Image Credit: James Thompson via Flickr
What does united front parenting look like? It is something so simple, yet can mean a great deal on how your children respond to your teachings. United front parenting is just that, a united front. Both parents, standing together with the same values, principles, and goals for their children. They will follow the same reward and consequence standards; they will be in unison when it comes to discipline and teaching. Being in a united front with your spouse can greatly increase the effectiveness of your parenting by creating a stability that your children need.
Many complications can occur when parents do not stand united.
- It can cause confusion in the home.
- Kids can learn how to play one parent against the other parent to get what they want.
- It can cause unnecessary arguing in the home.
- One parent may be viewed as lenient while the other one is viewed as being too harsh.
- One or both parents may try to over compensate what they feel is lacking, whether it mean being stricter or more lenient, creating an unbalanced atmosphere.
- It can cause division in the home.
Here are a few steps to help become a united front.
1. Don’t undermine the other parent
It can be difficult to see your spouse being either too harsh or too lenient when dealing with your children. You may want to speak up against your spouse and right the wrong you see him/her doing. DON’T. It will tell your children that you don’t value your spouse’s parenting, taking away creditability and loosing respect for both you and your spouse. Does that mean you completely stay out of it? No. They are also your children and you should have a say in the matter. But don’t contradict your spouse in front of your kids, especially in an argumentative way.
If your children are younger, simply ask them to go to their room while you two discuss the situation.
For older children, it can actually be beneficial for them to stay in the room while you guys talk it over because they will learn from your example on how you can disagree, but still come to a decision together.
Another way you can undermine your spouse is by going behind his/her back and letting the kids do something you both have agreed against. If a household rule is to not let your children have any desert if they do not eat all of their vegetables, yet when your spouse is not looking you hand over a candy bar with a warning, “Don’t tell,” you have just let your children know that rules do not apply when you are around. They will be looking to you to do it again and again and eventually not listen to either one of you. If you honestly felt like this was a situation where the rule could be bent, say your child really tried to eat the vegetables but had truly gotten full, then talk to your spouse about it and let it be a decision you both make together.
2. Don’t make one out to be the bad guy
There may be times when you and your spouse do not come to an agreement, either in a big situation or a small one. In the example above, where one parent feels like a rule could be bent, the other parent may not feel the same way. Maybe your child, who could not finish his vegetables, got full as the result of him getting into some snacks right before supper. So, your spouse feels he should not be rewarded. The last thing you should say is “Well, son, I tried. But your dad’s not being a nice daddy tonight.” This will immediately create division.
3. Have set punishments
Often times, it will be up to just one parent to give a punishment. It is not necessary to have a discussion with your spouse for every little infraction. By having a standard that you both agree on and stick to, it will let your kids know that when they are with just one parent, the punishment would be the same as if they were with both and discourage them from trying to act out thinking they can get away with it. A few time I’ve heard a parent say to their child, “Wait until your mom gets home and hears what you’ve done,” or, “Do I need to call your dad to come home and deal with you?” By saying that, the child knows that that one parent is the weak link. There is no real threat and the child will continue to act in the same manner until the other parent comes home. But, by having set punishments that both parents use when necessary, the child will be less likely to take advantage of one parent being gone.
4. Back the other parent up
No matter how strict or lenient a punishment may be, chances are your kids will think it’s mean. They may come running to you telling you how mean the other one is being. Don’t give into it. Doing so will result in them becoming a tattle-tail on their own parent and put you in a bad position. Instead, back your spouse up.
5. For big situations, talk before making a decision
When kids get older, they want more freedom and the ability to do more than they had when they were younger. They will have opportunities to go to parties, go to week long camps, go on dates, drive, etc. When the time comes and your children ask to do something that you and your spouse have normally not allowed, it would be best to discuss it rather than one parent just saying yes and the other one not agreeing and getting upset. By getting into the habit while they are younger of talking about the bigger situations, your children will be accustom of you two making these kind of decisions together.
6. Be the example
Often times it is hard for one parent to discipline their children over an occurrence if the other parent is the one teaching them to do it. It is confusing to the children and will cause them to view the disciplining parent as just a stick in the mud, someone not to listen to, not to trust, not to respect. One great example of this is a family sitting around the dinner table and one parent is showing great lack in table manners. This will usually result in the children following suit, wanting to join in, and the other parent trying to teach their children better with no success at all.
I know many of you just had an image flash through your head of when you were a child seeing that around your own dinner table. For others, it may have been as recent as last night. I know it probably happens with just about every family and it may not seem like that big of a deal. Partially, it may not be. Eventually, the kids will learn that manners at someone else’s home or in a public sitting need to be stricter than they are at home. But, notice I said, eventually. By having this kind of division, it may take the children longer to learn that it is really not funny to belch at the table, grab food with their hands or blow bubbles in their milk.
But that means no fun at all! Not completely. It does not mean that both parents have to be extremely strict, sitting at the table with their backs straight, napkins on their laps, fork in one hand, knife in the other, and the only acceptable topic for conversation is the weather. What it means is that both parents can have a little fun but that BOTH parents also need to teach them that in a public sitting it is not acceptable to blow their straw wrapper across the table or to take a big bite of broccoli and then with a huge grin ask “Is there something stuck in my teeth?” (We are civilized people, I promise.)
This is what we will be working on for this #WeeklyKidChallenge, discussing certain areas of our parenting to make sure we are standing as a united front.