How to Handle the Parental End-Run

My son is smart- which is, of course a good thing. He’s also smart enough to know how to use the fact I’m not in the room to his advantage when Mom gives him a task he’s not too thrilled with. This isn’t such a great situation and it requires a combination of parental communication, a willingness to be firm, and in our case, the ability to be strict without being perceived as overbearing and running into serious resistance.

Being seven, he’s already figured everything out it seems. We think it’s great that he has a lot of self-confidence, given I live in a different state from he and his mother due to my work. However, figuring out that he can play us off each other isn’t one of those lessons we want him to keep, so his mother and I make sure we tell one another when he threatens to the “authority” of the other parent to get his way. We are also careful to back one another- and it doesn’t matter if we disagree with the other parent’s decision. In those cases, we may discuss the situation in private later and see how we’d resolve the situation if it came up again.

A good example – swearing. My son’s mother sometimes slips, more than I do it seems, and will curse around him at times. He corrects her, which is fine with us, so long as he isn’t too bossy about it; we’d rather he thought they were rude mistakes than normal behavior, in particular since emulating Mom could cause him problems in school. For her part, she knows she needs to work on it. On a recent occasion she swore while driving because she was nearly hit by a car. When our son loudly corrected her, she snapped at him a bit, mostly out of frustration with the near miss. They were both a bit on edge, and they were actually on their way to pick me up from a friend’s house, as I was in the state and visiting.

When the car pulled up, I could see something was wrong. With arm folded, my son tried to tell me how Mom had been bad and should be punished. When the full situation was explained, I replied (and only because she acknowledged it herself), “we both agree Mama shouldn’t have cursed, and she also shouldn’t have gotten upset. But remember that Mama is the parent – you are the kid. It’s not your job to yell at her, especially when she’s trying to drive the car.”

He apologized, and his Mother apologized in response for having snapped. I withheld any kind of response until she had filled me in, and I tried not to undermine her authority as a parent while acknowledging mistakes she owned up to.

I thought of sharing this story because it says a lot about parenting and how we adults should respond to a situation like this. I’m not saying that this is the best approach a father should think of. But in all fairness, this kind of enlightenment to our kids does really work. We can learn as parents too as our kids start to show their understanding of some serious matters in life. What do you think?

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