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9 Ways Parents Undermine Each Other

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Do you know what to do when one parent undermines the other? My husband and I have a code. If I ask him to go get me something from the other room, it’s a signal that I think he’s coming down too hard on the kids and needs to cool off. We came up with this code because the alternative was me jumping in and defending the kids and, in essence, undermining him.

It took a counseling session and a worksheet to get to this point, and it hasn’t been easy. The first step was to recognize the problem. Do you know what it looks like when one parent undermines the other? It’s much easier to recognize when it’s being done to you than when you’re the one doing it. So whether you’re married or divorced from your children’s father, look for these 9 things in your relationship to know if there’s undermining going on.

Ways Parents Undermine One Another

1. Cover for your child by lying to the other parent.
2. Reduce the punishment the other parent gives out.
3. Don’t uphold the other parent’s rules when he isn’t around.
4. Lie to the other parent about where you’re going with your child.
5. Tell your child to not tell Dad.
6. Argue about discipline in front of the child.
7. Treat the other parent as though he is incompetent.
8. Make Dad the disciplinarian, i.e., “Just wait ’til your father finds out.”
9. Say yes when Dad’s already said no.

Why Undermining Is a Problem

If you’ve ever been played by a 4-year-old, you know the problem created by parents who undermine one another. Even the sweetest kid will occasionally try to manipulate parents into getting what he or she wants. By undermining one another, you’re just giving those crafty kids a leg up.

On top of that, your kids deserve to have a relationship with their parents as a united front, not two separate entities. Even if you’re divorced, you can ease the burden on your child by letting Dad be a dad and not “Mom’s opponent.”

What to Do When One Parent Undermines the Other

Many couples don’t discuss parenting styles before they get married. They figure it out as they go. The first step is to agree that what’s best for your child is to present a united front and be willing to do what needs to be done to get to that point. If the issue is a disagreement over a rule or discipline style, explain how you’ve seen or not seen success. My husband has two grown kids and will bring up what he did right or wrong with them. I have to swallow my pride and recognize that this isn’t his first rodeo. At the same time, I remind him that our boys are different from his children and I’m not the same co-parent as his kids’ mother.

Talk about ways you see one another undermine each other and try to get to the root of it. This is going to take some work and might require a counselor to step in, but it’s worth it. Maybe you undo punishments he’s doled out because you were harshly punished as a kid. He might loosen up the rules when you’re not around because he doesn’t get to see the kids as much and wants to have fun with them. If you can identify what’s causing the undermining, you’ll be able to work toward a compromise that gets to the heart of the matter.

Have you had to deal with undermining? How did you handle it?


Why is it important for a mom and a dad to work together as a team?

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