You hear it all the time: "Daddy would let me" or "Mommy is never mean to me like you are." So how do you deal with having completely different parenting styles without compromising your values or coming across to your children like you're always "the bad guy?" Here are some tips for establishing your own authority even when the other parent continually gives in to the kids or doesn't subscribe to your style of parenting.
Whether your children are genuinely expressing a simple observation about your different parenting styles, or are intentionally attempting to manipulate you into giving in to their desires, stay calm
and avoid getting into a battle over the validity of your expectations. Remember that it is not your children's fault that you and your ex don't see eye-to-eye on the parenting front. So instead of growing angry and frustrated, train yourself to respond in a quiet, matter-of-fact manner. For example, you might say, "My rules are different from Daddy's (or Mommy's). Here, I expect you to do your homework before watching TV."
Remember, too, that your rules aren't necessarily "better" than the other parent's rules--they're just different.
You can make it easier for your children to adjust to varying expectations by being clear about your rules. Sit down and have a family meeting with your children to outline your expectations, and post your ground rules in a clearly visible location, so that you can easily refer to them when needed. In addition, have confidence that your children are capable of learning what is expected of them in dual settings. For the most part, they've already shown that ability by learning what's expected of them at school or daycare, and expecting them to master a different set of rules between your home and your ex's is not setting the bar too high for them to reach.
Remember that all of your power as a parent lies in your determination to consistently follow through on your own rules and expectations. When you let things slide, you give your kids a window of opportunity, through which they will be able to manipulate you in the future. As long as you are clear about your expectations, following through with appropriate consequences is not too harsh. On the contrary, that kind of consistency and stability is exactly what your kids need.
Finally, it's also important for you to communicate with your ex about your house rules and consequences
. In addition, if you'd like to ask your ex to consider taking on some of your rules--like not allowing the kids to do their homework in front of the TV--start by sharing with him or her the positive changes you've seen since you started enforcing that particular rule in your home. This way, the conversation centers on how the children are benefiting from those expectations, rather than on whose rules are "better" and whose rules are "too lax." In fact, just the simple act of communicating about your rules at all can have a positive impact on your kids' behavior
and make it more difficult for them to manipulate you in the future.