“You’re Grounded!” How to Collaborate in Punishing Your Children
Imagine this situation: Suzy, a 14-year-old, stays out with her friends well beyond the local town curfew. She is escorted home at 2:00 a.m. by a local police officer. She is drunk. Her mother, the custodial parent, is infuriated. “You’re grounded, young lady,” she declares. And she means it! Except for one problem….
The next morning, Suzy, is scheduled to visit her father for a court-ordered visitation. Suzy and her father have scheduled a weekend at the shore, including sailing, fishing, and snorkeling. Suzy’s dad is a so-called “Disney Dad” – always trying to win the child’s affections by buying her gifts, taking her on day trips, and entertaining her. But shouldn’t the child pay a price for her disobedient and drunken behavior?
A common concern among divorced and separated parents is the different styles each parent employs in disciplining the children. One parent plays hardball; the other parent is a softy. One parent believes a structured punishment will work while the other parent takes no action at all. In a child custody dispute, it is often a good idea for parents to collaborate in punishing the child. Instead of griping about their different styles, the parents should coordinate their efforts and impose punishment together. This process prevents the child from shirking her responsibilities, and teaches the child that she cannot play off between her parents.
In fact, the parent who takes the initiative to collaborate in the area of child discipline will often score additional points with the judge in the family court. By striving to work together on such issues, a parent can demonstrate her commitment to co-parenting and may be viewed by the court as the parent most likely to show leadership over the child’s social and personal development.