Co-Parenting & Discipline: How to Maintain Consistency and Compassion
Being a parent isn’t easy, especially when you share your parenting time with your ex-spouse. The two of you may no longer be a couple, but you are both responsible for raising your child with love, consistency, and healthy boundaries. Acclimating to life as a single parent can be very difficult, especially if the divorce is causing your child to act out or if you and your ex have disagreements on how you want to parent your child. Keep in mind that you are all taking on new roles, so an adjustment period is perfectly normal. However, it is extremely important to prepare for your new co-parenting responsibilities so that you can continue to provide your children with the support and discipline they need to thrive.
In order to co-parent effectively after a divorce, consider the following:
1. Communication Goes a Long Way
You may no longer be married, but you and your ex-spouse are responsible for raising your children together, so you should attempt to communicate effectively about important parenting issues.
Your child will have a much easier time if you and your ex are on the same page regarding rules, rewards, discipline, etc. Your ex might not always wish to handle things the way you do, but your children will benefit if you are able to maintain consistent, respectful communication about parenting issues. Try having a regular phone call or meeting to discuss how the kids are doing.
When either of you sees behavioral issues, you should discuss the problem with each other (not in front of the kids) and find a way to address it in a way you both are comfortable with. Try not to assign blame for an issue with your child on your spouse, if possible, in order to focus on solutions.
You should also keep your ex informed ahead of time of any changes coming up that could affect the kids or might alter your schedule. This can help you avoid conflicts.
2. Try Establishing Ground Rules
In an ideal situation, you and your ex would be able to enforce the same rules for your children at both homes. This creates consistency for your kids and it helps them understand their boundaries. Some examples of ground rules that should apply to both households include:
- How will we deal with behavior issues?
- What is the child’s bedtime?
- How will you address chores and allowance?
- Will we set limits on screen time?
However, if you and your ex aren’t able to agree about those rules, you might have to settle for enforcing your own rules when you can. Don’t let this discourage you—remember that consistent parenting will help your child in the long-run, even if it seems like you are the only one enforcing any rules.
3. Find a Balance
After a divorce, many parents get so caught up in worrying about how their children could be affected by the split that they completely throw discipline out the window. While it may be tempting to cut your kids some extra slack, focus on the importance of finding balance. You want to allow your children to adjust to their new life after a divorce, but you shouldn’t drop all of your rules just because you’re worried about their feelings. Find a comfortable balance between compassion and setting clear boundaries and expectations.
4. Be Consistent
It’s hard to uphold all of your rules all of the time, especially after a long, difficult day. It’s okay to let bedtime or chores slip every now and then, under special circumstances, but remember how important it is to stay consistent. Consistency is key in successfully raising any child, but kids who come from split homes may have an especially difficult time finding consistency when they split their time between two households. Even if you and your ex don’t enforce the same house rules, you should still do your best to stick to yours.
When you have serious co-parenting concerns
Co-parenting can be extremely difficult after a divorce or separation, especially when it comes to disciplining your children. As a parent, you can only do your best and keep the best interest of your child at heart. However, if you are continually having co-parenting issues, it might be time to take more serious measures. If you need to enforce court orders your ex is ignoring or if you need to seek a legal modification to your parenting plan, our firm is prepared to help.
Contact McKinley Irvin at our Washington office to discuss your family law case with our attorneys.