Children Need Not See Parental Conflicts

Advice from Marybeth Hicks

Advice from Marybeth Hicks

From: Always the Bad Guy?

My husband thinks it’s OK for our 12-year-old to get a Facebook page. I say absolutely not. She has heard us arguing about this issue and tries to jump into the conversation. Next thing I know, it’s me against them, which feels very unhealthy. I think we should present a unified front on these kinds of decisions and keep our discussions from the kids. I don’t want to back down on this issue, but I’m worried our fights are counterproductive. Should I just give in?

To: Mom-in-the-Middle
From: Mb

Your question is a complicated one — do I answer the one about letting a preteen get a Facebook page? (Short response: no.) Or tackle the question about when to let adolescents join in during heated parental discussions? (Never.) Or shall we focus on the age-old and effective tactic employed by all children when trying to get what they want from their parents? (That would be divide and conquer.)

Let’s go with that third question, since the first two are so obvious.

Here’s a familiar scenario: Child asks Mom for permission to do something. Mom says no. Child asks Dad, who says yes (perhaps without knowing that Mom has already said no). Child proceeds to do the very thing Mom has prohibited, leaving her wondering why she bothers to make decisions when no one listens to her. Conflict ensues.

If you’ve ever felt like you have the parental authority of a potted plant, you’re not alone. Parental disagreements about privileges, discipline and routines are common causes of marital conflict. In fact, parenting is one of the top four causes of strife in marriage. (If you didn’t know that money, in-laws and sex are the other three, you’re obviously not married!)

In fact, not only are parenting disputes a source of strife and stress within marriage, but couples who fight about parenting decisions tend to be the least effective as well.

Being “on the same page” increases parental authority for Mom and Dad because children realize that together they are an impenetrable force that can’t be manipulated. Even when parents fundamentally disagree on a strategy or decision related to their children, showing a unified front tells the kids that the adults are in full control.

But it’s important to remember that moms and dads are different. One of the reasons parents argue about what’s best for their children is that mothers and fathers bring completely unique dispositions, skills and priorities to the parenting mix. The trick is to respect those differences and use them to your advantage.

Specialists agree that parents must keep their disagreements private and away from their children. Kids need a strong, unified front in order to feel that the adults in the home are speaking together with authority.

So what to do about the decision of whether to allow Facebook? First and foremost, let your daughter know that her desire to get a Facebook page has been noted, but that you and your husband will make this decision together. Then, make sure that any future conversations take place behind closed doors, or better yet, in a coffee shop without your daughter present.

You’re going to face lots of decisions having to do with your daughter’s greater access to media and culture, as well as her growing social freedom. Take the time now to really understand each other’s perspective. Are you equally concerned about preserving her innocence, protecting her from creepy strangers, assuring that she’s mature enough for social media, and committing yourselves to supervising her appropriately online?

Have a question about parenting in today’s culture? Email

Copyright 2013 Marybeth Hicks


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

1 Comment

Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.