It is unlikely that we’re going to suggest that you put specific clauses into your parenting plan to address disciplinary issues (acceptable, unacceptable, specifics). You may be anti- corporal punishment and your ex-partner may be pro- corporal punishment or vice versa. We can’t know what the judge will be and would just as soon not take any chances. If the corporal punishment rises to the level of abuse, chances are that you’re going to have to go through different channels to have it addressed, no matter how unfortunate that may be for the children who will suffer the most.
You may still opt for a simple clause that prohibits the use of corporal punishment. Just know that challenging a violation of such a clause in court will be difficult short of having the children testify against a parent, which will we never recommend take place short of an abusive or otherwise dangerous situation for them.
Still, there are some pitfalls to avoid when it comes to discipline.
Don’t fall into the customary “bad guy” trap! You’ll see us sometimes refer to this as “The Phone Disciplinarian.” Our recommendation is just… don’t… do it! Your children will grow to resent you because the high-conflict ex doesn’t want to be the “bad parent” who has to enforce rules and boundaries. They will come to learn that enforcement of rules is done by you and enforcement of fun is done by the high-conflict ex. It stands to reason that the children, particularly at the younger ages, will gravitate towards the fun household and the fun parent. “Disneyland Parents” isn’t just a label given to non-custodial parents, despite that myth still existing today. Custodial parents can be the “Disneyland Household,” too. I’ve seen it.
We consider this to be a subtle form of parental alienation. By setting you up to always be the “bad guy” – that’s what your children will learn that you are and it will affect your relationship negatively.
Don’t be the “enforcer” of the other parent’s punishment! There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. One exception would be “it depends on the seriousness of the infraction.” The other exception is – if you just happen to agree that it is appropriate at the time. There may be more. We live with the understanding that what happens on one parent’s time is dealt with by that parent and on their time. Don’t become the jail-house for the high-conflict ex’s punishments. Again, over time, what will be forgotten is that the other parent imposed the punishment, but the children will sure remember who enforced it!
Ignore the objections of the high-conflict ex-partner! S/he is not the disciplinarian in your home. Know that there will be many times where they catch wind of the situation and the consequences and will leave you lots of messages and texts objecting to your “nazi death camp” or “military boot camp” tactics. (Those are actual quotes from our own personal situation). Ignore them. Ignore them knowing that when the children are with that parent, they will denigrate you and undermine your rules and consequences. Still, you must stay the course while ignoring the blustering coming from the high-conflict ex-partner.
These rules apply to you, too! You should have absolutely no expectation that your ex-partner should enforce your discipline or punishments.
There is plenty to discuss on the rewards and punishments topic, so please don’t be afraid to share your situation with us and come up with some plans to effectively address them. Do visit the forums, you will find the discussion there incredibly helpful and the situations are “real life” ones… not some fictional scenario created by some attorney to make them sound like they have experienced it. Get the feedback from those who truly have been through these situations and find some common ground on how to effectively address your circumstances.