Children Need Not See Parental Conflicts

Facebook sign upFrom: Always the Bad Guy?

My husband thinks it’s OK for our 12-year-old to get a Facebook page. I say absolutely not. She has heard us arguing about this issue and tries to jump into the conversation. Next thing I know, it’s me against them, which feels very unhealthy. I think we should present a unified front on these kinds of decisions and keep our discussions from the kids. I don’t want to back down on this issue, but I’m worried our fights are counterproductive. Should I just give in?

To: Mom-in-the-Middle

From: Mb

Your question is a complicated one — do I answer the one about letting a preteen get a Facebook page? (Short response: no.) Or tackle the question about when to let adolescents join in during heated parental discussions? (Never.) Or shall we focus on the age-old and effective tactic employed by all children when trying to get what they want from their parents? (That would be divide and conquer.)

Let’s go with that third question, since the first two are so obvious.

Here’s a familiar scenario: Child asks Mom for permission to do something. Mom says no. Child asks Dad, who says yes (perhaps without knowing that Mom has already said no). Child proceeds to do the very thing Mom has prohibited, leaving her wondering why she bothers to make decisions when no one listens to her. Conflict ensues.

If you’ve ever felt like you have the parental authority of a potted plant, you’re not alone. Parental disagreements about privileges, discipline and routines are common causes of marital conflict. In fact, parenting is one of the top four causes of strife in marriage. (If you didn’t know that money, in-laws and sex are the other three, you’re obviously not married!)

In fact, not only are parenting disputes a source of strife and stress within marriage, but couples who fight about parenting decisions tend to be the least effective as well.

Being “on the same page” increases parental authority for Mom and Dad because children realize that together they are an impenetrable force that can’t be manipulated. Even when parents fundamentally disagree on a strategy or decision related to their children, showing a unified front tells the kids that the adults are in full control.

But it’s important to remember that moms and dads are different. One of the reasons parents argue about what’s best for their children is that mothers and fathers bring completely unique dispositions, skills and priorities to the parenting mix. The trick is to respect those differences and use them to your advantage.

Specialists agree that parents must keep their disagreements private and away from their children. Kids need a strong, unified front in order to feel that the adults in the home are speaking together with authority.

So what to do about the decision of whether to allow Facebook? First and foremost, let your daughter know that her desire to get a Facebook page has been noted, but that you and your husband will make this decision together. Then, make sure that any future conversations take place behind closed doors, or better yet, in a coffee shop without your daughter present.

You’re going to face lots of decisions having to do with your daughter’s greater access to media and culture, as well as her growing social freedom. Take the time now to really understand each other’s perspective. Are you equally concerned about preserving her innocence, protecting her from creepy strangers, assuring that she’s mature enough for social media, and committing yourselves to supervising her appropriately online?

There’s more to a decision like this than just saying, “Yeah, sure, why not?” If it’s not used appropriately, Facebook can be an entry door to a whole lot of adolescent behavior that can be negative and even destructive.

Marybeth Hicks is a columnist for The Washington Times and founder and editor of Ontheculture.com.