Do Parents Need a United Front?
There are so many decisions parents make about disciplining their kids from toddlers to teens. It’s inevitable that they won’t always agree. Yet to present opposing points of view to one’s kids only confuses the children and undermines effective benevolent authority.
Children then learn to go to each parent until they get the answer they want. This not only isn’t effective parenting but it sets the kids’ loyalties on edge producing guilt and actually disrespect for their parents. Further it may undermine the marital bond for years to come.
Suggestions for Creating a Common Front by Parents When They Initially Disagree
1. When your child comes to you with a request, it’s fine to tell them you will get back to them after consulting your partner. This may lead to frustration on the child’s part which is sometimes difficult but actually helps your child learn to tolerate waiting. Further it shows the child you take their request seriously and respect your partner’s input. Kids feel more secure when this happens even if they initially don’t like to tolerate their frustration.
2. Talk with your partner about the request. If you come from very different points of view, discuss your ideas openly and honestly. This builds your marriage or partnership as you come to better understand each others’ minds.
3. Look for various alternative ways to view a situation discussing options and compromises if you disagree. You may not ultimately agree with each other completely yet by keeping an open mind you will find an answer to your child’s request that you can share this time. Leaving open other options in the future is a flexible caring response as well.
4. Come to your child or teen together to present your conclusion. Listen attentively to your child’s agreement or dissension but back each other up, so your child sees you are firm and clear. Your child will trust your decision because he or she sees how definitive you are and find the conclusion reasonable after all. In fact, you may find your child is relieved to have an answer to his request that he can rely on.
5. Later, after you see the effects of your decision, you may want to modify it. If you reach this conclusion together, the next time you can share your thoughts jointly with your son or daughter.
6. Let’s say your teen is going out with friends and you learn that he is punctual with the curfew you all agreed upon. You may find over time that he or she actually doesn’t even need a curfew! You have instilled reliability and good judgment in your child and he has learned how to make a sound decision on his own that you are proud of.
7. You are not only teaching your child that you and your partner work together to solve problems and answer questions that will impact your child’s life, but that there is a process to making a decision that your child can learn as well.
8. Share with your child that you and your partner don’t always agree. This is natural and normal but you find ways to look at various options and compromise flexibly. This is a great lesson for your child to learn not only about problem solving but about how two people who love each other work together.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Visit her website at www.lauriehollmanphd.com.