Good Enough Parenting

Foiling the Divide and Conquer Strategy



All children (strong-willed, compliant or somewhere in between) determine from an early age which parent they should ask for permission in which circumstance.

We can easily illustrate this by using our own family. If the request involved some degree of daring, risk or danger, they always approached Dad, the one more likely to allow a bareback ride on the horse or a run down a black diamond ski slope.

When it came to social events, they made the intelligent choice to come to Mom, who was and is definitely more of a social butterfly than dear old Dad. This division of labor in regard to granting permission is logical and isn't harmful.

The problems begin when a child asks one parent, is denied permission, and then asks the other parent, looking for an override of the first ruling. We call it Divide and Conquer and it is an especially effective tool for a strong-willed child.

When Divide and Conquer is successful, Mom and Dad find themselves in conflict with one another and the child is essentially in control, free to disregard the first parent's decision and follow the second response, the one the child deemed more preferable.

To combat the Divide and Conquer strategy, each parent needs to first be aware of the possibility that this is may occur. If you suspect Divide and Conquer is in effect then simply ask your strong-willed child if the other parent has responded to the request.

If your child's answer is "yes," your response is simple - the first answer holds. It may be that at a later time you and your spouse will want to discuss the request and the answer, but this should be done without your child's input.

It's always best to have a united front or as we like to say, "To be singing off the same song sheet" - especially when you're parenting a strong-willed child.

Have you ever been the victim of a Divide and Conquer strategy?

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