It’s not always easy balancing roles between co-parents. Many times, you’ll find yourselves taking opposing roles; one being the “good cop” while the other, “bad cop.” For example, your spouse is the easy going, best friend your child always ask for, while you are the nagging disciplinarian.
There are two problems in this parenting style:
1. Many parents trapped in the “bad cop” role feel rejected, hurt, jealous, or resentful. This is not healthy for the parent, their partner, and certainly not for the children.
2. When parents become either the good cop or bad cop, the child learns to separate their parents based on where the “disagreement” lies and use that space to avoid meeting responsibilities.
Don’t lose hope! Here’s an action plan that may help parents from becoming cops at all. Keep in mind, this requires clear understanding, patience, and TEAMWORK!
Step 1: Communicate
Open and honest communication from a place of love, is always key. If you find yourself the “bad cop” vs. your spouse or partner’s “good cop”, talk to them about it. Let them know how you feel and that it’s important for your roles as co-parents to support each other’s actions and decisions.
Step 2: Lay Out A Plan
Together, you must establish and agree on rules for your children, and how you will respond to misbehavior. Neither parent should attempt to compensate for how strict or lenient the other is because it creates a division between the parents and space for the child to disrespect and misbehave.
Sometimes, a response to a child’s negative behavior must be decided on immediately, and if only one parent is present it’s important that you do not hand off discipline by saying things like, “Wait until your father gets home!” to avoid dealing with the issue.
It’s just as important for the other parent to support the punishment that has been decided during their absence. If you disagree with decision your partner has made, be careful not to disagree in front of your child – not even a frown or a sigh (This can be tough!). Children are quick to pick up on non-verbal cues and contradicting energy from their parents. Unless it’s an immediate safety issue, discuss your differences later, in private.
Step 3: Follow Through
Make certain you stick with whatever consequence tha’s been agreed on. You both must remain in constant communication about this, revise your plan when necessary, and support each other along the way. Not only will following through empower the parents, it will also benefit your child as they learn self control, boundaries, and respect that help make them functional adults.
When you stand together as parents, your teamwork will bring balance, peace, and a greater sense of understanding and accomplishment to both adults, and it will also establish trust and security for your child. He’ll learn that both parents are on the same team and for the same cause – to love, nurture, protect, and guide him.