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Parenting is full of decisions you will have to make with your ex-spouse or ex-partner whether you like each another or not. The parenting decisions that are often the most contentious, regardless of whether the parents are married or divorced, are decisions concerning discipline. Parents may disagree on which rules to implement concerning the children, which infractions are deserving of discipline and what methods of discipline to implement when rules are broken. These parenting differences and disagreements often worsen post-divorce. Thus, post-divorce it is essential to cooperate and communicate with your co-parent in an effective manner regarding all parenting decisions, especially discipline, without the blow-ups or bickering that may detriment your child. This goal is easier said than done. However, by setting some clear guidelines and actively listening to and communicating with your co-parent, coming to a workable consensus regarding disciplining your child or children will hopefully become more manageable.
First, discuss parenting goals with your co-parent. Let your co-parent know what your goals are and invite them to share their goals with you as well. There is no way for either of you to learn about your co-parents parenting style without first talking to each other. This open communication will ensure that each of you knows where the other stands on issues regarding your children.
Second, once you have discussed your parenting goals with your co-parent, implement those goals and ideas and try to make all major decisions together. When you are in doubt about how to handle a major decision regarding your child, make sure you seek the advice of your co-parent first. Listen to your co-parent’s suggestions and be willing to compromise or incorporate your co-parent’s suggestions into your final decision. It is also important to honor your co-parent’s goals and respect your co-parent’s parenting ideas and decisions once you have discussed them. When issues with your child arise, respond to it in such a way that honors your co-parent’s parenting goals and respects your co-parent’s parenting ideas. Do not simply dismiss your co-parent’s decisions or goals if they happen to conflict with your own. Openly discuss any differences with your co-parent and try to come to an agreement on how to proceed.
Third, aim for consistency. Although children should be exposed to different perspectives in order to become well rounded individuals, it is necessary for children to have consistency in their life. Children need to know that they are living under the same basic set of expectations at each home. Consistency between the rules and consequences in your home and those in your co-parent’s home avoids confusion for your children. Consistency also helps to keep children more focused and be more obedient because they know exactly what is permissible and what is not. If parents continuously contradict each other, children may not only become confused they may eventually stop listening to either parent.
The rules in each home do not have to be exactly the same. However, important rules such as rules concerning homework, curfews or inappropriate behavior should be as consistent as possible. More importantly, parents should try to be as consistent as possible regarding the consequences for broken rules and the method or methods of discipline. When it comes to the method of discipline, each home needs to be in harmony. If there are major differences in disciplinary style, for example if one household implemented spanking and the other does not, this major difference must be reconciled. Major differences of this sort are extremely confusing, and may lead children to resent one or both parents. Discuss major situations or decisions with your co-parent before acting. Additionally, try making a verbal or written agreement or commitment between yourself, your spouse and your children outlining how discipline and other major decisions will be handled.
Finally, avoid arguing about methods of discipline particularly in front of your children. When children see parents arguing over methods of discipline, they may see it as one parent siding with them while the other is looking for ways to punish them. If disagreements regarding discipline to come up, which they most likely will, try to keep the disagreements behind closed doors and try to resolve them as quickly and amicably as possible.