Experts and parents both seem to be divided on this issue. Some ask, “Should we even police at all?”
Should you? When we first become parents, it seems natural to take on a role. Moms are natural nurturers. Dads are usually the disciplinarians.
It could also be the other way around. A lot of it depends on upbringings and role models. Individuals that grew up in military families may have a different parenting style from individuals who grew up with missionary parents, for example.
The Levinson household is no exception. “I am usually the bad cop and my husband Mike is the good cop,” said Jen Levinson, the woman behind Jen’s List.
“I’ve been told that I run my household like the military because I tend to reprimand more,” said the Calabasas mother of five boys. “I’m just stricter with things like cleaning up around the house, while my husband is usually not.”
Jen’s husband Mike agrees. “If it weren’t for Jen, our house would look and smell like a frat house,” he said.
Different people do things differently. The important thing is to show a unified front to your children. They quickly pick up on dissent around the household and will run to the parent whose style or decision-making currently meets their needs or wants.
As an example, if mom asks one child to clean his room, dad should stand by what mom said. Unfortunately, children do know how to manipulate their parents, even if it’s not intentional.
The same child can go back to dad and say he wants to watch TV but he is being asked to clean his room. Then the situation becomes sticky if dad doesn’t check with mom or just agrees to the TV request.
For divorced or two-household families, the good cop-bad cop type of parenting can be more glaring. “Our kids pit us against each other,” said one parent.
The “how-come-I-can-do-this-in-dad’s/mom’s-house-and-not-yours” becomes a constant refrain. “I just give in sometimes because I’m tired of hearing it,” said the same parent.
“It’s really important to be on the same page as your spouse,” said Levinson. “Fortunately for us, we are, especially when it comes to homework, toys or respect for other family members.”
Here are some simple solutions to help address the good cop-bad cop parenting dilemma:
It sounds simple enough, but with the hustle and bustle of school and family life, parents can forget to communicate with each other. It is important to sit down periodically and discuss parenting issues. What are your non-negotiables? What are your spouse’s? What happened during the week that needs to be addressed urgently?
Find a common ground.
So you disagree on bedtimes and electronics use. Start with what you agree on first and go from there. Finding a common ground sets you up for success and lets you focus your energy positively.
Seek outside help.
Everyone needs a little help sometimes. Listen to grandparents when they offer advice. Talk to the school counselor or principal. Take a parenting class or enlist the help of a family therapist. There is a lot to be learned from an outsider’s perspective. We don’t always see the big picture.