Co-parenting & discipline. A surprising delight.

by mssinglemama on June 6, 2010

I told you last month that John Bear and I, after much deliberation, trial and many errors decided to wave the green flag on John moving into a disciplinary role with Benjamin. The idea of co-parenting used to send chills down my spine. How? I thought, would that even work?


And, already, I must admit – Benjamin’s behavior has dramatically improved. It’s like night and day. I always wanted help with Benjamin’s discipline and looked on complete nuclear families at the playground, or wherever, with an envious and curious eye. I would study the two parents and how they worked to discipline or play in tandem. Tag teaming the most challenging aspect of raising another human, seemed to me, an alien yet completely appealing concept. And now that I have it, I can’t imagine not.

John’s discipline is cool and calm but forceful. Occasionally he loses his temper, but he never loses control. Instead he may take a box of toys away or carry Benjamin straight up to his room for a time out on his bed.

I, on the other hand, employ the spanking method (when all else fails as a last resort) or I’ll count to ten or threaten something like “If you do that again, (this) will happen.” Then there’s always my trusty freak out, in which I completely lose it and lock myself away in my room crying while Benjamin pounds down the door.So, anyhow, it’sย becoming very clear to me that John’s method is superior to mine. Benjamin is actually listening to me now – consistently. He has lapses, but still, much improved. And for me, having that support and back up has completely changed my parenting element. I don’t feel so overwhelmed.

And then there’s John who is quite proud, deservedly so, of Benjamin’s leaps and bounds in behavior. It’s enough to make any mama feel like she wasn’t cutting it before, but… before we slip down that slippery slope let’s explore the evidence and John Bear’s clear field advantage.

First of all he is coming in with a fresh slate, no baggage and he hasn’t been managing the subject in question solo for four years straight, a venture that can drive even the most sane person into the brink of parental insanity. He also has the man card in his favor. John being a man, Benjamin being a boy and Benjamin needing said man to model. There’s also the fact that John also can’t fall victim to the pouty face of Benjamin’s that gets him just about anything he wants from his mama.

Captain America

I am by no means an expert on the discipline, co-parenting world but I have learned a few things already.

1. You must trust each other. First and foremost, you must know – without a doubt – that this man has every intention of remaining in your life for the long haul.

2. With #1 covered it will still be difficult, but you must let go of control. You’ve been parenting for years solo and suddenly there is help. No two parents parent in the same way. You can give your man the low down on what discipline method you use and what your rules and practices are, but if you’re like me they may vary from phase to phase or day to day.

3. His methods may be different than yours. As long as he is not, in any way, abusive or out of control, let him do his thing. He’s being big enough to step up into this role, one that I imagine, must be beyond challenging and even intimidating – so chill out. Give him the freedom to stretch his wings and the results just may surprise you.

4. Bite your lip. The first few times John picked up a screaming Benjamin and took him out of the room I wanted to tell him to stop. This was also in large part due to Benjamin calling for me, begging for me to come save him. I don’t know much about co-parenting, but I know that you must always have each other’s backs. So I stayed put and didn’t come to Benjamin’s rescue. In the end, of course, Benjamin was absolutely fine.

5. It won’t happen over night. There is no magic wand that will turn your boyfriend into the perfect step-father. Don’t expect it to happen over night.

6. Ask for help from happily married friends .As we venture into this new world of co-parenting I am asking every successful parent and couple I know for tips and guess what? They are all big readers. Parenting books, lots and lots of parenting books. Here are a few that were recommended to me:

Have a New Kid by Friday: How to change your child’s attitude, behavior and character in 5 days. I know. But the father who recommended this book swears by the author’s recommendation of a no warning discipline approach. This falls in line with John Bear’s method.

It’s a Boy: your son’s development from birth to age 18 The mother who recommended this book said she and her husband once had a week with their toddler of 14 time outs a day. A day! But that week paid off and he’s been fine since.

Raising Cain: The emotional life of boys. The original work by the author’s of It’s a Boy.

What books would you recommend? Leave more in the comments.

7. Communicate (but not in front of the kids). If I feel John Bear has stepped out of line, over reacted, or made a bad judgement call I give him a look that says, “we’ll be talking about this one later.” And then, once Benjamin is occupied we have an open, non-defensive conversation about what happened. Sometimes John is right and makes is case but other times he realizes it was indeed a bad call. The key is that he learns from it and moves on.

8. Learn together. If you discover something new about your child’s behavior share it with your co-parenting significant other.

9. And lastly, don’t forget to let him have days to himself without any obligations to you or our children. Let him ease into this new life.

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Baby Bears? | Ms. Single Mama
September 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Abimom June 7, 2010 at 12:34 am

I have to say: you seem to handle all of this so smoothly. Don’t you ever freak out? I’m no where near where you are, waaay new to being a single mama, and I’m still afraid of men in general. But here you are, you’ve got this list up and you seem to just have it all figured out, and be fine. I read your book too (incredible source of hope, I might add) And it’s the same! All the scariness seems glossed over somehow. Did I just miss it in seeing your huge success?


mssinglemama June 7, 2010 at 10:22 am

You’re right. The scariness is glossed over. I have time here to edit my thoughts, to present them to all of you in a nicely wrapped blog post without the emotions and back stories behind the stories.

But, on the whole – in life and online – I have found that focusing on fear and the negative only holds me back. Fear and the scariness of these situations is a running theme of this blog as I try to conquer fear. If I find I am ever making a decision out of fear, I know it is the wrong one.

I also don’t have it all figured out. I wrote this list in 20 minutes last night. These were the things that came off the top of my head. I want you all to have it so you can, in turn, apply it to your own relationship – if needed. But to each his own. And I definitely do not have it all figured out, maybe – you could say – I have a healthy head start.

There are new fears I have new scary things in my closet that I face every day. Namely, starting my own business and the constant challenge of being a mom and juggling everything else.

I hope that answers your thought – a very good one to raise! Here also are some blog posts I’ve written in the past that I think are less glossed over:


Heather June 7, 2010 at 10:10 am

Congrats on this new phase in your family’s structure. It’s a difficult one for the solo mama of many years, but it does ultimately make life a lot easier… with the right person, of course. ;o)

My book recommendations:

Kids are worth it! Giving your child the gift of inner discipline by Barbara Coloroso

Real Boys: Rescuing our boys from the myths of boyhood by William Pollock

Kids, parents and power struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka


Cara June 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm

It is so hard to let go of control, especially with our kids…so kudos to you guys! It sounds like your efforts are really paying off. ๐Ÿ™‚

For books, I have to also recommend Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen, and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber.


Stephanie June 7, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Thanks for the book suggestions — I need them with Anthony.


arscuore June 7, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Really insightful list. When The Man was up last month for a couple weeks, I did indeed bite my lip a time or two, but at the end of his time here, my son didn’t want him to go — we all got weepy saying our goodbyes. It is really nice to have some backup and support, too. And an extra pair of eyes, and someone to boost you when you are too tired and want to just let them get away with it so you can have some peace and quiet.

I love how you put his role in perspective, too. Not an easy thing to do for a guy, to walk in on this mama-son thing. And for The Man, doubly so because of The Boy’s autism — he’s got a steep learning curve when it comes to that, but he is willing to learn, and that’s one of the things I so love about him.


ME June 8, 2010 at 12:22 am

Thank you so much for this. My boyfriend has been getting to know my kids for about 6 months now, and we are going to be moving into this area soon, at least with my youngest. My boyfriend was one of those men who had no children of his own yet was sure he knew all about them and discipline. He just recently wrote me the sweetest note about how he sees now how ridiculous that was, and how hard it is going to be to discipline these little people whom you love so much. I hope it works out as well for us as it has for you and John.


Jen June 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I am not the only mom who has employed the “trusty freakout”?!?! Thank you! (Not that I am a BIT proud of this method, mind you…and, yes, I have apologized to my kids.)

I wanted to add that I have a copy of “How to have a new kid by Friday” and it is a really great book. I think that with two of you doing it together, you will have amazing results. When I got it, I still had my husband here, and had to try to change my ways on my own anyway…just plain hard (to be focused on a bad relationship and also be trying to make those changes). I remember fantasizing about how amazing it would be to be a healthy couple and how successful we could be with our children. So, I would say, definitely check out this book (I got it off of and take what you can from it as a couple.



P.S. My kids are wonderful for me in public and, actually, a lot of the time, so I am making progress (and it really helps to be in a good church full of good men who are willing to spend time doing different things with my kids). Still, I have such a long way to go…but I also have hope and faith that I can be stable, even if I’m “alone”! ๐Ÿ™‚


mssinglemama June 9, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Can’t imagine. As hard as parenting is, to have had to go through what I did during my pregnancy when he was out and about, tall and growing and knowing what was going on.

All of my best to you Jen and BIG props for finding your way.


Chana June 8, 2010 at 11:17 pm

I’m so thrilled for you to have a partner during this epic time in mother-hood for you! It’s all coming together so nicely now isn’t it? It has always been, and will continue to be such a joy to travel along with you on this amazing journey you’ve shared with us!


littlemansmom June 9, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Sharing this step with TBM scared the crap out of me! I’m still the regular disciplinary, but every now and then he steps in and it is AMAZING to see how quickly littleman responds… Good for you guys!


QuirkyGirlx3 June 10, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Thanks for this!!! I’ve been parenting solo for almost 10 years now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the hollow threat, the spanking cuz I had tried everything else and was at a loss of what to do next, and of course the freak out! Which was my personal favorite. In fact, I had 3 just this week (it’s been a little stressful here). But reading that I’m not some heinous beast of a mother who doesn’t deserve my kids because I’m the only one who reacts this way was a mood lifter. Thanks for being naked about your actions.

And I think I’ve found my own John Bear. Keep your fingers crossed for me too. I’m still afraid he’s not even real. LOL!!!


Anonymous June 11, 2010 at 11:00 pm

It’s amazing how the “bark” of a male voice really whips a child — especially of the male variety — in line within an instant. With my Dad a couple hours away, I can’t rely on him to help on the day-to-day struggles that arise in those seasons when my son is deciding to test the boundaries — again.

But, there is one thing I learned from this male bark (and once from a single mother of 3 boys, who i was dumbfounded by when she literally barked like a dog at them, and they stopped in their tracks and began behaving normally once more) is that mother’s can carry a growl that can mirror the male bark.

It’s not lady like, it’s not motherly — it is, though, somewhat menacing, but it gets the message across — I mean business. Of course, what my son doesn’t know (as his eyes bug out of his head in possible fear for his life or hide) is that my growl is worse than my bite. My advice, ladies, learn how to growl … even bare teeth (of course, internally, you are more calm and might end up laughing at the reaction to your “trick”).


Robin June 11, 2010 at 11:01 pm

whoops, hit enter too soon … the above is my comment! ๐Ÿ™‚


mamajen June 13, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Two books that especially stood out for me raising boys: Real Boys’ Voices and Real Boys both by William Pollack. But really, you hit the nail on the head with your 9 tips–all very important and they all work. I love that you are always looking for better, looking for help–very refreshing to set aside your pride for the good of your kid. We truely all are “in this together” and if it is not help from a partner than hopefully from other friends and family–I get that we want to do everything our selves, but really what does it matter to ask for help if we all want the end result to be happy, healthy, loving people to himself and others!


New Zealander June 16, 2010 at 8:32 pm

My husband and I have very similar views on discipline but it’s still a daily work in progress for us, our relationship and our children.

Children are fantastic and as much as they draw you together (and make you love that person in yet another way) and yet they put a strain on it (add in tiredness etc!) like almost nothing else.

We try (successful about 90% of the time) to have discussions out of ear shot if we disagree.

Great advice – especially on the ‘a different way’ your partner may have.


eva June 17, 2010 at 10:38 am

I found this very interesting for the fact that I am also now co-parenting. He has kids and different views. We do get into arguments once in a while due to the fact that his way is supposed to be the “right way”. He loves my kids and says he’ll be just as good an tough with them as with his own kids, but sometimes I still wonder, mine aren’t his kids and I don’t think he will ever really see them as “his”.


30somethingmama June 21, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Trusty freak out. Funny. I do the same! At especially extra frustrating moments. But of course, they can be numb with that too, so really shouting at the top of your lungs wouldn’t help either. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one, who feels I’ve gone over the top with my daughter. I guess the pressure of parenting really takes its toll.

BUt the next second I regain my peace and my daughter CAN actually hear my words perfectly – I explain to her calmly. Reassurring them and hugging them back after a while, let’s them understand the “freak out” is now gone.


et June 27, 2010 at 2:50 am

Why “employ the spanking method”?
What does it teach him about hitting people?
When will you stop – when your son is old enough to hit back or before that?


Johanna July 17, 2010 at 5:02 am

I feel sick reading the title of that book you recommended as something good (Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days). How about replacing “kid” by “husband” or “wife”? I find that very much descriminating and unloving towards your child. And untrusting.

I do understand – since I was a single mum myself for the first 2 years of my sons live and have now another one with my “new man” – that there are times, you absolutely look for a solution to make everything easier. But what I read about you so far doesn’t show you as a person who forgets who she is and what she wants to be like to her son … And this is what this book is for me about.

I really recommend you look for something else to make your homework on parenting-issues: is highly recommendable.

You will find, I am sure, a lot to think about and soon enough a good way to protect the limitations you feel you have towards your Benjamin. And still don’t do the hitting thing or even have to carry Benjamin around screaming for you.

Hang in there. And please – do follow your instincts. I can not imagine you feel wonderful, fine and proud about hitting your 4 year old son (who is absolutely dependant upon you and who can not keep you from hurting him). So don’t settle down for anything less than a way to not do that. Maybe there will, someday, be another tattoo showing how proud you can be of that development.


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