The child rights movement has typically fallen foul of both feminists and antifeminists in its renderings of the relations between women and children. This article attempts to move the debate forward to consider the relations between women's rights and children's rights as neither adversarial, nor equivalent, but as allied – albeit as necessarily structured in tension and contest. It illuminates why and how such a situation has arisen, and identifies some key challenges for the adequate formulation of women's and children's interests and positionings. This conceptual analysis is given specific focus by taking two key arenas of intervention – child abduction and the support of children in shelters for battered women – as particular contexts in which conceptualisations and policies around women and around children often come into conflict. Using these examples, arising from involvement in practical action research projects, new directions for reconfiguring prevailing understandings emerge, in particular by highlighting how gender and culture/racialisation function to structure discourses of childhood. While resolution of these tensions may be neither possible nor desirable, the paper illustrates the value of being clear about what is at stake in these contests in order to identify specific strategies for action.