This is one of the worst things you can do as a parent, in my opinion. Unfortunately, I have a spouse who is just starting to see the importance of this idea, now that the kids are in high school and middle school. I’m afraid that’s a little too late. Up until recently, it pretty much felt like we were working against each other when it came to parenting. The only way I can think of that we were always on the same page was whichever parent put one of the kids in time-out would always be the parent to end the time-out. Otherwise, that turns into a “good parent, bad parent” situation.
At one point we realized that if our daughter came running to one of us complaining about the other, it was just causing us to be mad at each other, so we stopped doing that and let her know that wasn’t going to work anymore. Some kids are very good at pinning one parent against the other, which becomes a lot easier when the parents are not presenting a united front.
As I mentioned in my post titled “Equal Parenting,” one of the biggest differences in our parenting styles is that my husband is not as concerned with encouraging the kids to do anything that needs to be done as I am and mostly wants to do fun stuff with them. In my mind, sometimes the fun stuff should be a reward or be earned and not just a given, and sometimes there needs to be consequences for not getting things done. That doesn’t usually occur to him without me suggesting it, so we are often at odds and are viewed differently by the kids. This has had a negative impact on the family dynamics in several ways, and I consider it another form of undermining me trying to teach the kids about time management, being responsible, and so on.
If he thinks I will not like the kids having something or doing something, he will actually suggest to them that they keep secrets from me, lie to me, and/or hide things from me. When they were younger, more than once I had asked him to not have the TV on while I was out running errands because they had already watched enough for the day. It was more convenient for him to put in a video or turn on the TV, so that’s what he did and then asked the kids not to tell me, or flipped channels when I walked in and saw the kids in front of the TV and tried to tell me he was checking the weather while they were pleading with him to go back to the movie. I would have rather he be honest with me and explain that he chose to let them watch TV because he had a bad headache or whatever the reason was, and I probably would have been OK with that. Instead, he ended up clearly lying to me in front of the kids, promoting the notion that if you do not like what Mom is asking you to do, just do what you want and lie about it if you get caught.
That’s the problem. Bad examples end up being set for the kids, it sets the kids up to prefer one parent over the other or behave differently with each parent, and they learn how to get away with things or get what they want from the more lenient parent. Basically, they learn how to play games and be deceitful. At least my kids have, even though I have been trying to teach them about the importance of honesty. Kids need consistency, not only from each parent individually from day to day, but from both parents. And they also need to know that parents are treating all of the kids fairly as best as they can. I realize this is difficult to accomplish, but it is much easier when parents have similar parenting styles, beliefs about what is expected and fair, and ideas of what they want to pass on to their children about morals, values, and character.
Up until recently, it didn’t appear as if my husband was the least bit interested in teaching the kids about these things, probably because he doesn’t fully understand what they mean himself. I only wish I had realized this a lot sooner than I did, but many things didn’t become apparent until we had kids. I think he is starting to see that not only does he need to step up his game with what he tells them about how they should treat people and behave, but he also needs to practice what he preaches. Otherwise, they are getting a very mixed message, and they are much more likely to copy what they see, including not listening to or respecting one parent or the other.
I just hope it really isn’t too late in the game for him to have some sort of impact on the kids to make some changes for the better. I think it’s only fitting that since he is a big part of the reason they behave the way they do, he should have to help “undo” the damage. Our oldest has called him out on being hypocritical, and it seems they have all been a bit confused by his sudden willingness to back me up on some things. So it would have been much better if we had been presenting a united front all along.
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