My daughter’s mother and I are not together anymore, and the breakup was difficult and protracted. Still, despite our own adult differences, we have tried to present a unified front to our daughter when it comes to parenting. Even when parents are a couple, one parent ultimately finds him- or herself acting as the disciplinarian, with the other taking a softer approach and sometimes even disregarding the established rules. Classic good cop, bad cop – it’s great for police interrogations in film, but bad parenting policy.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about coparenting:
Don’t Disagree In Front of the Kids
One bad habit I had whenever I disagreed with a particular parenting choice that Madison’s mother made was to discuss it with her in front of Madison. Kids are perceptive and will soon begin to appeal the stricter parent’s decisions, inciting a conflict where there wasn’t one before. If there’s a disagreement, try to have a signal (or even just text message each other) so you can discuss the disagreement away from the child.
Talk to Each Other About Your Parenting Policies
Whenever my daughter complains about one of her mothers’ recent edicts, I ask her to state her case. It’s good to let your children express themselves to you, especially when they feel wronged, but no final decisions should be made until you talk to the other parent. This way, if I disagree with a particular parenting policy, I am able to discuss it with Madison’s mother without having her feel blindsided by setting up separate rules for “Mom’s house” and “Dad’s house.”
Establish A Few Non-Negotiables
Even for couples, in order to avoid disagreement it’s best to discuss certain “non-negotiable” parenting positions in advance of it being a problem, such as a definite bedtime or something like when to get a child a smartphone. Rather than being immutable on any particular issue, listen to the other parent. If you want to, you can even do outside research in order to reach a compromise that you both can live with and, most importantly, that is good for your child.
When it comes to raising children, it’s best that everyone is on the same side, rather than playing “good cop bad cop.”
Have you ever found yourself unintentionally as “the bad cop?”