hen parents who live together are in a battle for control, one parent interferes with the other when he or she is interacting with the children. Mary interrupts with “John, you’re being too hard on him,” as John imposes a consequence on their son. John interrupts with “Mary, he should be asleep by now,” as Mary reads his son a lengthy story. Each parent undermines the other’s authority, and then John and Mary wonder why their children don’t accept their discipline. If you are interfering with each other’s parenting, you really need to Cut It Out! The children in this situation learn to play the parents off against each other. “But Mom said I could go over to Andrew’s house.” If one parent is more lenient than the other, the kids will ask for a privilege from that parent first. If one parent is acknowledged to have greater power than the other, the less powerful parent may be asked “What would Dad say?” For two adults to work together effectively, they must have an agreement that each
54 Island Parent Magazine
is to be respected in their interactions with the children as long as there is no abusive behaviour. If mom disagrees with the way dad disciplines their child, she should not interfere at the time. She may speak with dad afterwards about it, out of the child’s hearing. Similarly, if dad thinks mom is being too lenient, he is not to interfere in the child’s presence. This kind of interference undermines the authority of both parents in the child’s eyes. Many parental disagreements stem from the fact that the parents had different upbringings and consequently different ideas about appropriate limits and how to enforce them. Often one parent sees the other as being either too harsh or too lenient. Perhaps one parent develops knowledge and
skills (for example, a new sense of good boundaries) and can no longer tolerate their partner’s old methods. It’s important for partners to discuss these issues and, whenever possible, read the same parenting books or take the same courses so they can come to a consensus. But this should be done privately, not in the hearing of the children, and certainly not by interfering with one another’s parenting, unless genuine abuse is occurring. There should be a boundary
Allison Rees Cut It Out! around each parent’s relationship with the child, and a boundary around the parents’ relationship with one another as they try to work out their parenting philosophy.
LIFE Seminars has two books available, Sidestepping the Power Struggle and The Parent Child Connection. See lifeseminars.com.
Gift & Book Recommendations