One of the hardest parts of parenting is, in my experience, discipline. Deciding who will be in charge, what tactics you'll use, and how to hold your own when the going gets tough is a lot easier if you and your partner make the decisions together. If you're the sole disciplinarian, or if you're the one saying, "Just wait until your dad gets home," tensions can rise between you and your partner. So while every family is different, there are more than a few things that happen when only one parent disciplines the kids. For the record, those things aren't all that positive.
My partner and I had something of an unspoken understanding when it came to who did what on the parenting front. I'm not sure discipline was something we ever discussed aloud, either. Since I was going to be the stay-at-home parent, doing the bulk of the child-rearing, I naturally became the so-called "bad cop." What my partner and I didn't realize, though, was that this set-up would end up negatively affecting every single aspect of our lives, from how we were doing as parents to how we felt in our marriage.
We've tried to come together as a team over the years, but when it comes to discipline our kids have been somewhat conditioned to do what I say and ignore what dad says. So however unintentional the distribution of discipline responsibilities may be, here's what happens when only one parent leads the charge:
One Parent Is "Off The Hook" When It Counts
Just like warning your kids to wait until the other parents gets home to enforce a punishment (leaving you off the hook for now), it can also work in the reverse. If you're the main authoritative parent setting and enforcing rules, boundaries, and consequences, it can sometimes feel as if the other parent isn't sharing in the same overwhelming responsibilities.
My partner works outside the home, a lot, while I work a lot from home. Our schedules puts me in the hot seat in terms of discipline, and leaves him with the joy of being "The Fun One." Not only is it unfair (even if I'm the one here all the time), but it creates confusion with our kids if either of us break character.
The Kids Only Behave For One Of You
Generally speaking, my kids listen to me more often because I'm the enforcer. I make sure their beds are made, they're clean, and all homework is done before they can move onto other things. My partner tries to stick to similar routines and orders when he's home, but because I do the discipline most of the time my kids don't take him as seriously.
The Kids Only Listen To One Of You
If I expect chores done, for the most part they're done. My kids have grown accustomed to my expectations and know what happens if they don't meet them. Basically, when I speak, they listen. When my partner tries to set the bar as high, though? Yeah, not so much. My kids don't listen to him because, well, they're used to only listening to me.
When only one of you disciplines the kids the other parent loses power, so if you're going for a "united front" partnership, both of you have to be "bad cops."
Your Relationship Suffers
Of course your relationship is going to suffer if only one of you disciplines the kids. There's no balance of power, meaning not only do your kids feel the affects of an unbalance parental unit, but tension grows between the two of you as partners. When I start to grow tired of being the only one to enforce the rules, I get cranky, and when I'm cranky I tend to take it out on my partner. It's no one's fault, but having all the responsibility fall to one parent is bound to cause problems.
You Burn Out
Being the sole disciplinarian, with little-to-no assistance from my partner, is exhausting. I get tired of being the "do it now" parent, or the "because I said so" mom. Every now and then I want to be "The Fun One," so my partner can take on my role and responsibility and I can simply enjoy being around my fun-loving kids.
Your Kids Start To Take Advantage
Having only one parent dole out chores means they save their rebellion for the other parent. I know, because I'm the one who catches them trying to get away with it.
You Become Resentful
It's hard not to resent the partner that doesn't discipline your kids. I don't want all the responsibility of being the rule-maker but, well, here I am. My kids know I'm going to be the one to answer to, and their dad is probably going to let them break the rules.
While parenting responsibilities are rarely divided in an even, perfect 50/50 split, having all the discipline fall to one parent is bound to come between the two of you. After all, you're not presenting a united front when your kids need it most. If anything, kids learn how to pit you against each other when they want something bad enough, creating an even larger divide that, honestly, can threaten your relationship. If you can figure out a way to discipline your kids together, do it.
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