Divide and Conquer

Much of what My Beloved and I learned about parenting was taught to us by our children. For example, if they wanted something and the first parent they asked said “no”, they’d simply go to the other parent and ask again—conveniently leaving out that the other parent had already declined their request.

My Beloved and I quickly learned to ask the children if they had already asked the other parent, and if so, what the answer had been.

So, of course, the children learned to go to the Weakest Link first—who was usually My Beloved by the way. (She’d probably claim otherwise, especially when Daddy’s Little Girl entered the picture.)

Since neither of us wanted to be the “Bad Guy/Gal” and there were times when we simply didn’t want to make a decision or were too tired to do so, we sometimes punted. I‘d say, “Go ask your mother.” She’d say, Go ask your father.”

After awhile My Beloved and I realized we could be the Good Guy/Gal, by saying, “It’s OK with me if it’s OK with your Dad/Mom.” That usually went over real well with the other parent who was stuck being the Bad Guy/Gal if “No” was the appropriate response from a mature parent…
“No, you can’t have cupcakes for breakfast! What was your father thinking?!”

Which was usually quickly followed by, “RUSS! What were you thinking saying the kids could have cupcakes for breakfast?!?!”

Kids are such tattletales sometimes!

Whenever I heard her talking to the kids about one of my “brighter” parental decisions, I often tried to make myself scarce and out of ear-shot. I had the most remarkable selective-hearing at such times—not nearly as good as that employed by our children when they were in trouble, but good nonetheless.

And our kids learned that if they were about to suffer consequences as the result of their poor decisions or behavior—as opposed to mine—they might get off easy if they could get My Beloved and me to argue regarding the appropriate consequences.

Beloved and I learned that the best defense against that strategy was to have talked and agreed in private before approaching the child about the matter.

So while our young children were master manipulators, we learned a strategy or two from them as we worked—only partially successfully—–to remain firmly in charge.

When they tried to use “Divide and Conquer” to win a battle, we closed ranks and kept a united front.

We even found times when we could use “Divide and Conquer” strategies as parents.

If kids were squabbling, we’d divide them. If they were squabbling a LOT–and normal consequences weren’t working–we’d sometimes each take a child for one-on-on time so that we could enjoy their presence without the terrible Sibling Squabble-Monster rearing its ugly head.

As I said, we learned much from our children–probably a lot more than they would have liked!

About russtowne

My wife and I have been married since 1979. We have 3 adult children and 4 young grandsons. I manage a wealth management firm I founded in 2003. My Beloved is a Special Education teacher for Kindergartners and First Graders. I'm a published author of 23 books in a variety of genres for grownups and children. In addition to my family, friends, investing, and writing, my passions include reading, watching classic movies, experiencing waves crashing on rocky shores, hiking in ancient redwood forests, and enjoying our small redwood grove and fern garden.
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4 Responses to Divide and Conquer

  1. I feel like a criminal when dealing with my kids sometimes. Anything I say can and definitely WILL be used against me.

    • russtowne says:

      And at the most embarrassing possible times! I Know what you mean! Of course, kids tend to think the same thing about their parents. Anytime one of our kids said something about me embarrassing them, I’d respond: “I’m your dad. It’s my JOB to embarrass you!”

      But I’d also try not to embarrass them. They couldn’t have been too embarrassed beecause it was often at our house that their friends would want to spend time. But now that I think about it, maybe that was only because their parents embarrassed them even more!

      Thank you for your comment!


  2. seventhvoice says:

    Great post. I really enjoyed reading this and it is so true….It must be some kind of bizarre universal truth. For whilst It seems that parenting does not come complete with a hand book, children are never the less born with an innate understanding of just how to manipulate their parents…. and by gosh they do…..

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you!

      Indeed they seem to. I believe that ability is an evolutionary advantage as it helps them to stay alive until they can fend for themselves.

      The added advantage from their persective is that it can drive their parents crazy! ;-D!


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