One child playing one parent off against another is often the cause of stress in a relationship. This is perfectly normal and completely the fault of the parent. A simple level of respect is required from each parent to the other.

In this culture, there is a strong prominence of focus on the mother to the exclusion, often, of the father. This is made worse in areas where the father is seen as nothing more than a sperm donor and of no more value than as a life support system for the sperm delivery method.

It must be remembered that the father is equally important in the rearing of his offspring as the mother is. One need only look at a "well balanced" home where mummy and daddy get on well and then compare with a home where mum and dad shout at each other and dad is absent a lot.

There must be a clear framework that acknowledges the right of the father to be consulted.

At one time, it was considered (some what arbitrarily) that father was head of the house. This head-ship was abused and, over time, lost by fathers. It is not a god-given right to dominate and rule. That would just be foolish. The head of the house (arbitrarily the father in times gone past) functions in union with mother who is his equal. The authority of the father is delegated with trust to the mother and the authority of the mother is delegated with trust to the father.

With this union, each parent may act with the complete authority of both but unless this acceptance of authority delegated is acknowledged publicly, it is useless. The authority rests with the parent unless they attempt to hold on to it.

How does a parent acknowledged publicly the authority delegated and why?

A mother acknowledges the authority of her partner by deferring clearly to him and he to her.

How else can a mother hope to rebuild the value of the father as a parent unless a united front is presented? Further - how can she breath life into the fathers once active desire to be involved with his children unless she recognises his value and the validity of his contribution? If fathers are so alienated from the role of parent by the assumptions of those who are "there to help the mother" how can he be expected to be a good dad later? It's no good us bemoaning the lack of bond between fathers and their teenage children when for the first 16 years of the child's life they have been considered a necessary evil, there only to bring in cash.

It is time to recognise the value of the active participation of fathers in the bringing up of children.

Let us suppose that sometime after tea the children ask mother if they can have ice cream. The mother has complete authority to decide an answer and act upon it. But here is an opportunity to recognise that there are two parents in the house.

Mother says: "What does you father have to say?"

Now let it be said that the uncaring environment where she says, "ask dad" and he says "ask mum" only serves to frustrate the children and show to them that neither parent can be bothered.

In restoring the father, the mother may even have to go with the children to where the father is and ask for the children "daddy, can we have some ice cream? Mummy says to ask you."

This says to the father "I trust you and your views are important to me" and it says to the children "Your father and I work together - we are a team"

The father can then choose to decide or to return the choice to mother with his blessing.

"Not this time" or "later" must not be used as a weak alternative to "no" - say what you mean and be ready to stick to it.

"Yes, if mummy says it is ok" or "What does mummy think" also re-enforces mothers authority and shows unity as mother and father come to a decision together.


"No, I feel it is too close to bed-time"

If the father's choice is no then he must stop what he is doing, at least temporarily, and go to the mother and say "I'd rather not, for this reason -"

Mother can offer counter arguments "It doesn't seem to be any harm... have you considered -"

In this way the parents reinforce the authority of each other despite a difference of opinion, furthermore they are teaching the children how to have peaceful disagreements and how to resolve them.

"I have told you before... Not before bed-time":

If this is the case then the father must go to the mother and say, "they have asked this {give time} and I said 'no' that time, I think we should be consistent."

The mother then has a responsibility to deal with this potential playing of one against another by declaring the choice of the father to the children. This is not because the father can not speak to the children indeed a good daddy may have already said no directly to the children but by echoing the choice of the father the mother shows that she and he stand together. It is not important that they agree on the issue, it is only vital that each supports and upholds the authority of the other.

Under no circumstances should a parent ever contradict the direct authority of the other, nor should one mock the other. When mother tells off father she places him at the same level as the child. When this happens how then can the child be expected to have respect for the father?

"Only if..." if father chooses to add a condition then the father needs to communicate the condition to mother (although as the years progress you may find that your children will communicate it themselves). The mother must act within the bounds of the decision or risk showing herself to be a liar by her pretence to her children.

This unity can further be enhanced by the parents finding time to compare views on things that affect the children. The mother should not necessarily expect the father to be particularly forthcoming if this is a change after a lifetime of false assumptions and mistreatment. For every exclusion of the father, it will take five to rebuild the detriment caused to the authority of the father.

End Notes

Including the father only works if the father is ultamatly willing to be included. Willingness is not always the case sometimes through neglect and sometimes for other more complex and personal reasons.
momomom Has kindly pointed out that "In breastfeeding classes, we teach that fathers give their children the first experience of love that is not connected to food. We also teach them how to be involved in a positive way that doesn't disrupt the lactation. Many parenting skills and tasks do not involve feeding the infant. Hopefully, if mommy isn't the only "expert" daddy will not be disinfranchised."