All members of the family must be on board with each other. Even if members do choose to use different styles of discipline they cannot, ever, ever, undermine each other. This includes grandparents. A grandparent allowing their grandchildren to break the parent’s rule, is the classic example of undermining rules. Even more deadly than the spoiling grandparent, are the parents who will fight through their children, by undermining each other for their own selfish quarrels. Rules are a family affair.
Stanley and Maria recently got a divorce. The arguments were still hot between them every time they saw each other. They saw each other every time Maria picked up the kids. When they were married, Maria had been the disciplinarian. Her husband had been involved in work and rarely interacted with the kids. Now that they were divorced, Maria maintained a more structured home than Stanley.
Stanley did not like Maria. He did not like paying child support either. He thought that Maria was simply blowing the money. He also thought that she was spending the money on her new boyfriend. Stanley wanted the children to live with him. He wanted to stop paying child support. He also wanted to let the children have a fun childhood. He thought Maria was too strict. He remembered getting in trouble when he was a child and saw that as normal childhood behavior.
The children had known for some time that the parents did not agree on discipline. They could hear both parents argue about discipline over the phone all of the time. After the arguments, their mother was usually so worn out that she would go to her room and lock the door. Gradually the children began to notice that if they did not like to do a chore, they could simply call their father on the phone and complain about it. Their father would then complain to their mom. After the fight, mom would go to her room. The kids were then free to go play. They did not have to do the chore anymore.
Maria decided to tell the children that they could only talk on the phone after the chores were completed. Unless Stanley was talking about issues regarding visitation or the children’s health, Maria hung up the phone. She allowed herself to listen to Stanley for thirty seconds before she determined the topic of the phone conversation. If within thirty seconds the conversation was not about visitation or medical health, Maria hung up the phone. When she was dropping off the children or picking them up, she arranged to meet in a public setting. Maria never hung around to listen to him complain, she simply picked up the children’s luggage and left. Stanley did not shout too loud. He did not want to be embarrassed in front of all of the people.
Maria noticed that the children stopped calling their father because the complaining did not do much good. The children would act really bad the first day home, but then did better at following directions by the second day. Maria knew that it would be normal for the children to act bad on the first day back. That happens with every child that is moving from less structured to a more structured environment. The children gradually began to complain less and Maria began to see herself as a strong person.