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Consistency is the Key When Families Separate

R. Kris Jenkins, HES Specialist in Bates County, University of Missouri Extension


How should I discipline my children? According to Kris Jenkins, HES Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension, “Parents are always interested and concerned about discipline issues. This is especially true during and after separation from the other parent.”


“Discipline is a positive approach to teaching kids self-control and confidence,” said Jenkins. Before you discipline, examine the behavior and then try to decide the reason for it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my child truly doing something wrong?
  • Is there a real problem or am I just tired or out of sorts?
  • If there is a problem, think before you act. Is your child old enough to be able to behave in the manner that you want? If your expectations are realistic, then ask yourself if your child realized that he/she was doing something wrong. If not, then help the child to understand why the behavior was wrong and how to behave next time.
  • If the child deliberately misbehaved, ask your child the reason, then choose the discipline. If old enough, give the child a choice between two disciplines that are acceptable to you.


Example: Your child leaves his bike in the yard overnight.


Choices: You can go without your bike for a week or you can do these extra chores for a week.


The key to effective discipline is to be consistent. Jenkins reminds, “It’s easy to understand why kids get confused when the rules are different in different homes.”


Try these tips to establish consistent rules for your children:

  • Discuss important discipline issues with your ex so the same rules will apply in both homes. If the two of you can’t agree, focus on discipline in terms of your own parenting goals. For example: even though it makes your child happy to play outside all weekend instead of helping with chores, permitting this only encourages a child to think that love means giving someone everything that he/she wants.
  • Have established rules, even if they aren’t popular. Rules help kids feel more secure. Children need you to be their parent—not their friend. Parenting isn’t a popularity contest, rather it’s a responsibility to do what you believe is best for your children.
  • Be determined not to let your children use your separation as a crutch for bad behavior. Don’t let them manipulate you into changing your rules in your house because the other parent allow something different...


“Sometimes the demands of life can be overwhelming,” said Jenkins. “While it is tempting to be lax about rules, don't!” Parents worry too much about making kids happy instead of what is best for them in the long term.



Last Updated 05/05/2009









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