Maintaining A Parental Alliance

A parental alliance is created when partners value and respect each other’s parenting decisions and the roles they choose to take on. This alliance is extremely important and not only has benefits for children in terms of their psychological functioning and development but benefits the parents as well. If parents can avoid frequent conflict, their children will fare better. Additionally, research has shown that by supporting one another in creating an alliance, parents experience less stress.
Take for example, hypothetical couple Kevin and Jenna who have a 17-year-old son named Scott and 12-year-old daughter Dawn. Kevin tends to be much more permissive in his parenting style, allowing the kids to do what they want when they want, and often doesn’t enforce rules, such as the curfew. Recently, Scott has been trying to pit his parents against one another so that he can get his way. He asked for the keys to the car to go to a party and when Jenna said no, Scott said “But Dad always lets me do it!” Kevin, overhearing this exchange said, “Come on Jenna, it’s just one night out, let him have the keys.” Scott happily took the keys, leaving Jenna behind, who was now frustrated with both her son and Kevin. Not only was she worried about Scott leaving the house alone at night with the car but didn’t like how Kevin went against her in front of him.
A united front is important. Even if parents disagree when it comes to certain decisions, conversations should be had in private. By doing this, the parents can go over the situation, have time to share each of their viewpoints, process everything, and come to a consensus. For decisions that require more immediate action, such as with Scott who was heading out the front door, it is important for the parents to support one another in the moment and have a conversation after regarding their differing viewpoints. The goal of that conversation would be for the two of them to come to an agreement as to how they will both set and enforce rules and responsibilities in the future.
When having discussions about parenting and creating an alliance, it is important to go over the many factors that can influence your parenting styles and values. For example, be sure to share with your partner how your family of origin affected how supported you felt as a child, and in turn how this has influenced you as an adult. Additionally, discuss the type of relationship you want to have with your children. For example, do you want them to see you as a friend, authority figure, or something in between? The more insight you can provide your partner with, the better able they will be to understand how you choose to make parenting decisions.

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