Do you know the parental one-upmanship? It occurs when two estranged parents compete for their child's coolest parent award in an effort to obtain their child's exclusive love.
To better understand the mechanisms behind parental one-upmanship and shed light on its consequences, Mamanpourlavie.com spoke with Hubert Van Gijseghem, clinical psychologist, professor and trainer with psycho-legal expertise.
Let's first say that parental one-upmanship is a dangerous game which is not without consequences for the child and which, inevitably, will lead parents to the pillory. There are many reasons that push parents to get into the gears of this parental one-upmanship. Although this phenomenon is not restricted to the children of divorce (or separation), it is observed more frequently in broken families.
There is currently no clinical term to qualify the actions of two parents who compete with their children. According to Dr. Van Gijseghem, parental one-upmanship is probably the phrase that describes thebetter this pernicious game that puts children at the center of a battle whose weapons are disguised as gifts, permissions and laxity.
“Parental one-upmanship weakens the foundations of the parent-child relationship. The child perceives this act as a small loophole and knows how to exploit it to appropriate power,” says Dr. Van Gijseghem. The child will use the very subtle advantage that the game of one-upmanship gives him to reverse the power and abolish the distance that exists between him and his parents.
When this distance no longer exists between the child and the parents, the latter see their authority weakened and this is when the child risks becoming a child-king. Dr. Van Gijseghem specifies: “Parents who are in the gears of one-upmanship should realize that their little prince will become an ogre. »
The importance of prohibitions
A child does not stop loving his parent because the latter puts tags on him and tells him no. “A child stops loving when the parent gives everything. He ends up finding it uninteresting and will despise him in the end”, underlines Dr. Van Gijsenghem who adds “the child loves his parent when he does not give him everything”.
Parents have the power to say no and it is precisely through these prohibitions that children build themselves. On this point, the renowned psychologist adds: “When a parent can no longer say no, he no longer raises his child”. For children to “grow well”, the ban is a must. “From birth,little ones want everything, right away. What they need is someone who can control them,” continues Dr. Van Gijsenghem.
Parental one-upmanship is a dangerous game that no one wins. Faced with an ultra-permissive parent who showers gifts and indulges the child's every whim, it can be tempting to follow the parade. However, not entering into competition with the other turns out to be a he althy and profitable attitude… without forgetting that this is a magnificent proof of love towards the 'child.