In some families the “good cop/bad cop” roles arise naturally, given the different parenting styles each may have. However, it can be upsetting for the parent who is always called in to be the “bad cop”. In order that both parents enjoy their parenting roles equally and be able to show a united front when dealing with undesirable behaviour, it is important that you take the time to do the following:
• Understand each other Talk about your child and what you hope to achieve. Think about what will suit your child’s character and personality. If you ﬁnd yourself falling into the “bad cop” role, while your spouse seems to be the “good cop” for the most part, discuss how this makes you feel and what can be done to work better as a team.
• Come up with a game plan Discuss the boundaries you want to set and what the reasonable consequences are. If you both feel differently, even trivial issues like whether or not to let your little one have dessert if she doesn’t ﬁnish all her dinner can become an issue. Having agreed-upon ground rules also gives your child a sense of security.
• Communicate with the children Let them know what will happen, so that everyone clearly understands the consequences. Make sure that when you do talk to them, it’s clear to them that you’re both in agreement. With young children, it is a good idea to establish a few, clear ground rules that are non-negotiable.
• Be willing to compromise Of course, the two of you will not always feel the same way about everything, so you will need to compromise on certain issues. I know how strongly my husband feels about the children being polite, even if they are upset, so I support him by stressing to them that it’s unacceptable to use a rude tone of voice to anyone in the house. My children will need to go to their room until they can speak calmly and kindly.
• Have a signal If, in the heat of the moment, your spouse says something you don’t agree with, it is a good idea to agree on a signal, so that you can both step out and discuss the issue, rather than disagree in front of your child.
Q My son likes to play one parent off against the other. For instance, when my husband tells him to check with Mummy if he can play an electronic game, he’ll come to me and announce, “Daddy said that I can play Minecraft, Mummy.” How do I deal with this?
A All children will try this at some stage. The best thing to do is to check with your spouse in front of them. “Honey, did you say he could play Minecraft?” Then remind him to listen carefully, “Daddy said to CHECK with Mummy, right?” This will reinforce the fact that the two of you are a team.
Q How should I deal with my emotions when I see my daughter favouring her father over me?
A Many little girls are “Daddy’s girls”. Especially if they see a bit less of Daddy, he will often be able to do no wrong in their eyes. Remember that you are lucky to have a family unit where you can give your daughter two loving parents. Don’t feel upset if she seems to favour Daddy over you, as there’ll be times when she will need her mummy more. Just sit back and enjoy watching your daughter developing what will be one of her life’s most important relationships.
Q My wife is too soft on our son — she doesn’t believe in punishing him when he speaks back or ignores our instructions. I’m worried that he’ll never learn manners and respect if we let him get away with such behaviour.
A It is really common to have differences of opinion over parenting, especially when it comes to disciplining your children. It is important that you and your wife ﬁnd some common ground though. I suggest you ﬁnd a neutral time to discuss your concerns and listen to each other. Work together to come up with a strategy that will appear consistent to your child. Be open to trying different ways of working together, so that you can ﬁnd an approach that will work.