Disciplining a child is difficult enough when parents live in the same home and get along. After separation and divorce, it can become one of the biggest challenges of co-parenting.
Ideally, you and your co-parent would have the same expectations for your child, apply any necessary punishments consistently and support one another in your decisions. In real life, that’s probably not going to happen – at least until you get used to parenting across two households.
Newly separated and divorced parents make a lot of mistakes, and so will you. Children can survive all kinds of parenting errors as long as they realize that their parents – no matter how flawed – have their best interests at heart.
Things that many divorced parents do
Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes co-parents make. This may help you recognize some of your own – and work to avoid them. They include:
- Going easy on your child because you feel guilty: Divorce can be hard on kids. You can acknowledge that without giving in to them. They need to learn that being sad or anxious is no excuse for bad behavior.
- Trying to be the favorite parent: Not enforcing any rules may make yours the “fun” house, but it’s no way to effectively parent.
- Denying that your child exhibits bad behavior when they’re with you: You and your co-parent can’t deal with a behavioral issue if you want them to believe it only happens at their house.
- Criticizing your co-parent’s rules or actions: If you think your co-parent is being too tough (or too lax), take that up with them. Never speak poorly of your ex to your child. Simply tell them you do things differently at this house – not better or worse.
- Overcompensating for your co-parent: Being extra tough or indulgent to make up for what you consider your co-parent’s extremes isn’t going to even things out. It’s only going to confuse and frustrate your child. Do what you think is best if you don’t agree with your co-parent.
There will always be new and different parenting challenges as your child gets older. You and your co-parent can’t be expected to agree on how to handle them. It can help, however, if you can agree on the larger expectations and rules for your child and codify them in your parenting plan.