Parenting can be like spending time on a seesaw. There are ups and downs.

Parenting with your partner when you don’t see eye-to-eye on discipline methods, however, adds another challenging element to the mix.

In cases like this, both parties need to sit down and discuss discipline philosophy. Discipline means “to teach” and should not be looked upon as being punitive. Children are smart, and if they see that one partner does not discipline the same way the other does they may try to manipulate the situation, leading to conflicts between partners.

It is important that children understand they cannot get their way by winning one parent over. Children should see their parents as a unified team. Working together as a team and communicating daily will help guard against confusion and head off potential family arguments and conflicts. Here are a few suggestions to help couples work together in parenting. These strategies can help cultivate healthier relationships between all parties within a household.

1) Consistency is key. Both partners should agree on which behaviors are desirable and which are unacceptable. Both partners also need to agree on the parental response to their child’s behaviors. What will the logical consequences be? If possible, include children in creating a behavior plan or family plan to follow. Make sure that your behavior plan is age appropriate and has realistic expectations. We want both the children and the plan to succeed!

2) Demonstrate and practice with children what exactly is expected. For example, if you ask them to pick up their toys, show them how to do that. (i.e. — It does not mean they hide them under the bed, but instead should put them in their toy box or in their closet). If they do not pick up, they might lose their favorite toy for a day (or more) depending on their age. This is an example of a logical consequence.

3) Use logical consequences whenever possible. For example, on Wednesday, they are asked to have their room clean by Friday night in order to spend time with a friend. If they choose not to do that, then they will not be able to get together with their friend. Be sure to offer positive reinforcement with your children at every opportunity for making good choices. When they make mistakes, ensure that the consequences are logical and age appropriate.

4) Make your expectations clear. Another strategy is to have children repeat back the request/command you have made. To ensure better understanding of the directions say something like, “What is it that I just asked you to do?” Using a chore chart or calendar assists with putting chores in better order and creates better rhythm and routine in the home.

5) Engage in learning opportunities as a family. Reading a story to a preschooler or nursery rhymes with repetition all create the moments of simple directions and serve and volley interactions that improve brain development and learning as they grow. Encourage better focus by playing games like “I Spy” or “Red Light Green Light.”

Helping children become responsible adults is our goal. Kids build self-worth by doing and learning that they are capable of accomplishing things on their own. Behavior plans will also teach them to pay attention, focus on the task at hand, remember the rules and consequences, communicate and learn self-control. Creating these positive interactions will help children grow into confident people poised for success.

Lisa Cossey, LCSW, is the Youth First Social Worker at Good Shepherd Catholic School in Vanderburgh County. Youth First, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families, provides 64 Master’s level social workers to 92 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First’s school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.

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