It is generally common knowledge that parents should present a united front to their children. Even the youngest of children can detect when both parents are not on the same page, and if there is the opportunity to play one against the other to their own benefit. This is generally a sign of the child’s immaturity, but shouldn’t be a sign of the parent’s division in their roles as parents.More harmful than just one parent being a “softy” and the other more of a disciplinarian is when one parent is actively undermining the other parent’s authority. If you suspect this could be the case in your household, these questions may help you to determine if that is what is truly happening, and allow you to seek a resolution with your partner.
Does Your Spouse Lift Punishments That You Have Already Given Out? If your son used up the last of your patience while trying to get him to complete his chores, or your daughter talked back once too often before dinner, you may have felt it necessary to get your point across with a punishment of no television or video games for a few days. If your spouse comes home and tells the child not to worry about the punishment and go ahead to the family room to watch a favorite program or play a video game, he or she may be undermining your parental authority in the home. The spouse may not see it this way, and simply can not stand to see the child upset, but the reality is that he or she is sending the message to the child that their word is the ultimate law of the house and yours is simply not as relevant.
Does Your Spouse Keep Secrets With The Children From You? Occasionally, one parent may be privy to a certain bit of knowledge from a child that he or she chooses to keep from the spouse. This is generally not a real problem, as it usually is of a personal nature that the child only feels comfortable sharing with the same sex parent. However, if your spouse seems to be keeping a large number of secrets with the children from you, this could be a sign that he or she is undermining your parental authority. This situation essentially tells the child that your input and advice on a problematic situation is not to be valued and you are better off left in the dark in certain situations. Children should be able to view both their parents as ports in a storm, and fully capable of offering helpful advice and guidance when needed.
Does Your Spouse Disagree With You About Discipline In Front Of The Children? Ideally, parents should privately discuss their methods of discipline and stages of punishment away from children’s ears. However, situations often arise and negative behaviors occur and need to be dealt with on the spot. If you reprimand your child or assign a punishment as a consequence for a negative behavior, both parents should stand firm in front of the child. If your spouse tells you that you are overreacting, or being too hard on the child and then proceeds to comfort the child for your actions, this not only makes you out to be the bad guy, it also undermines your parental authority. The child may become confused as to whether the behavior was unacceptable, or your correcting the behavior was unacceptable.
Does Your Spouse Talk To You As Though You Were One Of The Children? If your partner typically speaks to you in a demeaning way in front of the children, this can indeed be a sign that he or she is undermining your parental authority. The children may not have a clear view on your role as a parent and figure of authority and may only see your partner in this light. Not only does this clear the way for the children to disobey and disrespect you down the road, it also may set up a scenario in which they do not feel entirely safe and secure with you, when the other parent is not present.
If you feel that your spouse is undermining your parental authority in the home, it is imperative that you discuss this and seek a resolution as swiftly as possible. This situation can be damaging to a marriage, and damaging to the child’s relationship with both parents.