Parent's Conflicting Messages

Getting in the world of messing up your children head


9/15/202312 min read

blue pencil on orange surface
blue pencil on orange surface

The other day, as we were enjoying some time outdoors, our two girls couldn't resist the allure of some metal pieces strewn across the floor in the carpark basement.

Their gleeful stamping created quite the cacophony, prompting my wife to intervene immediately. The girls, as children often do, instinctively turned to me for guidance, and I found myself saying, "It's okay."

My rationale was simple: this had become somewhat of a routine during our weekly visits, and it never seemed to disturb anyone else except me. Plus, they were having so much fun, and I didn't want to extinguish their joy.

However, my well-intentioned decision didn't sit well with my wife.

She later confided in me, expressing her feelings of being disrespected because it seemed like I consistently contradicted her instructions. She felt that our daughters routinely disregarded her orders and instead looked up to me for the final word.

This scenario is far from an isolated incident during our family outings.

Many times, I've found myself not perceiving certain behaviors as inappropriate, whereas my wife finds them intolerable or disruptive.

My parenting philosophy, as long as the girls aren't openly disturbing others, ensuring their safety, and refraining from damaging public property, is to allow them the space to explore and be a bit rowdy.

On the other hand, my wife tends to be more easily irked by their antics, often feeling the need to exercise more control over their actions.

In the past, I never hesitated to disagree with her if I deemed her instructions unsuitable or rooted in her family upbringing. However, after her heartfelt conversation about her feelings of unhappiness and being undermined, I began to see the issue from her perspective.

Parenting is indeed a multifaceted journey, characterized by unwavering love, genuine care, and an innate desire to provide the best for our children.

Yet, it's important to acknowledge that, like us, many parents grapple with the challenge of sending conflicting messages to their children, which can lead to confusion and uncertainty in our little ones.

In the following sections of this blog article, we'll delve deeper into the phenomenon of conflicting parental messages, exploring its impact on children, and offering practical advice on how to navigate this intricate and often perplexing terrain.

So, let's embark on this enlightening journey together.

The Ripple Effect on Kids

mountain covered by cloud
mountain covered by cloud

You know, it's pretty fascinating how these conflicting messages from parents can pop up in all sorts of ways. There's a whole medley of reasons behind it – like the different notes in a symphony coming from various instruments.

One of the reasons is the diverse parenting styles that each parent brings to the table. It's like having two chefs in the kitchen with slightly different recipes for the same dish. Then, there are personal beliefs.

Picture this: Mom thinks it's essential to be early for everything, while Dad is all about fashionably late. It's like they're speaking different languages on the same topic.

And it doesn't stop there.

Cultural backgrounds can play a significant role in these mixed signals. Imagine two parents from the same culture, but they grew up in different parts of the country or the world. It's like being from the same hometown but speaking different dialects.

Even when parents share the same culture and ethnicity, their upbringing and life experiences can lead to vastly different mindsets and approaches. It's like they're reading the same book, but they've had entirely different bookmarks along the way.

Regardless of the root cause – whether it's different parenting styles, beliefs, cultural backgrounds, or plain ol' communication hiccups within the parental unit – these mixed signals are like ripples in a pond, spreading out and touching a child's emotional well-being and development in profound ways.

It's like we're all part of this intricate, interconnected web, and the messages we send as parents create a ripple effect that can shape the course of a child's life.

So, understanding the hows and whys behind these conflicting messages is not just about unraveling a parenting puzzle; it's about nurturing the future of our little ones.


Think of your child as a curious explorer, venturing into the wilderness of life. They step onto a path paved with mixed messages from their parents. One moment, they're given the green light to stomp on those metal pieces in the carpark basement, and the next, they're slammed with a "no entry" sign.

This contradiction is akin to handing them two different maps, each claiming to lead to the same treasure trove. It's like trying to chart a course with GPS directions that tell you to turn left and right simultaneously—a befuddling experience, to say the least.

But here's the catch: this perplexity doesn't simply evaporate after that specific situation. It lingers in their minds, much like a persistent, unanswered question mark. Whose guidance should they place their faith in? What's the true north in this compass of mixed signals? These questions start to swirl like a tempest, brewing anxiety and stress in their young hearts, emotions akin to being caught in a whirlpool they never wished to enter.

The young minds, so eager to absorb knowledge and make sense of the world, are left with a tangled puzzle to decipher. They crave consistency and clarity, yet they find themselves grappling with contradictory instructions. It's like handing them a Rubik's Cube with shifting colors, and no matter how hard they twist and turn, the puzzle remains unsolved.

As parents, we must recognize that the impact of these conflicting messages reaches far beyond the surface. It penetrates the very core of a child's emotional well-being, sowing seeds of doubt and anxiety that can take root and influence their decision-making as they grow. Therefore, fostering an environment of consistency and open communication is not just a gesture of love but an essential element in nurturing our children's emotional growth and resilience.

Erosion of Self-Esteem

Consider your child's self-esteem as a grand, majestic castle they are building within themselves. Each day, they lay down bricks of self-assurance, one atop the other. However, these bricks are not immune to the effects of mixed messages from parents. In fact, they are like cracks that gradually form in the foundation of this castle.

Every conflicting message, like a relentless hammer pounding on the construction site, chips away at their budding self-confidence. Picture this: Mom firmly says "no," while Dad enthusiastically says "yes." It's as if they're handed two different tools, each pulling in opposite directions, making it difficult for the child to hold steady.

With each conflicting directive, doubts start creeping in like weeds growing in those foundation cracks. The child begins to question their own judgment, wondering if their compass for distinguishing right from wrong is accurate or perpetually skewed.

As time goes by, this erosion of self-esteem becomes a formidable barrier to their growth and development. It's akin to building that majestic castle on a foundation that's slowly sinking into quicksand. The child becomes hesitant to make decisions, fearing that they'll always tread the wrong path. They second-guess themselves even when the answer is crystal clear. It's like trying to construct a towering skyscraper on a shaky foundation; no matter how high they aim, the structure will always be vulnerable to collapse.

In essence, the impact of conflicting messages on a child's self-esteem is a profound one. It's a journey from self-assuredness to self-doubt, and it can have far-reaching consequences that extend well into their adulthood. As parents, it's vital to recognize this vulnerability and strive to provide our children with the stable and nurturing environment they need to build their self-esteem on solid ground.

By doing so, we empower them to construct a future filled with confidence and resilience, where their decisions can reach the heights of their aspirations.

Complex Implications for Future Relationships

Imagine your child's life as a vast web of relationships, intricately woven over time. Now, think of conflicting messages within the family as dark clouds that cast a long shadow over this web, impacting how they navigate the intricate tapestry of human connections.

One of the key casualties in this scenario is trust – the bedrock of any healthy relationship. When children witness Mom and Dad sending mixed signals, trust becomes as fragile as glass. They've experienced firsthand how even those closest to them can sometimes speak with forked tongues. It's akin to planting seeds of skepticism in the fertile soil of their young minds.

As they venture into the world, this skepticism can follow them like a shadow. They might find it challenging to trust others' words or intentions, fearing that beneath the surface, there's a hidden agenda or a sudden change of heart waiting to emerge. It's like stepping onto a fragile bridge with the constant fear that it might collapse beneath their feet.

Now, think about boundaries in relationships as the lines that define personal space and respect. Conflicting messages at home can blur these lines, making it difficult for children to establish clear boundaries with friends, romantic partners, or colleagues.

It's like trying to draw on a canvas where the lines are smudged and uncertain – everything becomes a messy, unpredictable, and often frustrating endeavor.

Imagine them struggling to say "no" when they should or unable to articulate their needs and desires because the concept of boundaries feels vague and elusive. It's like navigating a maze with invisible walls – they keep bumping into obstacles but can't quite figure out where the boundaries lie.

In essence, the impact of conflicting messages on children transcends the immediate situation. It becomes interwoven into the fabric of their emotions, self-worth, and their ability to navigate the intricate dance of human connections.

It's a complex issue that deserves our attention and understanding as parents.

As parents, it's our responsibility to recognize these potential consequences and strive to create an environment where our children can develop trust, establish healthy boundaries, and approach relationships with confidence.

By doing so, we empower them to build a future filled with meaningful, fulfilling, and harmonious connections with others.

Fostering Strong Parental Unity

person wearing gold round analog watch
person wearing gold round analog watch
Open Communication:

Much like directors discussing the play's script and stage direction behind the scenes, encouraging open and honest communication between parents is the backbone of harmonious parenting. It's about making sure both directors are not just reading from the same script but are in the same chapter.

So, how can you put this into practice?

First and foremost, create a private, judgment-free space where you and your partner can talk about your differences. It's crucial to have this dialogue away from prying ears, especially those of your children. Think of it as a backstage conversation – a place where you can express your concerns, share your perspectives, and lay out your preferences without the spotlight of judgment.

This open dialogue serves as a bridge between your two worlds, allowing both parents to better understand each other and reach a consensus on important matters. It's like finding the perfect harmony in a musical duet – each voice complements the other to create a beautiful melody.

Remember, children are astute observers.

They're like the audience in the theater, closely watching every move, every interaction. If they witness Mom and Dad openly disagreeing or arguing about a parenting issue, it can be distressing and confusing for them. It's as if they're watching two co-pilots arguing in the cockpit while they're on a flight – it rattles their sense of security.

Therefore, whenever possible, it's wise to save the debates and discussions for a private setting. Keep the stage of your family life a place of unity and cooperation, so your child can sit back and enjoy the show without any backstage drama.

In essence, open communication and a unified front are like the twin engines propelling your parenting ship forward smoothly. They ensure that your child receives a consistent, clear, and harmonious message from both parents, creating a nurturing and stable environment for their growth and development.

Unified Front:

Think of parenting as a team sport.

Your team consists of two coaches—Mom and Dad—working together to guide your child through life's game. Just as in any team sport, having a unified front is crucial for success.

When parents present a united front in decision-making and rule-setting, it's like the coaches agreeing on the team's strategy. This consistency provides clarity and a sense of security for the child. They know what to expect, and there are no mixed signals to decipher.

Consistency doesn't mean both parents have to agree on every single detail; after all, no two coaches see eye-to-eye on every play. It means finding common ground, discussing and compromising when necessary, and then presenting a united stance to your child.

Imagine if one coach told the players to dribble the ball while the other insisted on passing it. Chaos would ensue on the field. Similarly, when parents contradict each other's decisions, it can create confusion and frustration for the child.

By working together as a cohesive team, you're not only providing a stable and secure environment for your child, but you're also teaching them valuable lessons about collaboration, compromise, and the importance of unity in a family.

Achieving Parental Unity: Strategies for Success

man in white dress shirt sitting beside woman in black long sleeve shirt
man in white dress shirt sitting beside woman in black long sleeve shirt

We've established the importance of parental unity in sending consistent messages to our children. Yet, we also know that achieving this harmony can feel like trying to synchronize two separate orchestras in a grand symphony.

It's challenging, but it's not impossible. Here are some practical strategies to bridge the gap and find compromise:

Regular Check-Ins: Imagine this as your parenting conference, a designated time to discuss and recalibrate. Whether it's a weekly sit-down or a monthly catch-up, these meetings allow you and your partner to touch base on parenting matters. It's like having a scheduled rehearsal in the theater of parenthood where you review how things are going and address any concerns or disagreements.

Prioritize Important Decisions: Not every decision requires a united front. Recognize this and save your collective energy for the significant matters that genuinely impact your child's well-being or daily routines. For the minor issues, it's perfectly fine for one parent to take the lead while the other provides support from the wings.

Compromise and Flexibility: Picture this as the art of finding the middle ground in the canvas of parenting. It's not about who's right and who's wrong; it's about what's best for your child. Be willing to adjust your views, blend your colors, and create a masterpiece of parenting together.

Support Each Other: Think of this as your parent-to-parent cheerleading squad. Publicly support each other's decisions, even when you privately disagree. It's not about pretending to be in complete agreement; it's about showing a united front in front of your child. For example, if one parent says, "It's bedtime now," and the other thinks it's a bit early but doesn't strongly object, it's better to support the decision rather than express doubt in front of the child.

Respect Each Other: Respect is the glue that holds the puzzle pieces of your parenting styles together. Maintain mutual respect for each other's approaches and decisions. Disagreements are normal, but avoid criticizing or belittling your partner's choices, especially in front of the child. Instead, treat your differences as opportunities for constructive discussions behind closed doors.

Focus on the Child: Remind yourselves that your primary concern should always be the well-being of your child. Personal differences should take a back seat to your child's development and happiness. It's like having a shared mission in the grand adventure of parenthood.

Empower the Child: Teach your child to be the detective of their own story. Encourage critical thinking skills and let them know it's perfectly fine to ask questions and seek clarification when they receive conflicting messages. It's like giving them a compass and a map to navigate through the maze of mixed signals.

Positive Role Models: Become the heroes your child looks up to, not just as parents but as partners. Demonstrate effective conflict resolution and communication skills. When children witness their parents working together to resolve differences, they are more likely to adopt similar strategies in their own lives. It's like setting the stage for a future generation of harmonious relationships.


As we wrap up our journey through the maze of conflicting messages in parenting, let's take a moment to reflect on what we've learned.

Parenting is a beautiful yet challenging expedition. It's a path marked by love, care, and an unwavering desire to provide the best for our children. But, like any adventure, it comes with its share of obstacles, and one of the most perplexing hurdles is the conflicting messages that parents sometimes send.

We've explored the profound impact these mixed signals can have on our children, from the confusion that leaves them feeling adrift, to the erosion of their self-esteem, and even the potential complications they may face in forming healthy relationships.

However, we've also uncovered strategies to help us navigate this complex terrain. We've learned about the importance of open communication between parents, creating a united front, seeking mediation when conflicts persist, and the value of compromise and flexibility.

As parents, our ultimate goal is to provide a safe, loving, and nurturing environment for our children to grow and thrive. It's not about being perfect; it's about learning and evolving as parents while putting our children's well-being first.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all solution in parenting. Every family is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. What matters most is the commitment to open communication, understanding, and, most importantly, unconditional love.

So, as you continue on your parenting journey, armed with newfound knowledge and strategies, keep in mind that you're not alone in facing these challenges. Reach out to fellow parents, professionals, or even trusted friends for support and guidance.

With patience, empathy, and a willingness to adapt, you'll find your way through the labyrinth of conflicting messages and create a loving, harmonious family atmosphere where your children can flourish.

With love.