Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC
I am going to refer to the common roles as Mom and Dad roles, but really it’s just 2 different parenting styles. They can certainly be reversed! Fathers can absolutely be the intuitive parent, and mothers can definitely be the mediating parent. This is just the most typical way we see it playing out.
You need to understand why your spouse isn’t backing your parenting decisions.If your spouse isn’t backing your parenting decisions, it’s probably because they think you are in the wrong. Depending on their communication style they may have out-right told you this, or they may be just passive aggressively un-doing your decisions. Here’s the common parenting situation we see at Hope For Families.
Mother or Intuitive Parent: Mom’s especially are very in tune with their children. They can tell you what the various cries mean and they can tell you when their kid doesn’t feel well (even if there are no visible symptoms). Basically, they know when something is wrong. Moms are supposed to have this superpower! That whole Mother’s Intuition thing is for REAL. But as with all superpowers, there are some downfalls.
When babies cry it’s almost impossible for moms to resist responding to their needs. This is basic biology and it works very well for babies. BUT… it can cause big trouble when the kid becomes a teenager. Because when they become teens, they have to learn to solve their own problems, but the mom still gets these very strong intuition messages.
Often, moms become very emotionally reactive to the troubles that come during the teen years. Their insides are screaming that something is wrong and they feel a very strong urge to fix it. Unfortunately, there are lots of problems that happen in adolescence that moms just can’t fix or that the kid doesn’t want the mom to fix. The more the mom tries to fix it, the more upset the kid becomes.
This creates a bigger and bigger divide between the mom and the kid. The kid may start to get defiant and act out in various ways. The mom has a mixture of anger and fear (because the problem hasn’t been resolved). The fear keeps the reactive behaviors going (intervening, advice giving, fixing, nagging, etc….), and the kid just gets more and more defiant.
Father’s or Mediating Parent: Dads often miss the very subtle signs that the mother picks up on, or at least they don’t get the message as strongly as the mom. Which means they don’t feel as strong of an emotional urge to intervene.
This is the beginning of the divide, but it can progress to creating the “Grand Canyon”! Here’s how that progression will play out…
The mother will come to the father with her observations and concerns. In the beginning, he will back her up because that’s what good parents are supposed to do. However, as the war between the mother and the kid progresses the father begins to feel torn about the issue. It isn’t so much that he doesn’t believe the mom, or that he doesn’t think that the behavior is a problem, it’s more that he has an insight that the mother’s reactive behavior is only fueling the problem.
1. Now we have 2 huge problems.
A kid engaging in some sort of bad behavior
Parents that disagree on how to handle the problem
I can see the Grand Canyon from here!
Sorry to blow your cover dads, but I gotta call you out here. This is the stage when many dads start to become, passive aggressive, by trying to counter balance the mother’s reactivity by playing nice guy. Plus, a lot of time they feel like whatever is happening is only a stage and not the end of the universe like the mom thinks.
They will do things like keep secrets from the mom about misbehaviors, or they will attempt to minimize the issue when talking to the mother about it. The important thing to realize here is that they are trying to avoid causing another argument between the mother and the kid, because they know that’s only making it worse.
Both parents have a very important part of this puzzle, unfortunately, many parents try to counter balance each other, instead of using their skills to play different positions on the same team. Think of it like baseball, you have various players with various skills but they all need to work together to meet the same goal.
2. Use Your Superpowers to Work Together
The intuitive parent (often the mom, but not always), has a special ability to REALLY know what’s going on. The other parent needs to respect this and accept that their intuition is likely right on target. It’s important for the mediating parent to avoid downplaying the intuitive parents’ concerns. It only makes the intuitive parent more reactive and that makes the problem worse, because their insides are sending strong warning messages, and hearing “it’s not that big-a-deal” is going to infuriate them plus drive the fear even more.
The mediating parent (often the dad, but not always), has a better ability to communicate with the kid about this problem. This is because they aren’t as emotionally driven about the subject and therefore can more objective in their communication about the problem. It’s very important for the intuitive parent to realize that no matter how big the issue is… yelling, screaming, threatening, nagging, fixing, and punishing (YES, I said punishing!!!!!) is not going to solve the problem!!! If you’re confused by this, see my article on Punishment.
3. Never make a decision or judgment call in isolation
(unless it’s an imminent life threatening situation and you have no time to consult the other parent).
The best way to make sure that your partner can “back-up” your parenting decisions is to make sure they agree with them. If you are handing our punishments without first checking with your partner, then you are setting yourself up for SPLIT PARENTING. I like to say “unless someone is running in front of a bus, you should have time to think about it and consult your partner”.
It’s better to make the wrong decision UNITED, than to make a split decision.
Some of the parents we see must make BIG, GIANT, HUGE, SCARY decisions. These are usually very complicated and generally don’t have a “right” answer. In this event, you may need someone to help walk you and your spouse through this decision-making process. At Hope For Families we can help you work through all the nuances of these situations.
You can schedule a Free 15-minute consultation, to see if your situation is one that we can help with.