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Should you and your co-parent have the same rules for your kids?

As divorced co-parents, you and your former spouse may have different rules in each of your homes. Even if you agree on the big issues involving discipline and at what ages your children should be allowed more privileges, you may still parent very differently.

There are all sorts of reasons for this. Likely, one of you was always the disciplinarian, so it comes easier to you. Perhaps one of you (usually the one who sees the kids less) wants to be the fun parent or even the favorite parent.

If you’re the one who has more or stricter rules, it can be frustrating that your co-parent is more lenient with the kids. No one enjoys hearing, “Dad (or Mom) lets me stay up and watch The Daily Show” or “Mom (or Dad) lets me drink soda.” However, you don’t need to let that impact your parenting or be an excuse to criticize your ex (especially in front of your kids).

Consistency within each home is more important than consistency across homes

You might believe that your children need consistency in rules in both their homes. However, experts have found that kids can adjust just fine to having two different sets of rules as long as each parent is consistent with their own rules.

If they balk at your rules and compare them with their other parent’s rules, you need only say something like, “Well, in this house, you put your plates in the sink (or the dishwasher).” If they have trouble (or claim to) remembering the rules, post them around the house as a reminder.

Praise can go a long way. You may think it’s no big deal that your kids are making their own beds, but if your co-parent has a housekeeper who does it for them, they may expect some recognition for their work. If you believe you’re losing the battle of being the fun parent, take some time to do something they enjoy.

Don’t give up your own control

Remember that you can’t control what happens in your co-parent’s home, but you can control what happens in yours. As long as your co-parent isn’t doing something that’s truly negligent or harmful to your kids, it’s probably best to let it go and focus on being in sync on the larger expectations for your children.

If you believe that your parenting plan needs some more detail around these larger expectations and disciplinary issues, talk with your family law attorney about how you can work to do that.