It starts when the children are young, with something small. One parent will say, "pick up the toys or they are mine." The other parent will pick up the toys for them. Children learn quickly from these lessons and whether you are married or divorced it's important to form parenting partnerships and avoid either one of you being labeled the "good cop" or "bad cop."
Accentuate the positive. You probably do agree on something when it comes to parenting. Maybe you both agree that certain manners should be followed, like saying please and thank you or using table manners whether you are eating at home or dining out. You know you can agree on those things, so identify a number of other parenting partnerships you can form.
Stop the surprises. There are some things that are simply "non-negotiable" when it comes to parenting. For example, wearing a seat belt, helmet or prohibiting certain language from your children. First, let your spouse know what is non-negotiable to you, and then make sure to inform the whole family what is required and what the consequences will be. This way, no one is surprised when there is an action and a consequence.
You don't have to be right - or wrong. Just because your spouse's method of dealing with discipline may be different, doesn't mean it is wrong. Remember you were both raised differently and that is going to reflect in your parenting style.
Be decisive. B. E. Decisive! Yes, just like a cheer from high school it's important to be decisive. Sometimes children come up with quite the question, one that you and their other parent have not considered. Instead of saying, "Go ask your dad or mom" let them know that you will discuss it with the other parent and have a decision for them later. Establish a time or date so they know that it will be addressed. After all, if they surprised you, there is a good change that the other parent will be surprised too.
Agree to disagree. I admit, my husband and I don't always agree on discipline. I've also had my share of disagreements with my ex-husband when it comes to discipline. It's important to agree to disagree, but to also discuss your reasons for doing so later. Avoid a discussion in front of the children that goes like this: "You are grounded from the X-Box for two weeks!" Followed by, "Isn't that a bit excessive?"
Disagreeing on discipline in front of the children accomplishes many things, but none of them are good. Children may feel guilty as your disagreement escalates into an argument. They may also consider one of you to be "meaner" than the other parent. It can turn into a lack of respect; after all, if you question the decision, why can't they? If you do nothing else to make parenting a partnership, agreeing to disagree in public and dealing with it in private is quite possibly the most important tip to follow.
It seems like I'm usually the "bad cop" but maybe that is one of the disadvantages of being the stay at home mom. More time with them means less patience as the day wears on. It's easy to walk in the door at the end of the day and be the "good cop" or make excuses. No matter what parent is the good cop or the bad cop, what is important is that your parenting becomes a partnership, not a battlefield.
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