Divorced parents should share in child discipline and responsibility.

Who Should Discipline With Divorced Parents?

by Darlene Zagata

Life after divorce might not be as frustrating as living with your ex-spouse was, however, adjusting to your new circumstances can be stressful. If you and your ex-spouse have joint custody, your child is likely to be confronted with two sets of rules and different parenting styles. Ideally, both parents should be responsible for discipline, but communication with the ex-spouse is rarely ideal.

Parenting Styles

Parents typically have different parenting styles whether they're divorced or happily married. Most people tend to discipline in the style they became accustomed to during their childhood, but some people choose a style that's completely different from their own parents. Parenting styles are a combination of styles derived from each parent. If two parents have different ideas about discipline -- even if they're not living in the same household -- some friction is inevitable. Children will be confused if the rules and consequences keep changing.

Discipline and the Custodial Parent

If you left discipline up to your ex and now you are suddenly the custodial parent, you might find it difficult to deal with your child's behavior. Toddlers are notorious for testing your patience, but they're so cute and cuddly, it's hard to be upset with them for too long. Toddlers are discovering their independence and exploring the world around them. Preschoolers will also test the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Children become confused if you can't set limits and stick to them. Decide what is acceptable for you and clearly explain the rules and consequences to your child. Follow through with your discipline. It'll be hard at first, but children need limits to keep them safe and help them feel secure. If one parent just has visitation rights, the custodial parent will be the primary disciplinarian.

Communicate with Your Ex-Spouse

If both parents are going to be a part of your child's life, make a real effort to talk to your ex-spouse about schedules and discipline. Try to agree to rules and discipline that will apply to both households. Keeping the rules similar in both homes will eliminate confusion for your child and make discipline easier for both parents. Try to reach an agreement on schedules that your child is used to, including meals and bedtime. Be open to suggestions from your ex-spouse and be willing to consider different parenting styles. Be willing to compromise with your ex-spouse regarding rules, schedules and discipline. The important thing is set limits and follow through. Kids need routine and structure so it is beneficial if you and your ex-spouse can keep up with routines as much as possible. Don't worry about minor variations in schedules or routines. It takes time, but you and your child will adapt to the changes. ,

Don't Feel Guilty or Compete with Your Ex

Divorced parents sometimes feel guilty that the other parent isn't in their child's life on a daily basis. As a result, she might relax the discipline. Parents who only see their child during visitations or weekends might not discipline at all because of their limited time with their child. These parents often become known as the fun parent because they spend visitation time playing with the child and doing fun things. The custodial parent has the majority of responsibility, including the discipline and might worry that the child will prefer to spend more time with the fun parent. Don't fall into the trap of competing with your ex-spouse for your child's affection. Yes, it happens. The green-eyed monster of jealousy takes over and some divorced parents try to outdo each other to win their child's attention. Your child loves you both. You don't need to be the fun parent to win your little one's love.

About the Author

Darlene Zagata has been a professional writer since 2001, specializing in health, parenting and pet care. She is the author of two books and a contributing author to several anthologies. Zagata attended the Laurel Business Institute to study in the medical assistant/secretarial program. She earned her associate degree through the U.S. Career Institute.

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