"We do things differently and the kids are taking advantage of it."
During a recent coaching session, a couple I work with had an “A-Ha” moment. Their 8-year-old twin boys have multiple sets of rules. There is a lot of finger-pointing in trying to figure out why the boys misbehave so much.
Mom is the disciplinarian at home. She has set routines for the family so everything runs smoothly. Dad feels she's too rigid with the kids. Dad is the more lenient parent. He rough houses with the boys before bed (winding them up), he doesn't do much of the discipline until his wife is fed up and he then steps in with an angry tone. The grandparents, well, let's just say it's all fun and games at grandma and grandpa's house. They are much less structured than mom would prefer and the boys are allowed to get away with things they know wouldn't happen at home. Does this sound familiar?
All of these inconsistencies in parenting styles and messaging have grown into a huge problem for this family, especially at home. The boys have figured out how to "play the game" and, quite frankly, play the adults in charge and continue to test the boundaries. They have also started using phrases like: “We can at Grandma’s” and “Well, Dad lets us do it!” So…what should you do if this is your home too? STEP 1. Perform a Consistency Check-up
This family’s story is very typical of what I hear from my coaching clients when they complain about misbehavior in the home. You have rules. Your spouse/partner has rules, but they don’t necessarily match yours. Even Grandma and Grandpa, who watch your children part-time, have their own rules (or no rules at all). The problem: Inconsistency creates chaos. First things first, kids need discipline. In fact, they crave it. Your family rules act as guardrails that help your kids stay on track. When parents aren’t on the same page for discipline, kids: 1. Don’t know which set of expectations to “aim” for 2. Act out to test limits
3. Feel frustrated when disciplined if the same behavior went undisciplined previously
When kids know what is expected of them, they'll make better choices. Children want to please their parents, they have more success doing so if they know what is expected. STEP 2: Evaluate Parenting Styles
We learn how to parent from our parents. We adopt what worked and reject what didn’t. Upon becoming parents, each partner is bringing in their knowledge and expectations for parenting, but that doesn’t mean they’ll match or blend well.
The lack of discussion on this topic amazes me! We need to know what each person “brings to the table” (strengths and weaknesses), then intentionally build a plan of action together.
STEP 3: Create a shared family foundation
When couples work together to build a shared vision, values and goals it sets them up for being stronger partners in parenting. In fact, my entire Steps for Success coach program is based on this concept. We need to start from the ground building a solid family foundation and create an effective discipline plan on that foundation.
When couples work to be consistent in their discipline and messaging, it has an amazing impact on their family life. You’ll notice:
1. Improved cooperation and behavior from the kids
2. A stronger relationship for the couple
3. Less yelling and more effective communication within the home
It is never too late to make changes to improve things at home. While working on your parenting partnership, you will also be modeling problem-solving, cooperation, and how to have a healthy relationship. Three great life skills all kids need!
If you and your partner could use some help getting consistent with discipline, sign up for my weekly tips and strategies at https://my.daretoparent.com/tips.