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Handling Discipline When Your Ex Does Things Differently


Figuring out a way to find some common ground with your ex will be the best for your kids, whether you're the tougher or more relaxed parent. Keeping communication open between yourself and your ex can go a long way toward creating the best environment for your children.
A mom and dad fight over their daughter.

If you and your ex have been living separately for any length of time, chances are it's because you weren't able to overcome your problems or differences. This is common in relationship splits, but things tend to get messy when kids are involved. Now that you and your ex aren't living together, the way you want things done at your house may be very different than the way your ex does things. Unfortunately, it's your kids who will have to walk the line and that can be tough.

Discipline is a touchy subject with most parents to begin with. However, for kids whose parents live separately, discipline can be confusing and tough to figure out. Two homes with two different sets of rules – it's a lot for kids to live with. Figuring out a way to find some common ground with your ex will be the best for your kids, although it may be difficult for you to deal with and will probably involve compromise. In the end, it may come down to choosing what you can and cannot live with and picking your battles accordingly.

When You Are the Tougher Parent

Being the disciplinarian parent is always the tougher role when your ex is the "fun" one. At your house there may be chores and responsibilities, consequences, limited screen time and punishments for behaviors while your ex lets the kids get away with anything. How can you ensure the kids are upholding your rules when they're not with you? In short, you can't. Some kids will naturally respect your rules and try to live by them when they're away. Others will toss your rules out the window the minute you turn your back. If you and your ex aren't on the same page with discipline, the kids suffer in the long run. However, when you live apart, you have little control over what they do. Here are some ideas to level things out:

  • Talk to your ex about the benefits of adopting some of your rules at his house.
  • Offer to take some of his ideas and implement them at yours, within reason.
  • Talk to your kids about why you have rules and what it means when they ignore the rules as soon as they're away from you.
  • Think about what rules will and will not realistically matter in the long run if your kids give them up when they're not at your house. Stick to the ones you really believe will matter for their well-being.

Co-parenting with an ex is always complicated, but the better you can be at agreeing on how to raise the kids, the better off your kids will be.

When You Are the More Relaxed Parent

If your ex is the disciplinarian type and you're the "fun" one, you're probably hearing a lot of horror stories about how your ex lays down the law at his house. Whatever your perspective is on rules, you know that kids need boundaries of some kind. Here are some ideas to level things out:

  • Without badmouthing your ex, talk to your kids about why he's probably so strict. Paint it in a positive light when possible and explain that some people feel rules are necessary because that's how they were raised.
  • If you think the disciple is too harsh, set up a time to talk to your ex and try to come to an understanding.
  • If there is a rule that could be reasonable or beneficial, seriously consider adopting it at your house.
  • Ask your ex to compromise by adopting some of your rules at his place.

As much as possible, keep in mind that your kids come first and any peace and agreement you can create between you and your ex, especially when discipline issues arise, will benefit your kids the most.

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