When parents have differing opinions about child rearing, it is best to privately discuss our views and come up with a plan of how to handle that with the children. We should help our children learn to respect other’s opinions and how to look for compromises but be united in our decisions about how to handle situations that arise.
In 1992, Tom and I were not very good at communicating with each other, and we often made decisions without consulting the other person. This led to confusion on our children’s parts, and that affected their behavior in some negative ways.
For Shon (age 11), it caused him anxiety over his decisions, not knowing which parent to please. For Heather (age 8), it sometimes led to a sassy, disrespectful attitude. Kristy (age 6), was our quiet one. She observed her siblings’ actions and how we dealt with them.
I’ll share some excerpts from my 1992 journal. “After dinner, we were listening to some tapes of a comedian guitar player that Tom and Shon really liked at Forest Home. Praise the Lord, I did fairly well, I think, at masking my feelings. I didn’t like most of the music and Shon had his face about two inches from mine, grinning and watching intently to see if I approved. I just said it was hard for me to understand a lot of what he was saying.”
At first, I told Shon he could just listen to it with Tom. Then I decided he could listen to it when I wasn’t in the room. This is what I wrote in my journal: “I’ve decided that, in areas where Tom and I disagree, I’ll leave it to Shon’s conscience and prayer. It may be time for him to start making some of his own choices. I told him its ok for Christians to disagree, as long as we respect each other’s feelings. Perhaps God is using Tom and my differences of opinion to allow for Shon’s growth by giving him an opportunity to exercise his own discernment.”
Heather picked up on the fact that Tom often over-rode my decisions. This is another excerpt from my journal: “Last night, Heather and Kristy were telling me that Tom said they could get pierced ears and wear make-up at age 13. When I said 13 is young for make-up, Heather said in a sassy voice, ‘Well, Dad’s the boss.'”
Tom and I gradually learned to be united in our decisions. When the children asked us something, we’d tell them we’d discuss it with the other parent and get back to them. Tom and I would then have a private discussion of our opinions on the matter. Once we had agreed as to how to handle the situation, we would tell the children what we had decided. This eliminated much of their manipulative, disrespectful behavior.