Problems with discipline? Just get divorced!

This week the lovely Denise Schipani interviewed me for her blog, Mean Moms Rule.

We talk mostly about the history of this blog, money and single moms, but since Denise and her new book Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later are all about discipline, she asked my thoughts on the topic from a single-mom perspective:


I want to ask you specifically about things like discipline and order and being in control in your house. What issues along those lines do you face? Do you see them as different now that it’s just you?

When there is one parent, there is one personality and one voice telling the kids to pick up the chunks of banana pancake they threw on the floor. There just isn’t that support. That said, many married moms feel they don’t get discipline support – and I wonder if that silent or contrarian parent might contribute more to unruly behavior when compared with an absent parent, or two parents who support each other in discipline issues, but live in different homes.

So many times married moms complain to me that it’s easier to discipline their kids when their husbands are not involved:  “When he’s here, he just lets the kids run wild – but he doesn’t have to deal with them all day!”  Or the flip side: “My husband is so uptight, the kids feel so nervous when he’s home. I wish he’d lighten up and let them be kids. 

It doesn’t really matter what everyone’s position is. The reality is that if the two power sources in the house have strong opposing views on a topic, it breeds shame in the kids. If your daughter is about to gleefully bellyflop from the back of the couch onto the cushions – which you think is hilarious – she also feels ashamed because she knows her dad doesn’t allow it. Likewise, if under his mother’s supervision your son obediently sweeps the floor after dinner, that can also breed bad feelings if his dad is adamant the task is too much work for a kindergartner.

This speaks nothing of the tension that permeates a home when parents can’t agree on discipline – or anything else, for that matter.

Ideally, a house has two parents – plus many more loving, not-crazy relatives and friends – who find ways to work together and support each other on most important issues. But the further away from that idea a family gets, the more realistic that single parenthood becomes.

After all – how many times have moms – married, single, divorced – thought, “Gah! It’s easier if I just do it myself!”?


Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

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