Kids are notorious for separating mom and dad. I am not talking about separation in terms of divorce. I am talking about when a child asks one parent about having ice-cream before dinner, knowing the answer will be ‘no’ from the other parent.
Kids are only looking out for their own interests. This is normal and part of a developmental stage, especially when they are very young. Kids also know that one parent is the “weaker link.” When a child cries, tantrums, pouts, or even acts funny and silly, and one parent gives in to those behaviors, more often than not, that will be the “weaker” parent.
So, what needs to be done?
Parents need to be united. United in discipline, love, and teaching. There may be different styles on how each parent follows through with the foundation that the parents have set for the child, but the main concept is there.
When a child comes to you and asks for a cookie before dinner and the answer is ‘no,’ follow through with it. The child may whine to get you to change your answer; if you think you will soon be changing your mind, get reinforcement for your spouse or partner. The point is to show that the parents are united in response, and the child is unable to breakthrough.
If you are unsure of how to answer, and your partner is unavailable, then tell your child to wait. If your child needs a consequence and you are not sure of what to do and it can wait, then tell your child to wait until your spouse/partner to come home. Sometimes, consequences can wait, especially if you are not sure of how to handle a particular situation. This works a little better when the child is a bit older. If your partner is giving your child a consequence and you walk in on the situation, support the decision at that time. If you did not approve of the consequence or thought it was too harsh, then tell your partner when you are removed from the child. When a child sees his or her parents at odds over a punishment, the child will take advantage of that weakness the next time.
Communication with your spouse/partner helps you and your spouse to stay united. Kids may try anything to get what they want. Stay united, and communicate with your spouse/partner.
© Copyright 2011 by Kelly Sanders, MFT, therapist in Rancho Cucamonga, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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