Why Parents Need to Speak with One Voice

Posted October 7, 2010 by

One of the main differences, and problems, I see with parenting today versus when I was a kid is how parents can cross each other when it comes to parenting.  A mother I know very well is a perfect example — she had taken to literally screaming at her six year old daughter to get her to do what she needed her to do. It wasn’t until I was in the kitchen one day when Dad came home that I understood why. When Dad walked through the door, the girl ran up to him and immediately asked for something her mother had already said “no” to. Dad, without a second thought, immediately said “yes,” and then chided Mom for saying no in the first place. The daughter shot a triumphant look at Mom, and walked off victoriously. It then hit me that, since Dad isn’t backing her up, the only tool Mom feels she has left is the Scream.

This is an example of the damage that can be done when parents don’t speak with one voice. We, as parents, don’t often realize this, but it is one of the most important aspects of successful parenting. Children will constantly push and push to find the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior. If they sense a gap between parents on anything, they will work it for all it’s worth. If they are successful, then the parent-child relationship begins to break down and the parent’s authority is weakened.

Again, parents today don’t realize this is what’s happening, but these are the stakes. Keeping this rule in mind is difficult, particularly when parents are at odds with one another because of their relationship. In these cases, I’ve seen parents cross each other when it comes to the children out of spite for on another. Needless to say, disaster ensues. We need to realize that when we first took on the responsibility of being parents, this is one of the things we signed up for. Regardless of any other pressures and issues, parents always need to speak with one voice.


John McPherson is a leadership and management consultant in Salinas, CA. John and his wife Christina have two children, Fiona and Carson. Both John and Christina’s parents had a great influence in their upbringing, which helped them define how they would parent their children. Over the past ten years, John observed how many parenting practices have strayed from the principles he and Christina have found to be successful, and this led him to write a book on parenting, entitled "Ten Simple Rules for Being a Parent in a World Turned Upside Down".

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  1. John McPherson Report

    In my opinion, it is more important to be in unison. I think the issues you have encountered support that opinion. At 29 and 26, it is time to be an adult. It sounds like your sons want to keep the gravy train rolling, but the clock is ticking and they need to begin living in the real world.

  2. sandygalka Report

    My husband and I almost never agree on parenting.
    We now have 2 grown “children” that in my opinion are out of control as drugs and alcohol are involved. My husband says that he feels it is more important to “do the right thing” than to back his spouse because to back me or agree with me to the sons we have “would compromise his credibility”. Thus, Question # 1 which is more important: to do what ONE parent feels is “right” or to be in unison?
    Question # 2 When sons are 29 and 26, is there still responsibility to these sons or at this stage of life or

    do spouses only have responsibility to each other? And this does not involve basic things like giving advice, or even occassional help, I am speaking of more concrete responsibilities like food, living in our house, money, money, money !

  3. John McPherson Report

    The Parent and the non Parent need to speak with one voice. That minimizes the difference between the two.

  4. JD Nichol Report

    If the parents don’t agree, in principle, morals and means of motivation and discipline prior to any disagreement or “situation” then there is going to be trouble. Trouble maintaining credibility, consistency and a peaceful coexistence.

    Parents need to agree before hand on what the rules or boundaries are. Then they need to agree what the consequences or actions will be. And finally they have to agree to support each other when making decisions about the kids.

    It’s not a bad idea to bring the child into the discussion before trouble, when everyone is calm, and get the child to understand and agree to as much of the rules and consequences as possible. This last step makes it much easier to get the point across without an adult temper tantrum.

  5. jojok Report

    This isnt a comment rather it’s a question. When it is a single mother living with her boyfirned and his children also,how do you get the children to respect the nonm-parent?



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