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’s 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.
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.