Children would benefit from an ordered structure present in the family which is consistent and not contradicted. This is the maxim that was promoted in the field of parenthood and parenting in the last decades. This philosophy relies on the belief that children receive the most benefit from an environment which is free from contradicting opinions; an environment where adult caregivers appear to be thinking as one. This idea imparts the notion that this “stability” creates certainty in children as the burden of selecting which instruction to follow is removed. The issue with it is that I never saw it happen in practice. Sir Ken Robinson explains exquisitely that human beings are by their nature diverse. Our life stories shape our thinking patterns and behaviours and therefore results in a very vast and rich diversity of ideas, personalities and opinions. In the end, no two persons are the same or think the same. It is likely to find two like minded individuals who have similar ideas, but direct cloning of minds is highly improbable. I am certain that this comes as no surprise to anyone. This is why I highlight the irony of the fact that we press it some harshly into our parenting strategies; to create a make belief context where our kids believe that parents think as one.
Dr Gordon tell us that this fixation on not showing disagreement in front of our kids is not essential. He explains that exposing the children to difference in opinions offers the context for children to observe the art and skill of negotiating and communication. Although the ONE-MIND method offers a sense of clarity and consistency, it removes completely the possibility for the child to see the humanness of the parents, and in so doing steal away his/her opportunity to learn the necessary skills to reach a mature and respectful agreement. Reaching a final agreement is important however. Leaving the child with two, sometimes disparaging ideas, can be overwhelming. In fact, this blog should not be interpreted as a permission to disagree with the partner and stop there. We know that children who are exposed to conflicting communication patterns between parents, where one parent consistently rejects the opinion of the other, will develop a sense of ambivalence. So, we are not suggesting here to stop at being ok to disagree. The benefit of this opportunity is that children can see parents work through their disagreement and resolve the issue in a respectful attitude.
Gordon, T. (2000). Parent Effectiveness Training. Three Rivers Press: New York.
Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness. He offers parent coaching and social work sessions. He can be contacted on email@example.com.