“One day you’re going to have to give him to me!” These are the words that my husband shouted as he stormed off after having an argument about disciplining our 12 year old son. You see for years I had “babied” our son as my husband worked long shifts at his job to provide for our family. I did everything a doting mother would do””I wiped his tears when he cried, I praised him when he did something well and more importantly I loved him harder than anyone else. Hell he is my firstborn son.
When I was up long hours in college studying for exams or when I had an errand to run–he was always by my side.
However, 4 years ago I had my daughter and 15 months later I had my last child, another son. Each time upon finding out I was pregnant, my oldest son seemed to get more sullen as a way to get more attention from me. His sullenness gradually turned to small episodes of rebellion to gain more of my attention. I can remember one day he had smarted off at the mouth about a chore he had to do in order to go outside. My husband had just gotten off work and as soon as he heard my son my husband was halfway across the room to “lay the smack down”. Instead of allowing my husband to discipline him I did something I should not have done. I intervened. My husband was angry and in the heat of our argument he let me know that there would come a day when I would have to let him take over the disciplining of our son. His exact words were, “it takes a man to make a boy into a man.”
At first I was appalled at his statement. For years, I had to handle the discipline while my husband worked 12 hour shifts. Did he think I was incompetent? Was my parenting “too weak” for a boy? That night I went to bed angry and confused. Whose job was it to discipline a boy? Should a father discipline his sons or can a mother be just as effective? After a couple of days, everything went back to normal in our house, but I began to observe how my son behaved when around his Dad. To my surprise, I saw that when I wasn’t around my son seemed to “listen more” to his father. It wasn’t that he was disrespectful to me, but whenever his father told him to do something he would “jump” to get it done. While when I disciplined, he was more likely to take his time. I was mom–the understanding parent. You see before this past incident I was blind to the effect that fathers have on their sons. Yes, I could still spank him and make him fearful of doing wrong, but something had changed. It wasn’t that his voice is changing or the fact that he is growing hair all over his body, but his personality was changing. He needed the constant discipline of a man””his father.
As I thought about this change that my preteen was going through, I went to a cousin of mine who was experiencing the same thing. As I sat in her kitchen and cried because I felt as I was losing my “baby”, she gave me some real talk. She explained to me that she had to essentially let her husband discipline her boys when they became stronger than her. As she put it, “there are some things that only a Dad can teach.” As I thought about it, it all began to make sense. While my son isn’t a bad child, he is a normal 12 year old who sometimes needs to be “put in his place”. If I kept “saving him” from his Dad’s discipline, then I was going to make him a “pitiful man”.
From that point on, I stepped back in the physical discipline of our preteen. Of course I still punish him (if needed) and will put the “smack down” (if necessary) but for the most part, I let his father do this. If he wants privileges to go to the movies with a group of his friends, I defer all decisions to Dad. There is something about his Dad chastising him or making him get out in the yard and do some “hard labor” to punish him for something foolish he has done. My son seems to respond to my husband’s quiet way of discipline””even though he hates it at times. While they were close before I made this decision to stop interfering with discipline, something has changed within the last year. I notice that our son goes to his Dad now for issues he’s having. Before he would come and quietly ask me questions, but now there are times when him and his Dad go out for runs and they discuss “man stuff”.
Sure my feelings are hurt, but I understand that this evolution is part of being a man. I can teach him a lot of things but being a man is not one of them. What do you think-who is best to discipline a boy–a mother or father?