My husband is setting a bad example for our son

What you need to know:

Husband recently told our son that although he never paid much attention to his studies, he is still a successful businessman. Now, our son does not care about his studies and when I caution him about it, he gives me his father’s example

Dear Heart to Heart, my husband and I have been married for 13 years and we have an 11-year-old son. However, my husband recently told our son that although he never paid much attention to his studies, he is still a successful businessman. Now, our son does not care about his studies and when I caution him about it, he gives me his father’s example. He has also started picking on his father’s other habits. He recently asked me if he can drink beer, or if it is okay to insult someone. I have talked to my husband but he finds all this ‘funny’. How should I ask him to become a responsible father?                    


Dear Anonymous,

Parenting is not an easy job, which can be challenging when two parents have different parenting styles. If one parent believes that the other is teaching their child to misbehave, it can be a puzzling situation. When parents contradict each other in front of their children, it can impact how the child interacts with the world long after they become independent.

Parenting styles may differ but when they are so extreme, such as in this case, it can also confuse the child especially if they identify a discord between their parents. This can, in turn, cause lax behaviour among children. However, when parents agree on how best to raise their children, this will enable good emotional development.

Open communication on a parenting style that seems detrimental to the child. Discuss your concerns with your husband in a calm respectful manner. Blaming and using accusing language will only make things worse. The focus should be on expressing your observations and your worries about the impact of his behaviour on your son.

Seek to understand your spouse’s perspective ad reasons for their approach. They may have different parenting beliefs and strategies that they think are beneficial. Listening to their point of view can help you find common ground.

One of the best ways to meet in the middle is to simply negotiate on what you plan to do moving forward. Do not think of negotiating as “losing.” This is not a battle, after all. The goal should be to try to come up with new solutions that work for your family and not to always have the final say.

Consistency is vital when it comes to disciplining your children. So, you and your partner should establish clear rules and consequences of bad behaviour.

Additionally, seek the guidance of a family counsellor who will help you navigate the challenges associated with such conflicts and help you come to a mutual understanding.

Lastly, parenting disagreements can often stem from one or both partners feeling disconnected from the other. Spend quality time together, and you are less likely to argue and more likely to be willing to support one another.


Talk to your son

Meshack Owechi. You can teach your child to make independent decisions by showing him both sides of the coin. For instance, if he talks about not studying and still being successful, you can tell him the challenges that one faces if they are not educated. You can share motivational and encouraging stories with him that have a positive message. You can also share a story which focuses on the consequences of insulting someone. You will also have to consider what kind of role model you are in your child’s life. If you accept your husband’s abusive behaviour, your son will think it is alright to behave in an abusive way. Therefore, speak to your husband about working as a team.

Call a family meeting

Hamibrah Raganyi. Call for a family meeting as soon as possible and make it clear to your son that you will not tolerate such behaviour from him. Encourage the father to also be responsible and tell your son to take his studies seriously.

Show him the reality

Ivan Kasvan Jude. Tell your son that him and his father have two different paths and lives. Therefore, what worked for his father might not work for him and he has to work hard and set his own destiny.

Talk to your husband

Allano Hooks. Your husband has not failed, he is just reluctant and at the same time seeing life from a different angle. I think he sees the funny side of things the reason it is hard to know when he is being serious. You should talk to him about allowing your son to deviate from the right upbringing that you should both provide. 

Teach your son right

Phoebe Miriam.  You cannot be married to someone who cares less about his children. One day, this whole scenario will haunt you as a mother. Teach your son about Jesus and let him know that drunkenness is dangerous.

Stand in the gap

Patience Natie Nampa. If your husband has failed in his responsibility, you can now groom your son. Give him examples from your family or immediate relatives who have made it in life through being committed to their studies. You can also arrange for your son to have talks or inspirational sessions from his relatives that he looks up to.

Agree as parents

David Mukasa. Parenting is a partnership between the couple and if partners have a difference in their thinking on how to raise a child, then it becomes a challenging task. There can be differences and issues between the couple but as parents, they have to be on the same page. Nowadays, parenting styles are changing and many parents are finding it challenging to cope with the developing trends. Children learn a lot by observing their parents and hence, parents can be under tremendous pressure to create a positive and encouraging environment for their children.


When disagreements occur, remind yourself that you both love your children and you both want what is best—even if you do not agree on how to get there.

Work hard to listen to one another, be respectful in your communication, and have your conversations where little ears cannot hear what you’re saying. Also, try to be empathetic and open to what your partner is saying and look for ways to compromise and collaborate.

If you cannot seem to come to an agreement, or if one or both of you is consistently condescending or rude, it is time to seek the help of a mental health professional. They can help you learn to communicate in healthier ways and provide tools for collaborating more effectively.


Evelyn Khorono Lufafa is a counselling psychologist with Sermotherapy Counselling Foundation