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Christian Counseling - Compensatory Parenting

In many families that do not function well, there are diametrically opposed parents. One tends too be domineering and the other permissive. Why is this? Typically, the parents are parenting in response to one another. If dad thinks that mom lets the kids get away with murder, then he responds by "laying down the law". If dad is harsh and domineering, mom responds by being more permissive in the hopes of balancing the scale. While this is common, it does not work. There are several reasons why.

1. The parents are actually parenting in opposition to one another. Rather than responding to the children's behaviors, they are actually responding to each other.

2. The children become confused. If one parent punishes the children harshly, and the other does not for the same offense, what is the child to think? They will typically not focus on the rightness or wrongness of their actions. Rather, the focus again is on the parent and their response instead of on the behavior or attitude of the child.

3. Oppositional parenting often reflects deeper marital discord. Many times parents who parent in opposition to one another are working out relationship issues with each other through their parenting. This is unhealthy for the children as well as the marital relationship. For these couples, trying to get on the same page as parents is merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Without addressing the underlying marital conflicts, there can be little to no hope of parenting effectively.

In the end, trying to balance out a spouse by being the opposite does help the children. In the, end, they do not have any good parents. You do not balance a harsh parent by being permissive or vice versa. The only way to balance out the other parent is by being an appropriate parent. In future posts, I will discuss in more detail what appropriate parenting looks like.

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