Give parent and child conflicts a time out

Co-parenting can be difficult because you need to remain consistent with addressing behavior, and you might have different expectations than your child’s other parent. Creating a parenting plan can help parents work together to appropriately and consistently address children’s behaviors. Use the following steps to create a parenting plan of your own.

Find a time to sit down and discuss what rules you have for your children. Make a list if needed to help you remember. It may be easiest to create general rules, then make rules for school, home, etc. Once a list is created, identify what, as parents, you agree on and add them to your parenting plan. Keep in mind the age of your children and the fact that you will be teaching and enforcing these rules.

Discuss your children’s behavior and ways to discipline your children together. Identify consequences that you can use to reinforce positive behavior and decrease the occurrence of negative behavior. List a variety of consequences that vary in size, could be used for various situations and can be important to your children. Having a variety of consequences can help so you don't use the same consequence too often. If you do, it may lose its effectiveness.

Set consistent tolerances for behavior and addressing behavior. Often times, one parent says they are the “strict” parent while the other is the “nice” parent. Children are smart and see if one parent is more lenient and will use that to get what they want. This can result in parents arguing, which in turn reinforces the children’s negative behavior of manipulating. If parents work together to have consistent tolerances, it can help eliminate “strict” and “nice.” Setting consistent tolerances helps each parent provide appropriate support to each other.

Finally, keep a written document of your parenting plan to help other caregivers address behaviors as you would.

A parenting plan does not give you all the answers you need, but it provides you with guidelines so, as parents, you can be united. You are more likely to have the courage to address behaviors once you commit to using your parenting plan and implement it consistently.


Maggie McGill works as an In Home Family Consultant for Boys Town. She works with parents and families to help them learn how to create a safe, nurturing home for children, and how to use community resources to help them solve problems on their own.

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