Parents realize early how clever children can be about getting their parents to accommodate their wishes. Children also learn from a very young age what methods of need fulfillment succeed or fail with each of their parents. Learning to please your children appropriately and effectively requires ongoing parental vigilance and team approach.
Some common ways by which children attempt to impose their will are: temper tantrums, pitting one parent against the other and psychological manipulation using love/hate emotional blackmail.
The sight of a young child having a temper tantrum in public to get his/her wish fulfilled has caused discomfort to most observers, as the parent struggles to appease or restrain the youngster. Parents who have experienced this occurrence can attest to the embarrassment and distress they felt.
Another tactic is the “divide and conquer” ruse. “But Mommy always lets me do this,” as Dad is caught in the bind of being either incorrect or the “bad” parent.
In response to being denied a cookie prior to dinner, a child may retort accusatorily, “You never let me have what I want,” followed by, “I hate you!”
These normal attempts to exercise power and control only succeed if a parent succumbs to taking care of his/her own needs at the cost of the child’s best interests.
These tactics with an individual parent become further exacerbated when parents do not act as a team. In homes where parents do not see eye to eye about parenting issues and do not negotiate their unified responses, children may become falsely empowered, fearful, insecure and less equipped for adulthood.
Research by Sara Gable and associates defines supportive and unsupportive coparenting: “Supportive co-parenting takes place when mothers and fathers agree on parenting decisions. These decisions range from the routines, such as agreeing that bedtime is 8 P.M., to the philosophical such as the beliefs about what is best for the child.”
Conversely, “Unsupportive co-parenting occurs when mothers and fathers disagree about parenting issues. These can be minor disagreements, such as a parent letting a child watch TV before she does her homework and the other parent wanting the child to do her homework first.” The study concludes: “When mothers and fathers work to keep the coparenting relationship strong and supportive, children benefit.”
When children receive different responses from parents they may feel temporarily pleased to follow the answer they prefer but bewildered about the parenting they receive. When parents are united, the children feel more clear and secure.
Use a team approach for your children’s well-being and security:
• Remember that being a parenting team facilitates your children’s compliance and promotes respect for your wisdom and authority.
• Develop agreements on both basic day-to-day expected behaviors of your children as well as your negotiated stance on values and beliefs.
• Know that your children need to love you both individually and respect each of you as their solid protector and mentor for their optimal transition to healthy adulthood.