Confessions of an Imperfect Parent: My Son Listens To His Dad But Not Me

Below is the story of Kristina, a mother who is frustrated by her son Scott. Even though she spends more time with him, Scott who is more cooperative with his father than with her. She’d like her days with Scott to be positive instead of filled with nagging and negativity. 

By considering her own behavior from a place of compassion and curiosity instead of judgment and shame, Kristina learns how to have more confidence in herself as an (inevitably) imperfect parent.

My Confession:

I’ve been having a hard time lately with my son. I am home with him all day. We have some really good times together, but I cannot get him to listen to me. Yet when his father asks him to do something, he jumps up and does it.

It’s very difficult because I put so much energy into Scott. I certainly feel grateful that I get to spend so much time with him, but I resent the fact that I do so much for him… and when I ask him to do one little thing — like pick up his toys, get his shoes on, or stop running across the street — he ignores me.

And then his father comes home. They play together for a little while, his father asks him to pick up his toys (or whatever else I asked him to do), and he does it. It’s probably because his father is so much more fun than I am, but I can’t be fun all day long! If all I did was play all day, nothing would get done.

I feel bad because…

I want to enjoy my time with my son, but I find myself getting angry with him when he won’t do what I ask.

So I have become a nag. I remind him to do things, I threaten to take away things or threaten not to do fun activities, and everything becomes so negative.

When I change my thoughts from a judgmental “Why do I DO that?” to a curious “Why DO I do that?” I realize that…

I become a nag because I don’t know how else to get Scott to do what I ask.

I don’t usually follow through with the things I threaten though, because following through is tiring. But even more than that, I’m worried that I already feel like I have to be so negative, and I don’t want him to see me as the “downer” all the time. Especially when his father is so fun.

The reason I do what I do is because…

I want to enjoy my time with Scott. We are together for so many hours each day, and I don’t want it to be such a bad experience.

So I don’t usually follow through with consequences (like not taking away TV time until he does what he is supposed to). The truth is that many of those consequences would be punishment for me too!

My solution for doing something different in the future is…

I know I need to be more consistent with Scott. Even though his dad is fun, I don’t think that’s why Scott listens; I think he listens because his dad does what he says he’s going to do. If Scott knows that I’m serious when I ask him to do something, I think he will take me more seriously. Since I am with him all the time, though, I need to make sure I use a consequence that I can definitely follow through with. I don’t want to take away the park when going to the park is something I enjoy!  

Sometimes I also think that Scott listens to his dad because his dad actually helps him do the task, and he makes things seem more engaging to Scott. I don’t always have time to do that, but with the things that really need to get done, I can make the time. (Like when he has to set the table…maybe we could make up a song together that will make it a little more fun!) That way, it will become something that’s enjoyable instead of something that we both dread.



Kristina’s frustration makes so much sense. She is not asking her son to do anything that he isn’t able to do… but she can’t get Scott to respect her the way he respects his father.

Kristina does recognize that there are differences in the way Scott’s father interacts with Scott and the way she doesn’t. After considering the ways in which Scott’s father is effective, she realizes that following through and respecting Scott’s interest in making tasks more fun are likely to motivate more responsible behavior.

Contact me to discuss this skill or and other that will help you feel more confident in your ability to raise great kids — without expecting perfection from yourself or your children.

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