Splitsville: My House, My Rules. Your House…?

Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.

It’s difficult for two parents living under the same roof to agree on rules. We all have our own hang-ups, our own ideas about discipline and our own personal views on proper behavior. I’ve gotten very used to listening when my daughter asks my husband for permission, because sometimes I’m surprised by the things he approves. Or doesn’t approve. For instance, he is completely fine with being climbed like a jungle gym. For me, well he says that I’m just too fragile.

Rules are hard to enforce in one household. So how are earth are you supposed to negotiate two separated parents making their own different family regulations? And how do you communicate the differences to your child?

  • Don’t get hung-up on Spongebob. Or sticking out your tongue. Or cracking your knuckles. Or any other minor pet peeve that’s more of an annoyance than an actual problem. I hate Spongebob with a pretty oddly intense passion. But is watching that obnoxious TV show once a month actually harming my child? Probably not. So its important to try to ignore the minor issues.
  • If its effecting school, it needs to be discussed. My daughter isn’t in school yet, but she got into some major trouble at daycare over the phrase, “You’re not my best friend!”  Issues from school have to be addressed so that disciplinary problems don’t get in the way of your child’s education. If its a rule at school, it needs to be a rule at home, no matter which home your child happens to be staying at.
  • It’s not a competition. Children are smart. They’ll pit a set of parents against each other in ten seconds flat. No joke, my daughter picked her nose in the car the other day. (Why, oh why do kids do this?) When I told her to stop, she looked me right in the eye and said, “Daddy lets me do it. Daddy said it was fine.” First of all, I checked with him and that was a lie. Second of all, it wouldn’t matter if he did. I’m not competing to be as lenient or strict as my daughter’s father. We have two separate houses. If nose-picking is allowed at one, that doesn’t mean it has to be allowed at both.
  • Coordinate the big stuff. Curfews, allowances, punishments. The big discipline decisions need to be discussed between every parent involved. If the bigger issues are agreed upon, the smaller ones won’t feel so important. You’ll know that you’re both providing a stable environment for your little one.
  • First answer flies. With my own parents, I had no problem asking my mom for permission and then asking my dad if she gave the wrong answer. It rarely worked, because they were in the same house. But if children with separated parents pull this classic kid stunt, the first answer is the right answer. If you start to debate your different opinions after the fact, your child won. They got you to discuss whatever it is they were looking for. If the first parent says “No”, the answer has to be “No”.


Different households are bound to have different rules. But as long as separated parents and honest and try to communicate with each other, the kids will be alrigth. Even if they get to watch that muck who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

(Photo: snoopn4pnuts)

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