Good Cop Bad Cop
Hands up if you have given in to your child after they have worn you down and just want some peace? I will put my hand up and I am sure there are a few of us out there. Some children can have a way of hounding you down until they get the answer they want from you which isn’t no! They can also be very clever or devious, and play one parent off another. That has happened once or twice in our house but rarely. It tends to be when I am not home and my kids will tell their Dad that I said they could have something or do something or not do something so he is powerless to ask me!
Children learn very quickly who is the “soft target” out of mum or dad and will give them the answer they are looking for, yes! There are generally speaking a ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’ in the house. I will say I am the ‘bad cop’ because I am the one who ensures the routines are maintained, homework is completed and the animals are fed to ensure they stay alive! My husband on the other hand isn’t a push over and nine times out of ten we are on the same page with parenting and the expectations of our children. There are times though I do think I have three children!
Sole parenting can be difficult at the best of times and will play both ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’ because they have to. They are tired and can easily be worn down by their children until they get what they want. It may be something small like wanting an ice cream or staying up a little later. Once we say yes, then next time saying no becomes even harder. Another added difficulty is when parents no longer live together and children see their mum or dad on weekends. If parents don’t have a parenting plan and common guidelines and expectations for their children no matter who they are with, it becomes very difficult to maintain consistency. Children may stay at one parent’s house for the weekend and come back after being allowed to stay up late or having had takeaway for the entire weekend. Children learn very quickly that they would prefer this residence because there doesn’t seem to be a ‘bad cop’ in the house.
Be firm with your children when saying no even though you may have to deal with a tantrum or a grumpy child, it will pass and so will their mood! When they have calmed down, explain why and they may surprise you and actually understand your reasoning. If both parents are under the one roof, consult with the other parent in front of the children. This allows them to see you are both on the same page and that also shows there is less room for them to play off one parent from the other. If you feel like you are being pressured into making a decision, defer and tell your child or teenager you will get back to them. Change roles sometimes. If you are the enforcer and the one that always says no, be the one who says yes for a change and ask the other parent to start saying no.
Children need and funnily enough, like boundaries. We all need boundaries in our lives and sometimes such boundaries need to be moved and they are almost certainly pushed by children and adults on a daily basis. Stay strong and be confident in knowing you are doing the right thing.