When Mothers and Fathers Collide – How Disagreements Affect Kids

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Sad child suffering and parents having discussionMothers and fathers can’t agree on everything. They disagree on restaurants, movies, friends, TV shows, and certainly on parenting.  This idea of having a “united front” just doesn’t always work. Kids sense when you are faking agreeing with each other. Telling your child to “Go ask your mother” or “Go ask your father” is a telltale sign that parents probably don’t agree.

How Do Disagreements Affect Kids?

The major issue seems to be the manner parents disagree. If there’s a lot of shouting and expletives about what they feel about how their kids behave, kids feel it’s their fault their parents don’t get along. Then they feel disloyal to the parent they favor in the moment—the parent they agree with.

If, on the other hand, behavior is viewed as something with meaning that the parents can discuss and disagree on calmly, the child may feel his parents care enough to figure things out with him or for him.

Why Should Parents Agree?

Parents are raised differently quite often which attracts them to each other. Their different points of view may lend some balance to their decision-making. Kids know their parents have differences and it gives them some experience with realizing people have different points of view. Even the same person can have different points of view. This is challenging but very important for kids to learn. Then they know they can feel different ways about things at the same time. This is a milestone for many children.

What if the Disagreements Have Nothing to Do with the Kids?

Now we’re in more difficult territory. If parents are angry at each other for reasons such as financial questions, household chores, satisfying each others’ needs for affection and empathy, and all the other complaints couples have about each other over time, they need to be sure these arguments don’t slip into attitudes toward their children.

For example, if a bunch of brothers are squabbling in a kind of normal way that boys do, if the parents are angry at each other, they may snap at the boys, punishing right and left, and everyone is upset and nothing is solved. Everyone feels blamed and no one is understood.

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