Dec 10, 2009

Do Parents Have to Put Up a "United Front"?

Parents Don't Have to Put Up a "United Front"

Even more important, the advice to be consistent has led many a mother and father to think that they should always be together in their feelings, presenting a united parental front to their children. This is nonsense. Yet, it is one of the most entrenched beliefs in child-rearing. Parents, according to this traditional notion, should always back each other up so that the child is led to believe that both parents feel the same way about a particular behavior.

Apart from the utter unfairness of this strategy--ganging up on the child in a two-against-one alignment--it often promotes "unrealness" on the part of one of the parents.


A sixteen-year-old girl's room is generally not kept clean enough to meet her mother's standards. This daughter's cleaning habits are unacceptable to Mother (in her area of nonacceptance). Her father, however, finds the room acceptably clean and neat. The same behavior is within his area of acceptance. Mother puts pressure on Father to feel the same way about the room as she does, so that they can have a united front (and thus have more influence on the daughter). If Father goes along, he is being untrue to his real feelings.

A six-year-old boys is playing with his video games and making more racket than his father can accept. Mother, however, is not bothered at all. She is delighted that the child is playing independently instead of hanging around her as he did all day. Father approaches Mother. "Why don't you do something to stop him making all that noise?" If Mother goes along, she is being untrue to her real feelings.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. book

Remember: You can be supportive, but not have a "united front"

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