Good cop/bad cop parenting is another way of saying that parents disagree about what’s best for their kids.
Do you find that you and your spouse are often opposing each other when it comes to dealing with your kids? In many homes, mom and dad become good cop and bad cop.
Maybe in your home, Dad is everyone’s buddy and mom is the one who is always correcting or coming down hard. Or perhaps mom is more lenient about curfew or Dad’s more likely to give money out when asked.
Kids who grow up in two-parent households figure out which parent to turn when they want something.
My daughter did this in high school. She approached me first.
“Mom, my friend’s dog had puppies; they are sooooo cute. Can we take one?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea; you will be going off to college soon and then who’s going to take care of her?” Says the mom who is not a huge dog-lover.
Obviously that was not what she wanted to hear, so she went to dad with the same request, not telling him that she’d already asked me.
His answer? “As long as you take care of him, I don’t see why not.” Says the man who loves dogs and didn’t bother to ask what Mom had said.
In that situation, I was the bad cop and I lost the argument. We got the dog, my daughter went off to college, and Tilly is still with us 10 years later.
What about your home? Are you the good cop or the bad cop?
What’s really happening in the good cop/bad cop situation? The bottom line with the good cop/bad cop strategy is that mom and dad are not on the same page in their parenting and when that happens, kids know how to get what they want. They go to the parent that they know will give them what they want.
On top of that, inconsistencies send mixed signals to kids when they misbehave. That results in confusion and insecure feelings for children.
The best approach to raising healthy, well-balanced, secure kids is to parent on the same page. However, that’s easier said than done. Here’s some suggestions for making it work in your family:
Establish Long Term Goals and Core Values.
It starts with the parents sitting down and talking about their vision of what they are trying to achieve as a parent and what kind of adults they want their children to be.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. Take 15-30 minutes to talk about what your core values are as a family and what character traits you’d like to see in your kids. This exercise will be the foundation of your family, and you can refer to it often to be sure you are on the same page as you parent.
Pinpoint Areas that are No-compromise.
Once you both agree on the bigger picture, you can set boundaries for your kids that will not be compromised, no matter what parent is approached. Mom and Dad should agree on that ahead of time.
So if your child comes and begs for more money and you’ve both agreed ahead of time that there will be no compromising when it comes to dolling out money above and beyond what they earn or are given as an allowance, then it doesn’t matter who your child hits up, the answer will be the same.
Pinpoint those no-compromise issues and stick to them.
Trust each other.
You’ve established the core values and set the boundaries. Now it’s time to trust each other. When a child comes with a request to one parent, that parent should ask, “Did you ask Mom (or Dad)?” If they say yes, then trust that parent’s decision and go along with what they say.
If you don’t agree with their decision…..
Call a Conference.
When it’s apparent that the parents are not in agreement about a request from their child or about discipline, it’s time to call a conference.
Tell your kids that Mom and Dad need to discuss this and we will get back to you with a final answer.
Make your “conference” civil, without yelling, and private, out of the kids’ earshot. Come to an agreement and return to your child with a united front.
If they see that you are going to strive for always being in agreement on things, they will realize that they can’t pit their parents against each other and manipulate the situation.
If you think your child is lying about asking the other parent, tell them you must check with Mom or Dad first. If you struggle to trust your child’s word, this may be something that you will have to do on a regular basis.
Good Cop/Bad Cop Parenting Can Hurt a Marriage.
Besides confusing your kids, the good cop/bad cop parenting style can put a wedge between Mom and Dad and negatively affect a marriage. Don’t let your kids do that to you.
Take the time to put forth a united front. I know it takes time and effort. You must be on the alert against manipulations from those smart little humans in your house, but the end result is better for your family.
Need help getting on the same page when it comes to parenting? I’m a family/parenting life coach and I can help. Schedule for a free intro consultation here.