Parenting: The good cop/bad cop

Do you feel like you and your partner are always playing “good cop, bad cop” with your child? If so, read on…

Parenting: The good cop/bad cop
 No more good cop/bad cop: It takes practice, but working through your disagreements in private can help you and your partner present a united front to your child.

You’re not alone if you and your partner have opposite approaches to parenting your children. Many parents play both the “good cop” and “bad cop” roles in their families. For example, Dad is the child’s best friend, while mom is the nag. Or maybe dad is strict and mom is sympathetic.

What is good cop/bad cop parenting?

The “good cop, bad cop” technique is a psychological tactic used by law enforcement in negotiations and interrogations. However, the word has now evolved to apply to a parenting style in which one parent, known as the “bad cop,” administers all punishments and enforces all regulations while the other parent, known as the “good cop,” stands back and only participates in the enjoyable elements of parenting. While this may appear to be a workable approach (and perhaps even the parenting style your own parents adopted), research today reveals that it is detrimental to spouse relationships and family dynamics as a whole.

Which “cop” is right? And should you even be a cop?

The concept of good cop/bad cop parenting has two flaws. The first is the notion that someone must always be a “cop”. Parents are not required to be cops. They are required to serve as role models and teachers to their children. Second, when parents become good cops and bad cops, their children learn how to play one parent up against the other.

What to do if parenting styles are divided

If you disagree with a rule or limit set by your spouse, or a request made of your child, don’t make a scene in front of your child, or even hint that you’re about to argue. Simply tell your child that he must complete the task at hand. Then, when the kids have gone to bed and are out of earshot, chat with your partner. Remember that children pick up on non-verbal cues from their parents much more than you might expect. If your child notices that you disagree with what is expected of him, he will bring it up again and again in order to divide you and your spouse and avoid fulfilling the duty that was asked of him. It’s far better to remain united in front of your children and back each other up than make rash decisions that cause disagreement and wear down family relationships.