Differences in parenting styles and rules can be one of the biggest challenges that divorced parents have to overcome. Chances are that you weren’t equally strict with your children when you were together. Now that you’re parenting across two homes, these differences have become more obvious – and likely more irritating since you probably each have plenty of other grievances with your ex.
While some consistency of rules and expectations is important, it’s often best for the sake of your co-parenting relationship to let some things slide rather than make a federal case out of them – like whether your child can drink soda or eat fast food (within reason). Unless your child’s safety or well-being is legitimately at stake, it’s wise not to try to require your co-parent to enforce your rules at their house.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have every right to make your own rules and enforce them at your house. Kids can adjust to two sets of rules more easily than most parents realize. The important thing is to be consistent in enforcing the rules that you set and not to be swayed by the fact that your co-parent may be a bit more lenient (or strict).
Another issue that co-parents sometimes face is being expected to enforce their ex’s punishment at their house. If your child has done something that you both agree requires that they be grounded or not have their phone for a week, for example, you can send a clear message to your child that both of you agree that what they did was wrong. However, if you believe your co-parent is being too strict with their punishment, you have the right not to participate in it.
As you draw up your parenting plan, you and your co-parent can determine the kinds of rules you agree on (like finishing homework before TV time, no swearing and no hitting of siblings or other kids). If you agree on the important things, you can more easily learn to live with the minor differences in parenting.
What if your co-parent’s actions are truly detrimental to your child’s well-being? Maybe they just won’t enforce bedtime, and your child keeps falling asleep in class, for example. If you can’t work out the problem together, it may be wise to seek a modification to your parenting plan. Your family law attorney can be a valuable source of guidance.