Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"He said.. She Said" Parental Communication

“But Dad said.....” 
How many times have you heard these words? How did you respond? How have you and your spouse prepared for this inevitable milestone in your teens development?

Children learn early to ply one parent against another. As parents we can both rejoice at their intellectual reasoning and wince at their inability to comprehend the consequences of interpersonal manipulation. Families who default to the “He said..She said” ‘course of action’ may find that as their children grow the ability to maintain parental respect and family harmony dramatically decreases. What are parents to do? 

Skills of Reasoning or Manipulation?
From the time children begin to toddle their minds begin to comprehend how they can maneuver their wants between their parents. If one parent does not give in they always have another to plead with? Right? When a child makes a request, who in your family makes the final decision and in whose time frame? Are both parents involved? Do you categorize and divide the requests based on your child’s age or the subject matter? 
As children continue to grow into their teen and young adult years they will continue to test their parents standards of communication. It’s not that they want to strain their parent’s marriage, nature has simply designed them to look out for number one. (themselves) It is a parental responsibility to (by deferring to their spouse) not only teach them respect for the other parent, but to emphasize the relevance of parental and familial communication with regards to family harmony. Parents who work together, teach how to prioritize communication and help set their family members on a life course toward valuing family relationships.  

It has been my experience that children who grow up in homes where both parents sail the same course concerning family goals and standards have a better sense of self and greater sense of security. You could liken it to a ship where the Captain and his First Mate chart the same course, and sail for common purposes. No child wants to be on a ship that tacts between two different destinations or one that goes ‘no where’ or worse faces a miscommunication mutiny. 
Testing Tactics: 
As children mature, their tactics that test parental communication change from modest pouts to a self assured questions of guilt, “Can’t you think for yourself?” It would be easy to respond to such tactics with indignation, but before you loose your cool consider that your child’s perception is very limited when compared to that of an adults. And even if they believe they do, young adults do not have the experience, wisdom or insight that equals cooperative parental judgment. Each year of life, however does bring new levels of perception with regards to how relationships affect their sense of security. But remember as they pit you against your partner,  even though they have mastered the words, they are testing their methods against your parenting abilities. The various ages of your children will affect the different strategies they use. 
The bottom line is that our offspring are going to test us. They want to believe we love them enough to stand strong to our convictions and continue to steer the family ship together. As tempting as it might be to keep your child quiet by indulging them “just this one time,” and making them believe you are their “hero” parent, ask yourself how giving in will affect your marriage. Developing cooperative strategies that help you stay on the same course as your partner is key. A few ideas to consider are:  
Parental Strategies: 
  • Have weekly parent meetings (separate from dates) to discuss family goals and discipline strategies. I once knew a family where the parents retreated behind closed doors every Sunday evening to discuss parenting matters. 
  • With regards to granting permission, have a set standard for when, how and where requests can be made. 
  • Insist that children ask permission when both parents are present. If this is impractical consider having the standard answer of “NO” until the child learns to ask and plan activities in advance, or until both parents have time to consult.  Or..have a back up plan known only to the parents that allows for flexibility. 
  • Have a set Family Calendar session where discussion can be given with regards to family logistics.
  • Have a support plan in place when a child begins using their natural talents of persuasion. One that gives each parent an out until dual consideration can be given. 
  • Try Cooperative Parenting Tactics with your teen. Rather than inferring an  “I am in charge” attitude, try asking them questions about their request to help them consider and grow in their perceptions. “Who, What, When, Where, How?” By involving them in the decision you  are able to share your feelings of concern and earn cooperative respect. 

What have you done to maintain the integrity of your parental communication?

Children who are overindulged by either parent can cause parental discord. How do you and your partner guard against overindulgence? 

Linda Shaw 

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