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Disciplining children during a divorce

Feb 16, 2010 | By Kelly Boyer

Positive Ways Divorcing Parents Can Deal with Behavioral Problems

Divorcing parents with childDisciplining is not easy while trying to parent through a divorce or separation. Parents need to understand the importance of setting rules and following through.

When parents are having relationships problems, it is not uncommon for children to negatively act out causing added stress to an already difficult situation. Even though the intolerable behavior is due to the trauma of the separation, disciplinary action is still needed by both parents.

Divorce is no longer a rarity in American society. The dissolution of marriages and relationships are resulting in broken homes. Children are greatly impacted by the anxiety and insecurities caused by the affects of separation. It is unfortunate that oftentimes parents cannot set aside their differences to find a compromise when it comes to raising children. Lack of disciplinary action is the norm among divorced families. This can result in long-term problematic consequences.

How can parents make good decisions regarding children’s inappropriate behavior? Here are some ways they can deal with behavioral and disciplinary issues during a divorce or separation.

Understand Children’s Feelings

A common feeling among children of divorced or separated parents is that they will no longer be loved by their parents. They believe that if their parents can stop loving one another, then the same can happen to them. Even though this belief is untrue, the results of this way of thinking can result in the following:

  • Children blame themselves for the severance of the relationship.
  • Children feel insecure and nervous of the possibility of having to choose between parents.
  • Children are scared that the parent moving out will abandon them. 

Child acting outNegative behavior displayed by children of divorce or separated parents is a cry out for help and attention. Some of the common characteristics of this are aggression and anger. They want to know that both parents still love them. Helping children understand that divorce is an adult-related problem, and that they in no way were the reason for the separation, will help relieve some of these fears.

Parents Have Different Parenting Techniques

Respecting the other spouse and setting aside difference is not easily done when two people are going through a divorce. Parents need realize that parenting styles and techniques will differ from one another. Communication and compromising will help when making decisions on how to discipline children.

What usually happens during divorce or separation is that each parent will take on a specific role. The non-custodial parent may take on the role as the "good time" parent by allowing children to break all the rules. The custodial parent may become the authoritative figure or "mean parent" using strict disciplinary methods to regain control. Or these roles may be reversed.

No matter which role each parent takes, children become confused due to a lack of consistency between households. It is always difficult for parents to change their ways of parenting, but compromising and agreeing on rules that apply at both houses, will help during disciplining and limit the amount of confusion. Agreeing to the same disciplinary actions provide children with stability and security. Some great examples on how to keep discipline consistent are:

  • Time-outs
  • Loss of television privileges
  • Extra chores around the home
  • Not being allowed to play with friends after school 

Discipline is not Excusing Negative Behavior

Ignoring behavioral issues can be detrimental to children. Many parents feel guilty about divorce. To help relieve these feelings of guilt, excuses are made in replace of discipline. Letting children get away with bad behavior will only lead to consequences that are far from desirable. Giving in will result in a loss of authority and eventually turn minor discipline problems into major catastrophes.

Once children are reprimanded for bad behavior and a consequence is established, parents must follow through. Children gain respect for parents when they set rules and do not deviate from them. Quickly, children learn what kind of behavior is appropriate and what is not.

Children, no matter what the situation, still need their parents to be parents. Consistent, clear rules will help ease anxiety and stress during a divorce or separation. Using the fundamental techniques of discipline – compromise, communication, and follow through, are essential. Parents, despite differences and hard feelings, need to constantly be a strong support system for children.

About the author:
Kelly Boyer
is a freelance writer and former teacher, with Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education and an emphasis in Early Childhood Development. She has extensive experience in the educational field, where some of her specialties include helping needy families, working with children who have behavioral problems, and community outreach.
Click here to contact or read more articles by Kelly Boyer.

Tags : kids, children, behavior, discipline, divorce

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