Even if you and your ex-spouse have different parenting styles or rules, you can effectively discipline your children when they’re in your home.
“The most important thing you can do is to always put the children first,” said Dr. Geoffrey Putt, a pediatric psychologist and director of parenting and family support services at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Remember that it’s about the children and not about you as individuals who had a conflict.”
While divorced parents may share the same values and goals for their children, specific discipline styles can vary.
“Having the same goals for your children is the ideal, whether it’s making sure they are respectful or that they finish their homework so they can move ahead academically,” Dr Putt said.
If different rules exist in each parent’s house, children will learn to adapt.
“Consider how individual schoolteachers have different classroom rules or expectations, or that the math teacher is more strict than the science teacher, yet children adjust depending on the environment,” said Dr. Putt.
It’s more important that the rules and expectations you set for your home are consistently enforced. Although your children may complain, established rules, however unpopular, actually give kids a sense of security.
To provide effective discipline after divorce, Dr. Putt also recommends parents:
- Find the best way to communicate with your former spouse. Whether it’s email, texting or talking on the phone, use the method you find most comfortable, so you don’t end up in an argument or using your child as a messenger.
- Keep things in perspective. While it’s easy to be stressed out or frustrated if your ex is more lax or strict with your kids, think about what you can control. As long as your kids are safe and aren’t being exposed to dangerous or inappropriate things, recognize there’ll likely be differences. These differences would probably have surfaced even if you were still married.
- Have a plan. Make sure the rules you set are clear and predictable. Established rules, such as those regarding homework, chores or what TV shows your kids are allowed to watch, will help prevent you from being manipulated.
- Talk to other parents. Half of all marriages end in divorce, so many other parents have faced these same issues. Discuss what worked for them, as well as what pitfalls to avoid.
While there may be challenges, if you make the kids your first priority and are consistent, you can effectively discipline your children after divorce and give them the guidance and support they need.