "That's not me." Coming from a home where there was little expression of emotion or affirmation, it was understandable why it didn't come easily for him. But I didn't want that for our family and wished he would lighten up and start being more supportive and affectionate toward the boys.

Many times, when I was thrilled to hear our boys giggling and playing together, Marvin would step in and put a stop to it, claiming they were too rowdy. Being the quiet, loner type, Marvin was more easily annoyed by the ruckus of children and often delved out greater punishment than I felt necessary. It became a struggle to keep from bantering back and forth over what was too much or too little. And I knew we were in danger of allowing our boys to pit us against each other. Somehow we had to come to an understanding or our marriage and our relationship with our sons would suffer.

What Marvin and Cynthia Did:

Marvin and Cynthia realized they had to become more unified in their approach toward raising their children. They began by asking God for wisdom and to show them how to work as a team, instead of as opponents.

Together they decided they needed to communicate more openly with each other about their differences. Instead of voicing criticisms, they tried expressing their concerns with a more loving attitude. Listening to each other proved a great help in understanding the other person's point of view.

Eventually, they discovered that even when they didn't fully agree with each other's technique, by supporting each other in their children's presence, their effectiveness as parents was strengthened.

"It's great encouragement for me, when the boys ignore me, to hear Marvin back me up by saying, 'Did you hear what Mom told you?'" admits Cynthia. "And I learned that when I don't agree with something Marvin says or does, it's best to hold my tongue and approach him later in private."

They also discovered that each had positive qualities the other didn't and that they could learn from each other. For instance, Cynthia was better with patience, listening, and affirming. Marvin's strong-points were firmness, consistency, and getting a better response from the boys.

"It was frustrating to me that our sons would always go to Cynthia for help, as if she could do or fix anything," says Marvin. "I could tie shoes and glue broken pieces as well as she could. But then I realized, it wasn't that they didn't think I could do it. It was her patience and compassion that drew them to her."

Likewise, Cynthia was discouraged that the boys seemed to respond better to Marvin's requests than hers. "I could tell my four-year-old a half-dozen times to pick up the living room, and he might put a toy or two in the box and go back to what he was doing. Then Marvin would give the identical command, and snap, our son would go at it with full force."

By learning what worked best from each other, they were able to blend their approaches. Instead of jumping on the boys when they were having trouble, Marvin began offering his help. And when tempted to give in to her son's pleadings, Cynthia started to hang tough and stick to the guidelines she and Marvin had set. "Stepping into each other's shoes doesn't hurt either," explains Marvin. "When Cynthia had to be gone from the house, and I tried to accomplish something with the boys around, I realized what a challenge it is."

Most importantly, Marvin and Cynthia learned that they have to nurture their own relationship to be in tune with each other. "Communicating misunderstandings as they arise and spending time as a twosome are a must to keep things in balance," concludes Cynthia. "Along with constant prayer for wisdom and an understanding heart."

If you know a couple with a creative solution to a common marriage problem, let us know. We'll pay $50 for each story that is featured in this column. Send the couple's name, phone number, and a short description of their problem and solution to:

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