Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain write the Marriage Matters column for CatholicPhilly.com. Members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, they have been married 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says:

Martha says:  My husband, Peter, is a great guy. I love him very much and he obviously loves our children. The difficulty I have is that Peter has a different parenting approach with discipline than me. I believe this came from the way he was disciplined as a child. Peter’s approach is harsh, with his sometimes hitting the misbehaving child. I, on the other hand, take away privileges and talk to the kids as a way to discipline. I cannot seem to get Peter to consider a less harsh way to discipline. The children appear to be angry with Peter when he hits them, rather than develop a deeper respect for their father. Our differences on this matter are developing stress between us and lately, discussing this subject leads to arguments between us.

He says:

Peter says: My dad was a demanding father who took control. He always said a little whack here and there helps a child to develop respect. I agree that not being a strong parent is being a wimpy parent. What will happen to our kids as teens if they get out of control now when they are 10, 7 and 4 years old? My dad hit and yelled at me and that helped me to become a strong man. I don’t see any problem here.

“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him takes care to chastise him” (Proverbs 13:24).

What do they do?

First and foremost, Martha and Peter need to agree on house rules and, together, agree on what they expect from their children. That unity is important so the children will not work one parent against another.

Discipline does help children to develop self-control, sets limits and corrects misbehavior. Discipline also helps children to feel good about themselves and helps them to think for themselves and recognize the boundaries expected of them.

Peter’s need to be strong may hinder any change in his disciplining, but Peter needs to be introduced to the reality that yelling and hitting may settle a child for a time, but soon they misbehave again. Kids do need to know that the adult is in charge, but spanking can teach fear of the adult in charge. Also, children who are hit are much more likely to use hitting to resolve their own issues.

Since Peter and Martha’s disagreement on disciplining is leading to stress and arguments in their marriage, they need to seek “neutral ground” where they are able to discuss, define and better understand their differences. This will probably never happen in their one-on-one sessions with each other. Peter and Martha can seek out available resources, such as seminars, classes on parenting, or even psychological counseling (including, possibly, anger management) which will assist them to find common positions on discipline matters and build a better bond of parenting between Peter and Martha. Their local diocesan Family Life Office is always a good place to start for recommendations on resources.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).