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What can a parent do if a child is pitting him or her against an ex-spouse and does not listen when that parent tries discipline the child?

Parenting after divorce can be a challenge. It can help both children and parents to have consistency and predictable rules/consequences regarding discipline.

  • Try to work together to establish similar and predictable ways of disciplining your child across households.
    • Talk with your ex-spouse and try to agree on some common rules. Even though you may not be able to agree on all the rules, whatever consistency you establish can be helpful. Try to establish consistent practices regarding major issues.
  • Within your own household, try to maintain consistency.
    • Talk to your child about the rules in your home. Explain that these rules may be different than those in the other parent’s home, but when your child is in your house, he or she is expected to follow your rules.
    • Try to enforce them consistently. Even though you cannot control whether or not your former spouse disciplines in similar and predictable ways across situations, you can control your own behaviors.
    • You and your former spouse should back each other up (in front of your child) whenever possible.
  • Don’t allow the child to manipulate you with threats of going to live with the other parent.
    • It is natural for children to test limits that are set, but they need limits and boundaries in order to feel safe and to grow into healthy adults.




Kim Leon, Ph.D., Former Assistant Professor and State Specialist, Human Development & Family Studies, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension


Alison Levitch, Human Development & Family Studies Graduate Student, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension







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Last update: Friday, August 22, 2008




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