United We Stand, Divided We Fall

In the wake of the 9-11-01 tragedy, we have heard a number of patriotic sayings, including the above. The purpose of the statement is to encourage people to put aside their differences and stand shoulder to shoulder with their fellow Americans to fight those who have different goals so that we do not fall as a nation divided. As true as this is for us as a country, these words are equally true for parents. That is, parents must stand together and present a united front against those who have other agendas, namely, their children!

In my work with families, it has been my experience that overall, moms tend to be a little more lenient and dads tend to be a little more strict. Of course, that is not true for everyone, in some families it’s actually the other way around, but for the most part, it is generally true. In any event, the child soon learns which parent is the more lax and will target much of his attention toward that parent, primarily positive in nature. That is, the more lenient parent will often get a great deal of loving messages from the child which make the parent feel very good inside, which, in turn, reinforces their lenient style.

Enter the strict parent. Dismayed that household rules have again not been followed, he gets angry at mother and child, further cementing the bond between the industrious child and the oblivious parent. Later, the parents will argue. Each will say the other is too something, either too firm or too soft. Both will be angry, upset, hurt, frustrated. All the time they spend fighting is enjoyed by the child who goes on about his business undisturbed. The lenient parent may go seek comfort from the child, further enhancing the parent-child bond that threatens the marital bond. Eventually, the chasm between husband and wife becomes so great it can no longer be tolerated and the family dissolves. That’s the “divided we fall” part of the equation.

I cannot say it enough when it comes to an 8:00 bedtime or a 10:00 bedtime, the actual time is SO MUCH LESS IMPORTANT than just having both parents agree on what time it should be and enforcing it uniformly. United we stand.

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