We have all been there (or will be), our child asks us about something important, we answer, and they say “oh that’s not what mom (dad) said” or “well, mom (dad) lets me do that”. If you haven’t heard those words from your child yet, guess what? It is going to happen, and the older they get, the more frequently you will be hit with one of those statements.
It can be a confusing and frustrating moment that often leaves us wondering how to respond, and how to compassionately explain the differences between dad and mom with our child. The frustration of this situation can be compounded in a split family, but all parents whether they are married or separated, eventually have to deal with that sort of statement.
I have rules and expectations at my house or when we are out in public that I want my daughter to follow. My daughter’s mom often has different rules and expectations, and that’s OK! When your child is with you, be clear about the rules of your house and how you expect them to be in public. Make sure that you are consistent with those rules and expectations, and that you explain to your child why those rules and expectations are important.
If you are re-married or have a partner that lives with you, make sure that the rules and expectations are clearly defined between you and the step-parent/partner, and that you are both setting the same rules and expectations. Otherwise, you now have a third party with different rules and expectations to blur the lines.
Remember, you can only control what happens in your house, and the influence you have on your child. When you and your Ex have a difference of opinion about rules and expectations, focus on your values and beliefs and do not bicker with your Ex about theirs. Communicating openly and calmly with your Ex will encourage an open channel for resolving problems, and teach your child the value of constructive problem solving and respect for other’s opinions.
Instead of negative comments and reactions, here are some responses that I have learned from others and my own experiences on how to answer certain tough questions.
Your mom and I feel differently about… and that is ok.
You need to talk to your mom about that and get her point of view.
We will have to ask your mom and decide on that. (Show you can be a good communicator)
I am not sure why your mom feels/acts that way, maybe we can talk to her.
Mom and me love you very much and we will always love you.
I’m not sure how to answer that. Let me think about it and we’ll discuss it later.
I know you miss your mom right now; do you want to call her?
At my house we do it this way and here is why.
I understand it’s different than at moms.
Mom and I do have different rules but they all have a purpose and value.
Never forget: When you attack a child’s parent, it will feel to the child like you are attacking the child. It might not seem logical to you but it’s the only way a child is able to feel.
When children see their parents fighting you are teaching them to fight, not how to problem solve. I explain to my daughter the situation and try and help her understand the two perspectives, and then ask her opinion so that she feels like part of the solution. If you do not teach your child to think about and understand all sides of the situation, then you might as well say, “Because I said so” which is my biggest pet peeve. Most importantly, remember to be consistent with your rules and expectations. Children need structure as much as we do. Creating a structured and consistent environment in your home will make your child feel safe, secure and loved.