Happy New Year! As I think about parenting resolutions for the year ahead, I believe one that would produce amazing fruit would be to resolve to take time to work together in unity as parents.
You know how it goes: Junior asks Mom if he can stay up an extra half-hour. Mom says, "No, tomorrow is a school day." Junior quietly goes to the next room and asks Dad the same question. Dad says, "Sure, I guess so." Boom. He got the answer he wanted. Now Mom is upset with both Dad and Junior.
Kids will try to divide and conquer adults, even though the results might get them in trouble. Kids don't necessarily think about what is wise or healthy. They just want what they want.
Next time, Dad would be wise to ask, "Have you already asked your mother? What did she say?" When in doubt, Mom and Dad might want to confer with each other (behind closed doors for serious matters). This give opportunity to come to agreement, the proceed with a united front when they come back to give Junior his answer. My husband and I always told the kids, "Mom and Daddy always agree. Even when we didn't. We took a time out to discuss things in private, then presented only the unified answer to the kids. Any disagreement was inside information, not for little ears. Even in football, the referees confer before announcing a penalty.
What about consequences for a child who has successfully manipulated and pitted one against the other? Consequences work best when they are related to the infraction. For example in the case of getting to stay up later, a good consequence might be to have to go to bed 30 minutes earlier the next night or two. The consequence needs to be heavy enough to make it not worthwhile to try this game in the future, but not so heavy as to break the relationship between parents and children. A good consequence for weaseling out of chores would be extra work. (Tell the child, "You must need more practice!")
Secondly, be sure you are getting to the heart of the child with the consequence. Don't focus only on the bad behavior, but discuss the deception the child tried to pull off.
And as an aside, be sure you are updating limits as kids get older. Bedtime for a 12-year old should not be the same as for a 6-year old. Be sure you are pulling back from controlling everything for teens. (See chapter 13 in my book, Intentional Parenting, a Guide for Christian Families.
Have a great 2018! And may your parenting be more unified than ever!