Parenting can be hard work at the best of times but when you disagree with your partner it can really bring the challenges to another level and create a lot of negativity and tension in the home.

While it is OK, even normal, to have different views it is NOT OK when it affects your relationship and the atmosphere in the home.

7 tips to avoid good/bad cop parenting

1. First thing is COMMUNICATION and CONNECTION – work on the ongoing relationship with your partner. 
• Try to commit to a weekly sit-down with your partner where you talk through a strategy of creating a support network for each other. For instance, agree that if you don’t agree you will ‘buy time’, for instance by saying, ‘we will come back to you once mum and I have spoken about it’. Or, if you don’t like what the other parent is saying or doing, don’t say so in front of the kids, take it up when you are alone.
• Also, agree to Sharing Disciplinary Responsibilities: so you don’t allow only one parent to be the disciplinarian and the other the good guy, the one that gives in. Instead, agree that you need to share the ‘good’ and the ‘disciplinarian’ roles.
• Agree to choose your battles: you might have different tolerance levels and personalities, for instance you might be ok that your child swears but your partner can’t stand it. Agree on your priorities, what matters to you both: maybe you both agree that a proper bedtime is important, so work on that together. Maybe you both agree that table manners are important, so join forces here. And the things you disagree on you might want to deal with solo, i.e you deal with swearing since it’s important to you, and your partner might deal with getting dressed as it matters more to them.

2. Try not to go down the ‘I am right – you are wrong’ route
• There doesn’t need to be a right or wrong – you need to do what is RIGHT for the KIDS, not you. If the right thing is that the two of you parent together then you might need to agree to disagree because it is best for the kids. You don’t want the kids to be part of this agreement to disagree, you can do that in private where you accept that this is how it is, but you don’t want that to affect the kids
• When your partner does or says something you disagree with, bite your tongue. You don’t have to dive in, interfere, voice your opinion or try to make it better. You can talk about it later, in private.

I was working with a mum who was very soft on her son and found dad to hard. But when we started talking she realised that she was TOO soft and afraid of conflict and the harder dad become the softer she became. When they had a chat she realised that dad felt he was alone raising their son and the softer mum become the harder he felt he had to become. They agree to areas that was important and how they could install certain values in their son, together and that she would back dad up and that dad would in return ‘tone’ down the harshness. So start with a conversation where you are curious instead of furious.

3. Back each other up, no matter what
• This can be a really hard one, but don’t disagree with the other parents’ decisions, words or actions when dealing with your kids. Stand united and if one has said NO – then it is a NO. Even though you might think differently at the time. Again, you can then take it up later when you are alone.

4. Fight fair
• It is normal to disagree and even fight, but do so with dignity: avoid name calling, sarcasm, finger pointing, blame and shame. Take a deep breath when you feel provoked or angry. Check in with yourself and keep what you are trying to achieve in mind i.e., ‘I want home to be a nice, calm place’, ‘I want to find a solution’, ‘I don’t want to fall out with my spouse’. Be fair and constructive in your communication and responses. So how can we work this out? Is it possible that we can do things differently, so we are both OK with it? And so on.

If your kids see, feel or experience you fighting over how to raise a family, make sure you both go back to them and explain what happened, that you still love each other and that it is an adult thing that you will solve. But also SHOW them that you are OK, that you do respect each other by talking nicely to each other on a daily basis, having date nights because you want to be together, holding hands, hugging etc. Show them that home is OK.

I recommend that you now go and read the handout ‘When Parenting Styles Differ’.
Good luck and remember to keep the long-term goal in mind.

Best wishes –
Mette Theilmann – Founder of the Parenting Community
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