One of the first parenting blogs I read was Dulce de Leche. Dulce also grew up homeschooled and had a similar transformation to my own. Her children are some years older than my own, and reading her positive parenting posts were transformative to me as a new and questioning mother. Since those early years, Dulce and I have become friends, and we now message each other now and again about this or that, and watch each other’s children grow.
Anyway, I’ve been wanting to write for a while about the problems I have with the idea that parents must provide a “united front” to their children, and I recently came across an old post of Dulce’s on this exact subject. I may write more about the subject myself at some point, but as I read through Dulce’s post all I could think was yes, yes, and yes. She made the points I’ve been thinking for a while now, and probably better than I could have. So I’ll start you off with the beginning of Dulce’s post, and then point you on to the rest.
I’ll confess it now. I hold heretical views on some parenting issues, and particularly on the most sacred tenet of all: the united front. Like consistency, it is assumed to be common sense and rarely controversial. I have some strong disagreements with the whole concept, though.
First, the whole point is (as Alfie Kohn points out) a united front against the child. It is part of the whole adversarial mindset that pits the parents against the children in war. The theory goes that if the child senses any weakness, he will attack you at your most vulnerable level of disagreement, so you are bound to an alliance with your partner in order to create a show of strength. My children aren’t adversaries, though. We are allies. Our family is on the same team. We aren’t at war with our kids and we are not afraid of evil motives on their part.
Secondly, it is inauthentic. The united front supposes that you and your partner actually disagree to some extent, but are backing each other up from a sense of obligation and/or fear. Do I really want to teach my children to ignore their own conscience and go along with others to prove their relationship? Is that the model of conflict resolution that I want them to follow? Five or ten years from now, I want to know that my kids feel comfortable standing firm in their own convictions, whether their friends agree or not.