Nobody understands the divide-and-conquer strategy better than the children in your home. They have an instinct for it. When one parent stands in opposition to a desired outcome, a child will attempt an alliance with the other. If successful, the strategy is reinforced and is likely to become a repeated pattern of family interaction, often leading parents into states of confusion or even conflict between themselves.
Your child needs parents who know how to stand firm together. A healthy alliance between father and mother creates a secure environment in which children are more likely to attain appropriate emotional and behavioral balances as they grow. So, how strong is your parental alliance? Do the two of you cooperate well, or do you often work against each other?
If you want to become a stronger team, give attention to these four important components:
1. Consistent Communication
As parents, you need to have regular conversations about your children. At least once a week, you should spend time talking about what they need, how you are experiencing them, their challenges and achievements, and the roles each of you are playing in their lives. It is important to maintain a common pool of knowledge about your children and a shared perspective regarding their future.
2. United Responses
Work hard at coming to agreement on you both respond to the needs and requests of your children. When they ask for a decision, they should hear the same choice coming from both of you. If you’re not sure of the other parent’s opinion, be sure to insist on discussing it with them before giving a response. Don’t get caught in the “but I need an answer now” trap; if you do, your children will learn to always wait until the last minute to ask, leaving no time for parental collaboration.
3. Secret Diplomacy
As parents, you won’t agree about everything. Work out these differences privately, not in front of your children. Take whatever time you need to reach a joint conclusion. If you cannot decide between yourselves, get input from someone else. In most cases, it would be better to agree on the flip of a coin than to bring your children into the debate.
4. Prioritized Alliance
Your alliance with each other needs to be stronger than your alliance with your child. This is sometimes a challenge, especially in blended families, but it is an important priority to maintain. There is little your child will come to value more than a secure, healthy relationship between parents. They may not be able to acknowledge it now, but trusting in the strength of that bond is more important to them than getting their own way.
If you haven’t been doing these things, you can expect some resistance to change. That’s okay. Stay united as parents and face the challenges together. It’s a battle worth fighting.