The divide and conquer strategy also known as divide and rule owes its origin probably to Philip II of Macedon, and Wikipedia (online) describes it as a technique that is meant to empower a sovereign to control subjects, populations, or factions of different interests, who collectively might be able to oppose his rule. I would like to suggest that this strategy still goes on in many homes today either consciously or unconsciously. How you may ask? Let us find out.
First it can happen with children against parents. Is that possible at all you may wonder? Then you do not know the true power of a child, lol! You see all those little ones, mini versions of you and your husband running round your living room, looking all so innocent and always camera ready for a diaper commercial with their beautiful eyes? They are not as naive as they look or as you think. Those kids are so smart and calculating. They know who to go meet when they want ice cream even though they can see you making dinner. They know which parent to meet when they want to stay up past their bed time. They know who to ask for an outing that inevitably always ends up as a mini shopping spree. And in these cases I have listed and even much more, they know who NOT to meet. Get my drift on how smart your kid is now?
So since we parents are the ‘trusting party’ in this case, we do not see our kids sometimes playing the game right before our very eyes. I was at a parents meeting once, where a gentleman was sharing his experience with his kids. They had come to make a presentation on a matter and having been burned in the past, he wisely responded “What did you mum say?” to which the kids replied ” Emotional Blackmail 101!
So your kids know you and your spouse well. They know who to approach, who to avoid, who to sweet talk, who to manipulate, who to cry for, who they can throw a tantrum for and get away with it. We have to be strong in our resolve to be great parents/teachers/builders and remain united in this Joint Task Force. Never, ever, let your kids create a crack in the relationship between you and your spouse because they want something. If you let them start, that crack will turn to a gully in no time and you will be shocked beyond words then. Remain united in your agreement on how to raise them. Never capitulate to manipulative demands, even if you are the weaker party and they are pressing your “button”. When it is something that is inconsequential, you can choose to be lenient and spontaneous. However when it is for something you know you cannot afford to give in, refer them to the other spouse that is stronger in such matters if they are trying to wear you down.
It could be a single child trying to divide and conquer, it could be all your kids hatching a plan together, but one thing I have found out about saying No in parenting, is that it is not really about trying to deny your kids things that make for their happiness. I have told my kids to always ask me and never assume that I will just say a No. Sometimes I say a Yes just to surprise them. Sometimes I have to say a No for their sake. Building character and avoidance of self-gratification traits early in life are stronger lessons that are being built in when we deny them things temporarily.
Now to the other angle, some parents do the divide and conquer thing too. Say a father just faces his girls and could care less about his boys, or a mom does the same for her sons and ignores the girls, it is setting a wrong precedent in the mind of that child. Some spouses pick their kids even over their partners in marriage. A father tries to discipline his son, and the mother runs to rescue her ‘beloved son’ and tells her husband not to kill her child with all this rigorous discipline. A mother in trying to discipline her daughter is confronted by her husband that she is too hard on their daughter and is scarring her badly. I know sometimes as parents we have the tendency to overdo it when it comes to raising a child of the same gender as us, but more lenient with the opposite gender (perhaps the Oedipus complex is responsible), but we must never fail to have balance as we play our role and our spouses are there to help us rein in our excesses.
For those who put their kids first and the home becomes an attack zone for the other spouse, it is wrong on so many levels, because we must never forget that these kids someday would grow up and leave the home and then it is just two of you. The strategy of divide and conquer you have employed all through the years, becomes redundant, and in my opinion the older years will be so miserable for two strangers bound together without any good friendship between them.
When kids play divide and conquer, pitting one parent against another, it ends up with the child not being well rounded in character development and most times, such child becomes the proverbial thorn in the side of the parent into adulthood. So if you do not want that thorn in your latter years, do not let that seedling bloom in your home. Yank it out. Get pesticides on it. Whatever you do, do not let the divide and conquer flower settle and grow in the garden of your home.
picture credits: the internet