APSGO Parenting Blog

Dear Helen,

At a workshop you gave on parents in conflict, you discussed the merits of different parenting approaches in the same family. Would you please repeat the points you made at that workshop?

C., Bowmanville

Gladly. Here goes:

The idea of parents being on the same page is misleading “common sense.” Who has the right page?!

But differences in approach need not be a stumbling block to co-operative parenting. Parents have different views on many issues such as books, politics and sports, so it is natural that they may differ on parenting, too. Children understand this and are comfortable with it.

(Children usually know which parent to ask for extra allowance and which is more likely to give rides to the mall.)

Relationships are unique to the individuals involved and each parent will have a different relationship with each child. No two people treat us the same – nor do we treat any two people the same. This is as it should be, and provides a more balanced view of the world for children.

Each parent is responsible for cultivating their own relationship with each child, which is distinct from, but can be complementary to, that of the other parent.

Attempting to present a unified front where none exists—
• is dishonest,
• fools no one,
• creates a situation which children can exploit,
• results in both parents being frustrated, and
• robs parents of an opportunity to demonstrate respect for differing opinions.
Each parent must work on their own plan of action for the week which is dependant on them and no one else. By being open about such differences with their children, parents can work on individual plans which have a much better chance of success. (It is quite acceptable and, more importantly, workable to let children know for example that, although Mom is willing to allow them to be responsible for homework, Dad expects it to be completed, and that the child and Dad can work this out without input from Mom.)

Time spent presenting a patently false united front increases the distance between parents and does not result in a unified plan of action. Being open about differences opens up a whole new range of options for plans and allows parents to be genuinely close instead of expending time and energy asserting their ‘rightness’ and trying to change the other parent’s mind.

‘United’ does not mean ‘in agreement,’ and if what we value is better relationships with our sons and daughters, it shouldn’t mean ‘united against our teens.’

Helen Jones, 2008

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Association of Parent Support Groups in Ontario (APSGO)