It’s important to be on the same page when it comes to parenting. Maintaining parental authority is made even more challenging when spouses undermine each other’s parenting. It happens easily enough; when you’ve said no to ice cream, your child pulls out the “But daddy says that I can!” liner. Or when your partner says no to buying toys, “But mummy says she will buy this for me!”
This could simply be due to a difference in parenting techniques, but beyond the frustrations of being typecast as the bad cop/family party pooper, not presenting a unified front to the children has far reaching consequences. When children sense discrepancies between parents, they will use it to their advantage. After all, what’s the point of asking mummy (who will just say no), when daddy will definitely be their side?
Simply put, undermining parenting lays the foundation for spoiled children, and could have a negative influence on their behaviour in the long run. For example, children who know they’ll get what they want after a temper tantrum could turn to lying and emotional manipulation as they grow older. Or kids who have been shown that parental authority can be over-ridden with enough persistence (or the right sneaky tactics) could grow up lacking respect for authority. When children believe that what adults say doesn’t matter, constantly rebelling against could get them in trouble with important authority figures as they progress into young adulthood and later in life.
Unsure if there’s any undermining going on? Here are some examples.
- Tell your kids “yes” when your spouse has said “no”?
- Use your partner as a threat (“Wait till your dad comes home!”)
- Argue in front of your child?
- Take the blame for a mistake your child has made?
- Rescue your child from a consequences set by your spouse?
- Badmouth your partner to your kids?
- Tell your kids to keep secrets from the other parent?
- Tell your child that you don’t agree with your spouse?
- Let your kids break your partner’s rules when they’re not around?
- Reduce your spouse’s punishments?
- Make fun of your partner in their absence?
- Cover up for your child?
If you’ve answered “yes” to most of these (or if you recognise that your partner has been doing so), it’s time for a major parental overhaul. Have a good conversation – or speak to a couple’s counsellor – to align your views and parental techniques, and get back on the same page. It will take effort, but these adjustments will benefit your children and family in the long run!