Stop That Bad Guy(ing): Finding Parental Equality


It happens without warning: One day you and the hubs are bebopping along, bragging about your equal parenting and WHAM your threenager is asking dad (or mom) for the exact thing you just said “no” to. Um, hello? Did he or she not hear you? Just like that, you’ve been drop-kicked off your pedestal and back to earth with the rest of us schmucks.

As a current “bad guy,” I understand your despair, and I can assure you that you are not alone. It happens to the best of us and against our greatest efforts. Unfortunately, it is really difficult (impossible?) for us to change our status alone. We must work together if we want to see true change in our parenting dynamics.

While most of the Bad Guy Redemption will come from the good guys, there are a few things you can do to help your bad guy image. Try these out over the next few months, and see how your status naturally changes.

Lighten Up

Not everything has to be serious all the time. If your partner is consistently inconsistent on a specific rule, it might be time to reflect and compromise. As you’re reflecting on your many rules, decide what is fact and what is opinion. Will your rule make your child a better adult, or is it in place for the sole purpose of keeping you out of the loony bin?

Change Your “No”

Believe it or not, it is possible to say “no” without ever saying the word. Try offering different options or using positive redirection. (“Let’s use our walking feet,” instead of, “No running.”) Sometimes, it’s as easy as distracting them from wrong behavior by telling them “no” with a silly voice followed by a tickle fight. Get creative. “No” gets old in a hurry, so expand your vocabulary. Basically, Jedi your children into obedience. Simple, right?

0001-62517847Give Your Partner a Chance

As your partner needs to give you a chance to be fun (see below), you need to give your partner a chance to discipline. I get it; it’s hard to drop the reigns and let someone else take over, but, believe me, it is in your best interest to be quiet and let your partner take over when he or she can.

While everyone is responsible for his or her own actions, teamwork is key to changing the bad guy persona. Here are few things a good guy can do to help a sister (or brother) out. 

Be Consistent 

One of the most important things we can do for our kids is offer consistent parenting. Talk to your spouse about non-negotiable, everyday rules and then stick to them. No changing the rules when it’s convenient or when you feel like being “fun.” If your conviction is shaky on a rule, talk to your spouse and together consider changing its status from a rule to a preference. When everyone sticks to {and enforces} the rules, no one is the bad guy. Or, well, everyone is the bad guy, but, at least we’re all equal.

Own Your Discipline

While backup is helpful, it would help minimize the bad guy status if you didn’t tag your partner’s name to the end of everything. If you see a deviant toddler stealing pre-game cookies as dinner simmers, you can tell he or she to put it back without dragging your partner in the middle of it. Other comments a good guy should consider dropping include, but are not limited to: “Wait until your daddy gets home,” “Mom will not be happy about this,” “Dad said not to ____.” You have the same amount of parenting power. Own it.

Talk Your Partner Up

Your spouse came by his or her bad guy status honestly, that’s not really a question. But it would sure be nice if you could help remind the little people that Mom or Dad is, in fact, super fun even if he or she say the word “no” a million times a day. When the kids have been told no, they actually cannot sleep with eight monster trucks, remind them who bought those eight monster trucks. I bet your partner is pretty stinking awesome; the kids might need help remembering, sometimes

Give Your Partner a Chance

They may enforce more rules than you, but darn it, your spouse can still loosen up and get funky. When the time is appropriate, allow him or her the opportunity to “spoil” the kids in front of you. Did you see that? I said “in front of you.” Believe me, when you’re not around, they say all kinds of yeses to all kinds of things, but somehow, none of that matters when you’re present. You walk in the door, and all they remember is that your spouse told them not to drink the toilet water. They forget all about the yummy popsicles after lunch or the 20 minute tickle-a-thon before nap. I call this “Daddy’s Home Amnesia.” So before you dart to the kitchen to pass out dessert, give your other half the chance to cut the cake. It matters, trust me.

Parenting is not for the weak. It takes effort and can be exhausting. If you like playing good guy/bad guy, keep on keeping on. If not, there is hope. By following the aforementioned tips, you too can see a change for equality in your parenting dynamic. Good luck, grasshopper.


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