Question: Dr. Scott, my wife is driving me crazy with her constant undermining of my parenting with the kids, especially with my son who is finishing his first semester of college. I love my son, believe me, but he’s entitled and naïve and we are definitely guilty of over-indulging him. He’s gotten two speeding tickets this semester and wrecked his car. So now, he’s not happy that he has to walk or get rides from friends. Well, that’s fine with me. I’m not buying him a new car and I’m certainly not paying for the new, outrageous insurance rates. I’m sure you would agree – let him deal with the natural consequences. But oh no… not my wife. After I spent an agonizing Thanksgiving break going around and around with my son about how he’ll have to deal with his own mess, my wife co-signed on an auto loan so he can get a new car. Easy for her because I’ll be the one working my butt off to cover the insurance while she gets to be the hero in my son’s eyes. Also, my wife doesn’t work, so guess who’s really going to pay for the car if my son fails to make his payments? Yup, that’s me. I’m actually getting madder and madder about this as I write about it to you. My wife is sweet and means well, but holy muffin; I cannot deal with her spoiling the kids like this. We have three more at home and if we don’t deal with them with a bit of a firmer hand, they’ll all be irresponsible and spoiled. It’s a little late in the game for my college son, but how do I get my wife to work with me and stop undermining my efforts? 

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Answer: Don’t pay the insurance. Your son and wife bought the car: let the insurance be their problem.

As for getting your wife onboard with you, I’d like to believe that she’d listen to reason and join you in co-parenting. I’d like to believe that she’d be convinced by the experts who agree that moms and dads need to present a united front and come together in purpose for the sake of their children, and that any disagreement must occur behind the scenes. But alas, I have no confidence she’ll be convinced for if she were so easily swayed, she would have listened to you already. No, I’m afraid it will take more than a logical appeal.

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I’ll get right to the point: your wife can’t stand confrontation and she can’t handle people being unhappy – especially unhappy with her, right? That’s why she’s trying to make your son happy and that is also why she does it behind your back. Therapy is called for here: therapy for her and therapy for your relationship. If talking about it betwixt yourselves was going to work, it would have already.

Not upsetting your son is more important to your wife than making the hard calls that a parent has to occasionally make. That’s not good. Making your son happy is more important to her than being honest with you. That’s really not good. Better take this into a professional for assessment and intervention. I recommend couple’s counseling to work on parental unity, transparency, and mutual confidence.

Good luck, Dr. Scott

Dr. Scott is Dr. Scott Jakubowski, Ph.D., LMFT: Owner/Operator of Horizons Therapeutic Services. Email questions to scottjakubowski@hotmail.com.

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