Just like the popular reality show, sometimes there are alliances that form in marriage. In the weeks and months to come, I will be exploring some of the more popular types of alliances that form in marriage. As you might guess, the alliances I’m going to discuss are not healthy for a marriage and typically make it messy. So my first unhealthy alliance is, “The Protector Parent.”
You’ve probably witnessed this kind of scene . . . one parent is a little more strict, perhaps quite a bit harsher than the other parent with a child or children. Maybe that particular parent is stressed or has a short fuse and overreacts to the child’s wrong behavior. Let’s say the overreacting parent yells something like this –
“I can’t believe you just did that!! I’m going to ground you from tv, video games, all your toys and any social activities for the next year!!”
Now, the other parent is horrified by this overreaction and instead of waiting to discuss the matter behind closed doors (or at the very least taking a small sidebar with the offending parent), he or she jumps right into PPM – “Protector Parent Mode.”This mode sounds sort of like this –
“You can’t do that! Grounding him for a year?! Are you crazy?”
At this point, the protector parent fastens his or her sad eyes and arms on the misbehaving child with lightning-fast speed causing an even faster response in the child who erupts into a deluge of tears and “poor-pitiful-me’s” all over the place.
I know this dance. My husband and I have performed it multiple times over the years—often switching positions on who plays the overreacting parent and who’s the protector parent—but always with the same result. Trouble!
What does flying into PPM do?
- Undermines your spouse’s authority with the child.
- Confuses the child.
- Creates an unhealthy closeness with the protector parent.
- Makes your spouse look like the “Bad Cop.”
- Makes the child feel like a victim, perhaps for the rest of his or her life.
- Increases tension (and sometimes bitterness) between you and your spouse.
- Keeps the child from realizing the negative behavior he or she has just committed (Too focused on how bad the parent has just been to see own fault).
- Makes your marriage and parenting position messier!
Now, I know what some of you are thinking, “But you don’t know how harsh my spouse is with my kids! And I would have to say –
If your spouse is abusive with your children, certainly you need to protect your child!
But if your spouse simply loses his temper and overreacts on occasion…
Don’t interrupt the flow of the parental moment and remain a united front with your spouse in times of correction.
You can always discuss this situation later behind closed doors and change your approach next time. But respect and support your spouse in front of your kids in an effort to maintain a healthy alliance with your spouse, which will translate into an equally healthy relationship with your child.