without a united front…

I’ve often heard parents discussing the fact that, together with their spouse, they always present a united front to their children, whether or not they agree with their spouse. I admit this has always confounded me a bit. I want my children to be honest, both with themselves and with others, and to do what they feel is right, rather than feeling pressured into doing something. If I were to merely go along with my husband concerning an issue in order to present a united front, I would be modeling the exact opposite of that.

Going along with the other parent in order to present this united front is ultimately just another way of bullying – ganging up on a child to get him/her to do what you want. Generally speaking, when one parent is willing to compromise with the other in order to be united in the face of a child, there is usually a reciprocal expectation that when they want something from the child, the other parent will stand by them.

That doesn’t mean that I totally disregard my husband if I don’t agree with something he says. His feelings and needs are valid; I can acknowledge those, while helping my children to understand his viewpoint and helping him to understand their points of view. However, I don’t have to be inauthentic to myself or expect someone else to be inauthentic to themselves in order to acknowledge another person. The beauty of working together to find solutions is that everyone’s needs can be met without forcing anyone to be untrue to him/herself.

6 thoughts on “without a united front…

  1. This is well-spoken. I had “united front” parents and it was annoying and stifling and seemed kinda phony and boring. I think I understand some of the reasons parents try to do things this way… but I feel good about our choices of autonomy & mutual respect.

    Sometimes I wonder if “united front” couples end up with those weird tensions and “code” words and phrases and body language… not sure that’s so much fun nor healthy for kids.

  2. Children are smart and perceptive and they can sense deception. The truth is always the best way and to discuss these things in private and come to a mutual understanding is a good thing to do. We are not clones and we have the freedom to choose, it’s a god given right. Better to come to one accord to avoid the conflict. After being married for 34 years, the rule that has help was .. if one parent says no, its no. Both parent must say yes to be a yes. This avoids playing one parent over the other. It works … Aloha and God Bless!

    • Children are smart and perceptive. They know when one parent is merely going along with the other, even if they disagree with their partner. It magnifies the conflict.

      Parents supporting one another is one thing, but always going along with the other parent and discussing everything behind closed doors is something found in authoritarian homes where it is “parents versus kids.” I advocate consensual living, where every person is valued and respected as such. Instead of having only parents discuss things and make arbitrary decisions, we have everyone involved discuss situations and come up with solutions which work for everyone.

  3. I had a single mom growing up and I remember feeling lucky about it, because that “united front” business seemed to cause my friends a lot of frustration. One parent would respond positively only to have the other parent put “his” foot down. It wasn’t a great model for us girls to look forward to in marriage.

    My husband and I freely converse with our children when one or the other doesn’t agree. The kids see that it’s okay not to agree AND not to get angry about that. And, of course, as unschoolers our children fully weigh in with their thoughts.

    • You bring up an excellent point. Disagreements between parents are a great way to model conflict resolution. When children are involved in the process, they are learning and practicing life skills to achieve mutually acceptable solutions.

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