A single-parent has a tough job. However, there is one challenge single parents do not have to face. This challenge is for a couple to present their different opinions as a united front. It may seem like a minor problem, but ignoring it can cause children confusion and problems with authority.
A United Front Avoids a Multi-Headed Beast
The most important reason for parents to present a united front is for the kids. A single parental voice allows a child to quickly determine how to act. When they understand what is accepted, what is not, and what the consequences are, then it provides them the ability to make smart decisions. However, when they get mixed messages, it can be hard to figure out what to do in a given situation. This confusion can be about little things like how to put away clothes, or big things like dating, studying or morality issues.
For example, let’s say one parent is ok with a child watching PG-13 rating movies and shows. Now let’s complicate things by saying the other parent is not ok with these shows. If the parents discuss the situation and present a set of rules, then the kids know what is acceptable to watch. However, when the parents do not offer a single rule (or set of rules), then the children have to figure out what is acceptable and when.
Lack of Unity Leads to Lack of Respect
Although confusing children is a problem, the larger issue is how multiple parenting styles leads to lack of respect for any authority. This deficit is a huge problem when parents split, and children live in multiple households. When the rules are not consistent, then it is more likely that children will consider the rules to be arbitrary. Instead of seeing rules as a way to avoid harmful consequences, children start to see rules as constraints created by those in charge. This thought removes the idea of rules being anything more than a way to control others. Thus, rules are superfluous, and the goal in life is to make the rules. Then there is no wrong or right just compliance and non-compliance.
Another way that lack of consistency leads to lack of respect is that there is a steady undermining of all authority. This is often seen when rules are different in two homes. A child in on home will see less weight for the standards of the other house.
For example, let’s say there is a bedtime set by House “A,” but none in “B.” In “A” there is an underlying thought that a bedtime is important. In “B” bedtimes are not important. This leads to thinking each house is wrong while living under the other rules. In the end, both sets of rules are seen as not worthy of respect. There is no reason to understand why either approach is right or worthwhile. That is unless the reasoning behind the rules is clearly laid out.
Divorce Adds to the Difficulty
This is made worse in divorce situations. The ex-couple likely has bad feelings towards each other and how they react to differences in child raising can undermine both parents. There is the opportunity to clarify why the rules are different and build respect for both sides. However, when there are already bad feelings, it is more likely that subtly or even directly the other approach will be disparaged. This undermines the other parent.
Most of us have been in situations where we have two bosses that do not agree. Sometimes we can determine which boss has the higher rank. Thus, we can ignore the one that is outranked. With parents, there is a situation where the ranks are equal. Therefore, a child does not have a clear path to success. Save them that struggle by spending some time on coming to an agreement. Use that agreed approach to present a united front and make life easier for everyone involved.