We all know that setting the rules for your children is just one side of the coin. The other side is what happens when they don’t follow the rules. Again, this is an area were even happily married partners can disagree so what happens when you’re co-parenting with your ex? Here’s Terry:
It might be that it’s their dad’s weekend, so Thursday night they’re with me. Let’s say my son talked back or something, so I said,
“That’s it, no videogames for a week.”
Maybe he lied, or something and I might say,
“OK, that’s it, no Xbox for a week.”
Part of that week, they’re going to be with their dad, so as soon as I make that a punishment, then I call their dad, tell him what happened and the consequence I came up with, tell him I need him to back me when the kids are at his house and he’s fine with doing that.
It’s only happened one time, because they’re pretty good kids. We agreed immediately after the separation that we would do that.
He’s remarried and she has an ex-husband. Her children have wildly different rules at their dad’s house versus my ex’s house. Wildly different. Often, his new wife will tell me,
“Thank you for being very much on the same page as far as rules go, because I think it’s easier for the kids.”
I think it is and that’s why we try to co-parent that way. I think my ex sees that her two children, who live with them most of the time, have struggled with the different rules at the different houses and the different consequences at different houses, and they try to come to an agreement with me, so that doesn’t happen. As long as I’m reasonable, I think they will continue to do that. We try to be very reasonable.
The Divorce Coach Says
This is another area where children can easily play one parent against the other especially when your ex won’t support your discipline consequences. If you know your ex won’t support to you, or if you’re in a high-conflict situation and don’t even want to to ask, then you have to develop meaningful consequences you can enforce yourself, that will still carry weight even though your child may not be at your home.
Fortunately, my ex has always supported me when I’ve asked. I remember when my daughter was going through a rough patch getting to school on time. I had to drive her but she just wouldn’t get out of bed in time. She was also learning to drive so I decided that she had to make sure she was on time for school, if she wanted to practice driving. When I took the privilege away one time, she said,
“That’s OK, I’m at Dad’s this weekend and he’ll take me.”
Like Terry, I called my ex, explained the trouble I was having getting her to be on time, explained the consequence, told him what she’d said and asked him to support me. He was happy to do so and he did.
And again, like Terry this hasn’t happened often. They are good kids but I think seeing their dad supporting me sent a very clear message that they weren’t going to be able to play us against each other and that we were parenting together.
Some years ago I took a Love and Logic Parenting class and I remember one of the tips in that class is that you don’t have to come up with the consequence immediately. In fact, telling your child you don’t know the consequence and that you’ll have to think about, can add to impact of the punishment. I think this would also be a good tactic to use to allow you to talk to your ex, and to get his input. This would likely increase the probability of his support. BTW, they also suggested you ask your child for his suggestion for a consequence – I’ve used that tactic a few times and usually find the consequence is harder than I would have imposed.
Have you ever needed your ex’s support on a discipline decision? How do handle discipline when your ex doesn’t support you? What if you disagree with your ex’s discipline decisions?
Photo credit: bethany actually
(P.S. yes, when things do get heated with your children, it’s often a good idea for you all to take a break and to come back later when the emotions have calmed down.)