If a parent constantly overrules the other parent’s rules, what effect does this have on children?

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Answer by Thomas Zerbarini:

If a parent constantly overrules the other parent's in rules, discipline,  general acceptable behavior, etc… you have a recipe for a disastrous and disrespectful family unit.

If the parents do not respect each other, especially in front of their children, you are teaching the child to also disrespect the parents. This can also set up the behavior pattern for the child to disrespect the babysitter, teachers, group leaders and so on.

Parents will do this consciously or subconsciously to control the environment, establish authority over others, or use as a passive aggressive tool against the other parent. It leads to fighting and all parents should Stop Fighting In Front of the Kids.

Parents also use it during divorce to alienate the other parent and turn children against the other parent.

There are some great resources out there to help with this and similar situations. Most of what you will find out there talks about co-parenting in divorce; but, the techniques can be used to help a marriage and communicate better. Even Dr Phil has some great advice with Do's and Don'ts Co-Parenting with Your Ex:

As hard as it may be, sit down with your ex and make a commitment to set boundaries about your new relationship as co-parents.


  • Never sabotage your child's relationship with the other parent.
  • Never use your child as a pawn to get back at or hurt your ex.
  • Never use your child to gain information or to manipulate and influence your ex.
  • Never transfer hurt feelings and frustrations toward your ex onto your child.
  • Never force your child to choose a side when there's a conflict in scheduling or another planning challenge.
  • Never turn family events into pressure cookers.
  • Never depend too much on your child for companionship and support because you're hurt and lonely.
  • Never treat your child like an adult because you're lonely or just want help.
  • Never become so emotionally needy that your child develops feelings of guilt if he or she spends time with others.
  • Never convert guilt into overindulgence when it comes to satisfying your child's material desires.

There are two important rules concerning children during times of crisis and instability in your family:

1. Do not burden your children with situations they cannot control. Children should not bear such a responsibility. It will promote feelings of helplessness and insecurity, causing them to question their own strengths and abilities.

2. Do not ask your children to deal with adult issues. Children are not equipped to understand adult problems. Their focus should be on navigating the various child development stages they go through.


  • Commit to learn, adopt and apply all the principles set forth in Family First.
  • Sit down with your ex and make an affirmative plan that sets aside any differences you may have and focuses instead on meeting the needs of your children.
  • Agree with your ex that you absolutely won't disparage each other to your children. Further, forbid your children to speak disrespectfully about the other parent, even though it may be music to your ears.
  • Negotiate and agree on how you can best handle such things as handing off the children for visitation, holidays, or events.
  • Agree on boundaries and behavioral guidelines for raising your children so that there's consistency in their lives, regardless of which parent they're with at any given time.
  • Negotiate and agree on the role extended family members will play and the access they'll be granted while your child is in each other's charge.
  • Communicate actively with your ex about all aspects of your child's development.
  • Recognize that children are prone to testing a situation and manipulating boundaries and guidelines, especially if there's a chance to get something they may not ordinarily be able to obtain.
  • Compare notes with your ex before jumping to conclusions or condemning one another about what may have happened.
  • Although it may be emotionally painful, make sure that you and your ex keep each other informed about changes in your life circumstances so that the child is never, ever the primary source of information.
  • Commit to conducting yourself with emotional integrity.

Focus your efforts on what your children need most during this difficult time: acceptance, assurance of safety, freedom from guilt or blame for their parents' break up, structure, a stable parent who has the strength to conduct business and the ability to just be a kid.

For more, read Post-Divorce Parenting Mistakes and Strategies or pick up your copy of Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family.

Also, check out Effective Co-Parenting, Part Two for great guidelines for cooperation in a marriage or divorce.

Thomas Zerbarini

If a parent constantly overrules the other parent's rules, what effect does this have on children?


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