We recently got asked this question, it was one we couldn’t actually answer with any certainty, and it got me thinking about why we had no response.
Which one of you do your children go to if they want something? Who gives in more easily? Who is the soft touch?
They’re all pretty much the same question, and our answer is neither of us and both of us. We were in a meeting with a few other adoptive parents and a social worker and the question came up while talking about our children. The consensus around the table was that there needed to be a balance of discipline and fun, which is of course true, but they seemed to mean that that should result in one parent being the disciplinarian and one being the ‘fun’ one.
But why should it? Why not instead find that balance within yourself? Instead of having a binary ‘good cop/bad cop’ dynamic, why not have ‘balanced cop/balanced cop’ where one parent will always back up the other in matters of discipline and fun. Why not come up with a discipline strategy which you can both subscribe to and support each other in?
That is the approach we try to take, so that regardless of which parent our children ask or misbehave with the response is the same, punishment or reward is consistent regardless of who is in charge at any particular time. We’re both just as likely to put one of our children into a ‘quiet time’ because he’s failed to listen and is continually misbehaving, and we’re both just as likely to come to their aid if they need help or need comforting.
Maybe we do this because we are a same-sex couple, so we don’t have that binary job role thing that many straight couples do? I don’t know, it’s not something we’ve discussed with other same-sex parents. I like to think it is because we’ve found that consistency and stability in matters of discipline work better to keep our children feeling safe and secure with both of us. Ultimately that is what is important, for our children our approach works, for others the good cop/bad cop dynamic will work better.
We all muddle through as best we can.