A Drama on Discipline
Tina (28) and Steve (28) are the parents of a six year old son, Josh. It's Saturday night and Tina is returning from a shopping trip to the mall.
Tina: Hi Steve. (looks over to the couch). Josh, what are you doing up? Steve, what's he doing up?
Steve: We were playing cowboy. We were having a great time.
Tina: I assume you read him a story.
Steve: Not yet.
Tina: Josh, please go to bed. (She walks him to the bathroom and to the bedroom where she reads him a story.)
Tina comes back down the stairs: Steve, I can't believe you. I came home at 9:00, and Josh is supposed to be in bed at 8:00. He's six years old. I can't believe this. I feel like I can't go out at night. I can't trust that he's going to be in bed.
Steve: What do you mean trust? I was having a good time with my son. I would think you would think that was more important than his bedtime.
Tina: When I left here at 6:00 I told you to put Josh to bed by 8:00.
Steve: You're making me nervous. I feel like I have a supervisor.
Tina: I'm not your supervisor. But the house has to have structured rules. Kids shouldn't get mixed messages from parents.
Steve: This is not a mixed message. This is your schedule. I never agreed to your schedule. You can put him to sleep at 8:00, but when I'm home, I want to put him to sleep at the time I want to put him to sleep.
Tina: So then discuss it with me first. Don't catch me in the middle. That's not fair to him.
Steve: Are you the president of this family? I'm also in charge of him. I don't have to discuss things with you before.
Tina: We should discuss things before. We should coordinate. Otherwise, I feel like you're undermining me.
Steve: I'm not undermining you. You're undermining yourself by coming in here and slapping me with rules.
Tina: It's not rules for you. It's rules for him.
Steve: You're imposing them on me as if I need the rules.
Tina: Don't you think we should have a united front?
Steve: We don't have to be united 24 hours a day. There are exceptions Josh and I needed the time together. He's been really stressed out with going to day care every day until 6:00. I thought he needed the time with me. To unwind.
Tina: I don't want him to see you as the good daddy who is never home but who is so nice. Then I'm the heavy. I'm the bad guy. I'm mean mommy cause I have the rules. That's what you just did to him.
Steve: You're making this into a drama that doesn't exist. You came in. You said go to sleep-- he went to sleep. That's the end of the story.
Tina: But the message is Mom's the one who makes the rules-- mom's the one who puts you to bed. When you're with dad, there are no rules. There's no bedtime. When the wicked witch comes home, then you have to go to bed.
Steve: You are acting like the wicked witch. I feel like a witch is coming after me. I think you have too many rules. I can't stand it.
Tina: Well I feel like it's the two of you against me. With a conspiratorial wink.
Steve: Because I need to be spontaneous. I can't be so regulated. You're going to kill me with this.
Tina: I'm not going to kill you. I'm tired of being the heavy. If it wasn't for me the house would have no structure whatsoever. You don't lay down any rules cause you're so interested in being popular.
Steve: You're the one who likes the structure.
Tina: Children need structure, and you're not providing any for him . When he goes to sleep, throw wild parties. But you've got to start keeping our rules.
Steve: I can't. It's not who I am.
Tina: Then you're not a father. You are a little friend.
Steve: Excuse me.
Tina: Maybe you gave the sperm but you're not doing anything with parenting.
Steve: I am the father. A father is not a mother. Just because I don't provide the structure doesn't mean....You are not listening!
Tina: God forbid anything should happen to me cause I'm not even sure I would want you to have custody
Steve: That is the most vicious thing I've ever heard you say.
Tina: I feel so frustrated. I feel that you are shirking your responsibilities.
Steve: Don't tell me about responsibilities. I have responsibilities all week.
Tina: But you're on vacation here. Meanwhile I have to be the only one who's doing anything. You don't come to school meetings. You don't feed him correctly. You don't put him to bed. You just want to relax. I understand that but...
Steve: Shut up. You go on and on. Give me a chance. I live here. I want to have a relaxed life. I don't want to be pushed from one activity to another. I'm the father. I'm not the child.
Tina: Then start acting like one.