When the Leadership is Divided

When you and your spouse made the sacred vows it probably included the words “for better or for worse”. Maybe you wondered how bad “worse” will get. Very possibly the worst things you will go through as a married couple is the rebellion of your teenager. The heartbreaking experience of watching your baby develop his or her autonomy and choose to do dangerous and selfish things with that autonomy can wear at the marriage relationship. I usually find that in the parents of a teenager there is one parent who tends to take an enabler/sensitive/relationship focused role and the other parent leans more toward the strict/fixer/no-nonsense role.  The more the teen acts out the more we tend to polarize on those stances, and the strain of those differing views and the fear of being wrong can ruin the parents’ relationship. If you find yourself in this scenario consider the following points:

  1. The marriage comes first. The unity between the parents is vital to healthy structure in the family. Focus on that first and the parenting will come easier. Realize that you are there to balance each other, not prove yourself right. Allow the enabler to bring balance to the strict parent’s tendency to jump into fixer/protector mode. The enabler needs to allow the strict parent to strengthen him/her when he/she is in their turn-a-blind-eye-and-hope-for-the-best/enabler mode.
  2. You are each a gift to help the other. You are both right. No one is wrong here. You have both been given a point of view. Do you have to chose to go with one view or the other? Or could you find a way to use both points of view to arrive at a fuller picture? Can your arguing be seen as the process of creating that bigger picture?
  3. I suggest coming together once a week for the next few weeks to discuss how to handle the teen. If there’s disagreement, agree to spend some time praying over the next week on it then come together again and discuss. If you’re both listening to God and each other you should eventually reach an agreement.

Teens need us to be solid when they are in chaos. We are supposed to be their safety net. But if we are broken then they are especially in danger. And at the same time, subconsciously the teen may be attacking your marriage because the unity of his parents prevents him/her from getting what he wants. Children know that there is strength in unity and if they can corner us alone, away from the other parent, then they have a better chance at getting what they want. The structure in the family is upset. The hierarchy is reversed. Unfortunately a home run by the child and not the parent is a dysfunctional home.

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