May 11, 2011

Should Mom & Dad Uphold a "United Front"

One of the most popular parenting theories debated is whether or not both parents need to be "coming from the same place." According to this stance, both parents should always back each other up so that that their child is led to believe that their two parents have one voice and that they both feel the same way about a particular behavior.

In the words of Dr. Thomas Gordon: "This is nonsense."

Yet this approach remains to be widely accepted.

The underlying message with this theory is also this:

Two Parents vs. One child = Parents Win

...And the power struggle cycle begins

Despite the fact that this is clearly unfair to the child, it may also require a sincere amount of effort for one parent to create falseness who might not actually feel the same way that the other does. This breeds resentment for the odd parent out who is having to go along with being untrue to their feelings.

No parent ever feels accepting toward all the behavior of a child. But what are the effects on the child when one parent is being falsely accepting?

Children are rather uncanny in sensing their parents' true feelings and parents also send "nonverbal messages" to their children - cues that are percieved by the children, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. Children will hear their parent telling them one thing, while noticing other signals that would lead them to believe that their parent really isn't telling the truth. Putting a child in such an inner conflict can seriously affect their psychological health.

Children, like most people in this dilema, will experience confusion and begin to struggle between wanting to be loved (accepted) by their parent as well as wanting to behave or "be allowed to" act in a certain way. This child is in a bind.

There is a serious by-product of being falsely accepting and in the long run this may be even more harmful to the relationship between parent and child. When a child receives "mixed messages," they may begin to have grave doubts about the honesty or genuineness of her parent. She learns from many experiences that Mother often says one thing when she feels anbother. Eventually the child grows to distrust such a parent.

This can bring on frequent "testing" on the part of the child, can cause children to carry around a heavy dose of anxiety, foster in children feelings of insecurity, and so on.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Posted by: Selena Cruz George, P.E.T. Program Manager

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