1. United Front
Being a united front means that parents communicate with each other and make parenting decisions together. It is natural for parents to have different parenting styles from each other which may cause disagreements over how to parent. When there is no consensus, parenting becomes ineffective. Each parent ends up doing what they think is right and they end up undermining each other’s efforts.
Kids know which of their parents is more likely to cave in, not give consequences, or not follow through. Kids will often take advantage of this. This sets up a “good guy”, “bad guy” situation where one parent is liked and the other disliked. Children know when their parents aren’t communicating with each other about how to parent and they take advantage of this to get what they want. The only way to avoid this is for parents to communicate and work through their parenting differences so they can both enforce the rules at home.
A family I have been working with had a beautiful example of how having a united front makes life easier. Mom and son were at home having a conversation where the son asked for some money to attend an upcoming rock concert with his friends. The son added “dad said it was ok.” Mom told the son she would discuss it with dad when he got home from work. It turned out that the son had lied and dad had never given permission for him to attend the concert. Mom and dad confronted their son together and issued the appropriate consequences.
Consistency is doing the same thing every time so that kids know what to expect. I know a family where sometimes the kids get grounded for not doing their chores and other times there are no consequences for not doing their chores. Do you think the kids do their chores on a consistent basis? No way. Like most kids they try to see if they can get away with not having to work. The parents are so busy or tired, or non-caring that the kids can usually get away with it. Inevitably, there is a huge fight once a month where the parents yell at the kids for not doing their chores and then the next day everything goes back to normal. The parents could remedy this by simply being consistent. If the rule is you have to do chores, then there is a consequence that follows every time chores aren’t done. In my experience a lack of consistency is the most common mistake parents make.
3. Follow Through
Follow through is doing what you say you will do. I know a parent who grounded her daughter for breaking curfew. The next day the daughter begged her mom to allow her to attend a special event at a friend’s house. After making promises and committing to never break curfew again, the mom let her daughter go to the event. What message did this send to the daughter? I think it was “you don’t have to believe anything I say because I will go back on my word, and you are welcome to do whatever you wish because I will not enforce the rules.” If mom gives in this time, what will happen next time? Do you think the daughter is going to take her mom seriously the next time consequences are handed out?
If a consequence is given, it must be followed through with every time. There is no getting out of it early. There is no time off for good behavior. Anything less makes the parent dishonest and robs the child of the important lessons she needs to learn.Parenting style effects the child behavior.
It’s easy to talk about being consistent, having a united front, and following through. But the truth is that mastering these principles takes patience, time, and hard work. These are parenting principles that will not be mastered easily. However, the payoff is great. As these principles are mastered, parenting becomes easier and the battles and arguments diminish. The hard work up front pays great dividends down the road resulting in healthier, happier children.