Last week I shared a social media post with the caption: “But Dad lets us do it!” and wrote about the importance of consistent messaging. Someone asked, What if your partner refuses to deliver consistent messaging?"
If this is the situation in your home, I know it can be a source of great frustration. The kids are acting out, you are trying to discipline them and your partner is not backing you up. My first question is, “Why?” The reasons can be many, but when you really examine things it comes down to this list: 1. Parenting Styles are different
2. Expectations are different
3. Family values don’t match 4. Different vision for family life 5. Control
For many married couples, the issue is typically one of the first 4 reasons. I see this all the time with my coaching clients. It’s not that they don’t want to be on the same page, and most of the time they assume they are! It isn’t until their children’s behavior becomes a challenge that they realize they aren’t on the same page and have no idea how to get there. The control issue (#5) is typically one of two scenarios: 1. The couple is married and one is more control-oriented and the other is more laid back.
2. The parents are divorced and co-parenting from two households. Control becomes a way of expressing anger at the ex. Unfortunately, in these situations, the kids become pawns in a game and suffer the consequences. Whatever the circumstances, consistency is a cornerstone of effective discipline. Being strong partners in parenting requires you to work through all 5 of the listed items. When parents learn to blend their parenting styles, build a shared family foundation (vision, values, goals, and expectations), and co-lead the family you will see the positive effects. If your children are challenging you, the best thing you can do is show a united front. Kids will play one parent against the other and they will test boundaries that you’ve set. When this happens, parents absolutely need to be on the same page with their discipline and consequences. If not, then you'll see a continuation (or escalation) of poor behavior choices. If one of you feels like there is room for change or negotiation, have a discussion with your partner before making a change. Remember, you have to start with your family foundation work! When you have your family foundation set, you can then ask yourselves: 1. Does this fit within our vision for our family?
2. Does this fit within the values we are trying to instill in our kids?
3. What would be the consequences if we changed our rule? (NOTE: Not all consequences are negative!! A shift could lead to some really positive changes, so don’t avoid change just for the sake of “not changing our stance.”)
4. Are we in agreement on this? If not, then where is our common ground? How will we work through this?
The important piece to all of this is working together as a team. Listen to your partner, share your thoughts and feelings respectfully, then ask what is best for the child and for your family as a whole.
But what if, after all this, your partner still refuses to be consistent? Then it’s time for you to at least be consistent in your own messaging. For couples who are co-parenting from dual households, the topics of boundaries and parallel parenting need to be worked through.
Bottom line, if you want your child’s behavior to improve, the two of you have to work together to set up expectations, discipline, guidelines, consequences, and consistency. Your kids need you to be effective leaders, they depend on it! If you and your partner haven't worked on your family foundation piece, I'd be honored to guide you through that! Simply click here to book a complimentary discovery call today.