Always bad cop? Discipline to work with their other parent

Sick of being the ‘bad cop’? – Discipline tips for single parents

Posted on by Christine Felton

As a single parent, the dynamic for disciplining and improving the behaviour of your children is completely different compared to when there are two of you.

This can sometimes be a good thing, because there’s no being labelled ‘telling off parent’ while their other parent gets to be ‘fun parent’. However, this can still happen, especially if your kids are regularly in contact with their other parent.

You don’t want to get stuck with all the responsibility for discipline, while your kids go off every other weekend and have a fun time with their mum/dad where they can be as naughty as they want without any consequences. It can even undo all of your good work, which can be hugely frustrating.

Here are some tips to help with discipline as a single parent, to make your life easier and for more effective results:

1. Try to come to an agreement with their other parent.

Children need consistency, so whatever one parent teaches them about behaviour needs to be reinforced, rather than undermined, but their other parent. If it’s possible to get in touch with your ex, and you’re on civil terms, it can be really useful to sit down and set some ground rules. Explain what you’re trying to teach them and together, come up with a set of rules that both of you agree to enforce. It can be really difficult, with lots of possible complications, but it’s definitely worth trying to get your ex on board.

2. Set ground rules and be super-clear about what you expect from your kids.

Your children need to know exactly what is expected of them, what you will not tolerate and what boundaries you must not cross. Drill in these ‘house rules’ and you might be able to prevent bad behaviour before it happens.

3. Follow through on your threats.

If you say you’ll confiscate their video game if they don’t stop a certain behaviour, make sure you do it. The moment children find out that your threats are empty, they become completely useless as a tool for modifying behaviour. With this in mind – make sure you don’t make threats you aren’t prepared to carry out!

4. Always praise good behaviour

. Sometimes, a child being naughty is a request for approval and attention in disguise – try and ignore this behaviour and always praise good behaviour.

5. Be disappointed and serious, not hysterical and furious.

Adopting a serious, firm tone of voice, where you lower rather than raise your voice, can convey a strong sense of disappointment. Follow this with the silent treatment and this can have far more of an impact than ranting and raving, the effectiveness of which soon wears off.

6. Be consistent.

Rules that seem to apply to one child, but not to another, can appear seriously unfair to kids, so keep it consistent and show your children the respect you want them to show to you, your rules, and to other people.

What are your top tips for discipline as a single parent? Feel free to share your tried-and-tested tactics – you’ll be doing other single parents and their misbehaving mites a massive favour!

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