Last week, I wrote about the lies kids tell, and why they tell them. For personal reasons, the topic is still on my mind (or, on my mind again) this week. I’ll spare everyone the rabid details of my family drama, but I do want to address some of the issues at play…
Control: Many divorced parents put their children in control (although they probably don’t think of it that way) because they don’t want to deal with each other:
- “tell your dad to bring you home early”
- “tell your mom you have a violin lesson tomorrow at 2pm”
- “make sure you do X, Y and Z this weekend”
Such actions effectively hand over all power to the children and they are free to manipulate the situation toward any number of outcomes, voluntarily or otherwise:
- Jenny conveniently “forgets” to tell Daddy that she needs to be home earlier than usual
- Ethan tells Mommy about his violin lesson at 2:15pm while they’re visiting Grandma in another town
- Emily does X and Y but not Z. When Mom questions her actions, Emily lies and says, “Daddy wouldn’t let me”
In any case, Mom and Dad end up mad at each other and their kids are stuck in the middle (or forgotten and off to the side). Some children will continuously capitalize on such opportunities (to get what they want, avoid punishment, reunite their parents, etc) while others feel powerless and live in fear of messing up and creating chaos. Wouldn’t it be easier if Mom and Dad were in control?
Co-Parent Team: It’s imperative to present a united front to the kids so they know they cannot manipulate either to turn on the other. As far as the kids should know, Mom and Dad are on the same team:
- Mom and Dad both love their children (this is an important one!)
- Mom and Dad both want the homework to be done.
- Mom and Dad are both interested in the kids’ activities
- Mom and Dad are both concerned about safety
- Mom and Dad both want the kids to have fun
- Mom and Dad might have different rules in their houses, but each supports the other while the kids are in that home
Controlling Emotions: SCREAMING REAL LOUD does not mean a person is “superior”. It doesn’t mean that party is “winning”. It is indicative of a loss of self-control and there’s nothing admirable about that.
Respect: Shouting, name-calling, put-downs, etc are all popular tactics when it comes to conflict. Unfortunately, these weapons serve little purpose beyond stroking the ego of the person on the offense. True communication cannot take place without a consistent flow of respect between the stakeholders. If Mom and Dad don’t model respect for their children, what will their children learn about respect? What will the children learn about resolving conflict?
…I’ve been told there’s a lot that I don’t understand because I haven’t given birth. But in this case, I think my lack of Parental Filter allows me to see things a little more clearly. In general, am I wrong about any of this?