Parenting can be like spending time on a seesaw. There are ups and downs. Parenting with your partner when both partners do not see eye-to-eye on their discipline methods adds another challenging element to the mix.
Both parties need to sit down and discuss discipline philosophy. Discipline means “to teach” and should not be looked upon as being punitive. Children are smart; and if they see that one partner does not discipline the same way the other does, they may try to manipulate the situation, leading to conflicts between partners. It is important that children receive the message that they cannot get their way by winning one or the other over because their parents are a unified team.
Here are a few suggestions to help couples work together in parenting:
Consistency is key. Parents need to agree on what behaviors are desirable and which are unacceptable. Both need to agree on the parental response. What will the logical consequences be? If possible, include children in creating a behavior plan or family plan to follow. Make sure that your behavior plan is age-appropriate and has realistic expectations. We want the children and the plan to succeed!
Demonstrate and practice with children exactly what is expected. For example, if you ask them to pick up their toys, show them how to do that. It does not mean they hide them under the bed but that they put them in their toy box or in a box in their closet. If they do not pick up they might lose their favorite toy for a day or more depending on their age. This is an example of a logical consequence.
Use logical consequences whenever possible. For example, on Wednesday, they are asked to have their room clean by Friday night in order to spend time with a friend. If they choose not to do that, then they will not be able to get together with their friend. Be sure to offer positive reinforcement to your children at every opportunity for making good choices. When they make mistakes, ensure that the consequences are logical and age-appropriate.
Another strategy is to have children repeat back the request/command that you have made. To ensure a better understanding of the directions, say something like, “What is it that I just asked you to do?” Calendar plans or using a chore chart assist with putting chores in better order and create better rhythm and routine in the home.
Helping children become responsible adults is our goal. They build self-worth by doing and learning that they are capable of accomplishing things on their own. Behavior plans will also teach them to pay attention, focus on the task at hand, remember the rules and consequences, communicate and learn self-control.
Encourage better focus by playing games like “I Spy” or “Red Light Green Light.” Reading a story to a preschooler or nursery rhymes with repetition all create the moments of simple directions and serve-and-volley interactions that improve brain development and learning as they continue to grow. Positive interactions between parents and their children will help them grow into confident people poised for success.
Lisa Cossey, LCSW, is the Youth First social worker serving Evansville’s Good Shepherd Catholic School.