BlogGo Far… Together

January 30, 2024by Frank Love0

Go Far . . . Together

Building Parental Alignment through Clear Decision-Making

In my previous blog post, The Importance of Tempering Ultimatums, I wrote about the damage ultimatums can cause and how truly loving relationships accommodate differences. Check it out.

Prelude: All parents aren’t good parents. Some are downright bad. Some parents are excessive and unconscionable with their physical discipline of their children. Some parents do not feed their children with love, sustenance, or education. There are even parents who have sex with their children. This blog is not about those types of parents; when there is such behavior, a child may rightly find themself trying to get out of the problematic cycle by swaying the other parent.

This blog is about parents who love and are invested in being loving to their children yet disagree with one another on how to do so.

Children Understand How to Manipulate Their Parents

River and Jordan are married and have a child. The child, four-year-old Phoenix, doesn’t like eating vegetables. River is not a fan of vegetables either, and when River cooks or makes Phoenix’s plate, the vegetables are left off of it. Jordan is a vegetable proponent. Jordan makes vegetables a part of every meal when cooking and includes veggies on any plate that Jordan is preparing.

Phoenix is aware of the vegetable position of each parent. In fact, Phoenix has heard each parent’s justification and can recite it. River has shared, “My parents didn’t make me eat vegetables when I was a child, and I turned out fine.”

Jordan has noted, “Research and common sense tell us that vegetables are a valuable part of any healthy meal; I—and I believe we—want Phoenix to be healthy.”

Children often tell us what we want to hear when they believe it works to their advantage. And often, they don’t tell us what we don’t want to hear when they think that works to their advantage. One of the arenas where children can get the biggest bang for their buck is complaining about the other parent. In this situation, Phoenix may tell River that Jordan required too many vegetables be eaten and now Phoenix’s stomach hurts. Or Phoenix may not mention to Jordan that River did not put vegetables on Phoenix’s plate. Either way, Pheonix is manipulating Jordan and/or River to Pheonix’s favor.

The Challenges of Parents Not Being Aligned

The first challenge of this example is the parents are not on the same page pertaining to whether Phoenix will eat vegetables or not. The second challenge is they have somehow informed the child of each parent’s individual preferences and the child can use this information to sway the issue and the parents as they see fit. The third challenge is the child is under the impression that they can sway the conversation between the parents and impact the results by sharing and not sharing information as they wish.

Why Parental Alignment Matters

It’s ideal for couples, whether they have children or not, to work together when they disagree. It is a way of being supportive of the family unit. And support of the family unit is a way of respecting its power—power that recognizes that we can accomplish more together compared to us doing our own thing. There are few places, if any, where this is clearer than with raising children.

If you want to go fastgo alone. If you want to go far, go together.

African proverb

Referencing the proverb above, if there is any endeavor that can be given a label or characterization of “going far,” it is raising a child. The proverb informs us that going far is an endeavor that is meant to be done together. The proverb doesn’t note that the people going together must agree; they must simply be together. Once the togetherness is understood, and both parties affirm it as a tone or culture between the two, then we can address the navigation of issues where we disagree.

Building a Decision-Making Process Between Parents

When we commit to going together, then we must explore how we will do so given the undeniable opportunities that will arise where we differ. Books have been written about navigating differences between couples and co-parents. Maybe this author will write one.

In the meantime, after the parents are clear about what the child wants (and what a child wants does matter), it is ideal for parents to work together . . . even when they disagree. A few options may include:

  1. Have a leader who makes decisions related to given areas of the child’s life (see Count the Stripes). Both parties wholeheartedly follow that leader.
  2. Flip a coin and both parties do whatever the coin says.
  3. Have a leader who makes the final decision about anything and everything. Both parties wholeheartedly follow that leader.
  4. Follow a spiritual text.
  5. Find a compromise or common ground to focus on.
  6. Take turns deferring to one another.
  7. If one partner feels very strongly about a particular decision, and the other is more ambivalent, consider following the partner with the stronger conviction.

Whatever the mechanism of decision-making is, the thing(s) that need to be done are done together.

It is important that children are not exposed to all and probably most disagreements. However, it is also important for children to be exposed to some disagreements, as long as the partners have the infrastructure, temperament, and perspective to talk lovingly to one another. When love is present during disagreements, the children learn how to work through issues and how to work together during disagreement. The children get to see that it is safe to disagree and exchange ideas within a unified partnership. Even if the parents see things differently, they get to be unified because they are making the decision together and both parents fully support the decision that is made. This is an important example to set.

When the principals do not have the infrastructure, temperament, and perspective to talk lovingly to one another (whether in general or about a specific disagreement), it is probably be best to keep your children out of the conversation. They need not know who wants what or that there is a difference between what the parents want. This will help eliminate the children’s efforts at manipulation.

The Value of Clear Decision-Making and Alignment

If parents are on the same page about how to handle a situation (like whether Phoenix will be required to or pressured to eat veggies), the second and the third challenge mentioned earlier will not exist. The child will probably not attempt to sway the parents by sharing and not sharing information because the decision has already been made.

The parents’ individual preferences will matter minimally, if at all, because they have agreed to a way the situation will be handled, and both parties presumably will honor their agreement. If the child does find out the bias of each parent, hopefully there will be little they can do with the information. There will be no way to sway a parent because the decision on how to deal with said issue has already been made.

If the decision isn’t honored by a parent, then the issue becomes one of integrity. While integrity is vitally important when raising children, this blog assumes it exists between the parents. Integrity can be discussed further in a future blog.

Many things in life are easier said than done. It isn’t expected that the way forward for two co-parents (whether they are together or not) will be simple. It is a balancing act that deserves loving consideration and attention.

This blog provides a guideline for staying unified. When parents are unified, the children’s lives can be much simpler and cohesive; and it also sets the children up to create positive infrastructure in their relationships in the future.

Keep Rising,

 Frank Love

In my next blog post, Building Parental Alignment Through Clear Decision-Making, I talk about the need for parents to create a united front when making decisions that involve their children.

Key Word Phrases

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