More conservative wins.

There's nothing worse than undermining your partner in a parent-child fight.

Well... Maybe being undermined by your partner?

Here's a little tip that we've used to make those moments of parental conflict seem like parental harmony, even if they're not ;–)

The main goal is to have you show a unity of force between parents (for those of you lucky enough to have two or more parents (though more challenging with more than 2, it works with 1 and n + 1, therefore I have full confidence it would work with 4 parents as well cough cough.))

If you and your coparent show any signs of fracture or difference in approach to a situation, it's an opportunity. What kind of opportunity is up to you.

Is it an opportunity to pit one parent against another to gain heretofore unimagined privileges?

Or an opportunity to display how your parents calmly and coooperatively come to a consensus (perhaps even with child input????) on how to resolve a difference of opinions?

Now if you're like me, you certainly don't want number 1. And sometimes you're too tired/grumpy/exhausted to take road number two. And that's why we came up with path number 3:

A rule to resolve all parental conflict immediately (with time for private parental conversation at a later time.)

If the parents disagree, sometimes it is better to come to an agreement in front of your kids immediately, instead of letting things become a discussion (argument/tantrum/meltdown).

In these cases, it is SUPER useful to have a rule that you and your partner have agreed upon before hand to allow you to align immediately and without discussion.

I don't care what your rule is, as long as it is instanteously applied, and applied without consideration.

You could choose “shorter parent wins” or “older parent wins,” but we've come up with something that works pretty well in a lot of situations, and leads to good short and long term outcomes mostly.

“More conservative wins.”

What does that mean?

It means that when parents disagree in front of kids, we err on the side of the more conservative judgement.

“Can I jump off of this wall?”

“Yes” “No”

No wins. It's the more conservative answer: more risk averse, more restrictive. Even though it might be perfectly safe, and reasonable, the parent who said “yes” backs up the parent who says “no” in the moment.

More conservative wins.

This one little trick can align so many intra-parental conflicts:

“Can I get ice cream?”

“Can I go to the movies with my friends?”

“Can I go hotwire vehicles and drag race downtown?”

It is a shortcut that allows you parents to show a united front, and not undermine eachother, even in cases of very conflicting opinions on parenting. Don't let the kids pit you against eachother, or they win automatically.

Of course there are a few caveats:

If the more conservative parent changes their mind immediately, they can cede, without conflict.

If you said “no” to watching a movie out of default, or a desire to train your kids to expect less, but your coparent said “yes,” but you then realize... “hey ice cream will give us 10 minutes to go upstairs and makeout with the love of my life, by all means, you can both switch to “yes.”

And here's a caveat for you, ultra conservative parent reading this blog: You can't use this to always get your way. You have a conversation with your partner afterwards in private, in an attempt to align on why you said “no” or at least understand eachother's differences.

Is it different risk tolerance? Different values? Different beliefs about health food or safety?

The point is you can make it a private conversation, instead of a kid-witnessed fracture.

But you can't use it to railroad your partner in every decsion. If this is you, please use “shorter parent wins” as your rule instead. Congratulations if you are the shorter ;–)

Bonus captain obvious thought:

This should be common sense, but... You have to teach your kids that if the first parent says “no” the answer is no.

Otherwise they will ask one parent, and then go to the other and hope for a different answer.

You need to explicitly tell them that if they are caught tryingn to fish for a “yes” not only will the yes be rescinded, they will be more likely to get “nos” in the future.