Children are willing to ask one parent and then the next to get the desired answer. Parental communication is key to combating this divisive strategy.
Children determine from an early age which parent they should ask for permission in which circumstance. I can illustrate this with the example of my own family. If the request involved some degree of daring, risk, or danger, they always approached Dad, the one more likely to allow a bareback ride on the horse or a run down a black diamond ski slope.
When it came to social events, they made the intelligent choice to come to Mom. I am—and always have been—more of a social butterfly than dear old Dad. This division of labor in regard to granting permission is logical and harmless. The problems begin when a child asks one parent, is denied permission, and then asks the other parent, looking for an override of the first ruling—Divide and Conquer.
If this is allowed in your family, it will definitely be disruptive. When Divide and Conquer is successful, Mom and Dad find themselves distracted and in conflict with each other. That leaves the child free to disregard the first parent’s decision.
To combat the Divide and Conquer strategy, you need to communicate. Find out if there has been an initial answer given to your child’s request. If the other parent has already responded, it is best to let the first answer hold. If you find that the two of you are continually disagreeing, it would be best to simply address your child’s request by saying, “Your Dad and I will have to talk about it.” It is always good to have a united front or, as I like to say, to be singing off the same songsheet.
For Your Reflection:
Have you ever been the victim of a Divide and Conquer strategy?