I was speaking to a group of young parents recently when the discussion turned to the "Good Cop/Bad Cop" Style of parenting. Often times, couples fall into these roles of parenting without any conscious decision making. One parent is the softer touch, the good cop, who is "easier" on the kids and their behavior. And one parent is the disciplinarian, the bad cop, who is left with the limit setting and enforcement of family rules. This dynamic-while wildly popular, has been shown, through research at the University of California, Berkley, to be less effective than parents who have a united plan of action regarding the behavior standards they require of their children. Here are a few reasons why the Good Cop/Bad Cop Method is not the best choice for parents:
- Unfairness: One parent shouldn't be the one to do all the heavy lifting in relationship to disciplining the kids, while the other one only gets the "fun" role of saying yes all the time and ignoring all the rest. In addition, one parent shouldn't be associated with serious trouble. You know the old "Wait until your father gets home strategy". This strategy is as outdated as it sounds. Parents need to present a united front in dealing with the discipline of their children.
- Confusion: By sending mixed signals, children do not have a clear understanding of the family's rules and expectations. If one parent says yes, and the other says no. Children are left caught in the middle.
- Manipulation: Children are very clever and will quickly solve the confusion by figuring out which parent is more likely to give them what they want. It is much better for the children to understand what is expected of them by both parents, than to learn how to manipulate situations in order to get what they want. Children need limits and develop important social and emotional skills when they understand that there are rules at home that they are expected to follow.
- Conflict: Research tells us that children brought up in homes that use the Good Cop/Bad Cop method are more likely to fight about parenting approaches, and fighting between the parents hurts the child. Parents need to agree on what to do with regard to discipline issues and if there are disagreements, handle them in a mature fashion outside of the earshot of the children.
Parents can get on the same page by drawing up a list of "House Rules" and agreeing to enforce them both equally. In this way, parents will be building a foundation of harmony and teaching their children valuable lessons about teamwork, family identity, and respect for one another.