Did you know that inconsistency on matters of discipline gives double messages, produces anxiety, and can be very confusing to your children? Children need to know where they stand in their behaviors. It is therefore critical for parents to resolve their differences in matters of children’s discipline.
Since divorce parents leave in a separate house, they often differ in their rules and expectations for their children. People tend to view individual differences in terms of right and wrong. The adage holds: “If you are not with me, you are against me.” In marriage, people call it incompatibility. In the divorce, these differences sometimes resulted in expensive litigation, each trying to force the other to change and stop being different.
The matter of disciplining children can be the source of conflict among divorced parents. Each parent has different ideas as to what the appropriate discipline should be. Each viewed the other’s proposal of disciplining as wrong. The consequences of their dispute were that there was ineffective or no discipline at all.
To turn differences into a unified discipline, parents should resolve the differences according to children’s best interests. They can adapt the approach as listed below:
1. Make an agreement with your former spouse on what is realistically expected for your children. These should be based on the children’s age, their temperament, their ability to follow directions, and the divorce structure of the family.
2. Come to some meeting of the minds on what values are the highest priorities for each and on which behaviors you both agree are important to nurture in your children.
3. Discuss with your former spouse your preferences for discipline to see if there is an opportunity for consistency across households.
4. In areas where there is an opportunity for consistency across households, make an agreement with your former spouse that whatever approaches are agreed upon, both of you will be consistently using the same when the children are with you.
5. Write the agreements down, review them, and be sure they are workable.
6. In areas in which you differ, find a compromise that you both can live with and stick by it.
7. Set clear expectations for the children at each home. Explain to the children that there are certain rules at mom’s house and certain rules at dad’s house.
8. Never argue in front of the children about disagreements in discipline approaches.
Help your children know where they stand in their behaviors. Get resolve your differences in matters of children’s discipline. Support each other.