Two homes, two rules?
Know that love, consistency and reassurance is the foundation in bringing up an emotionally stable child. Children need to feel that they have a home with both mom and dad, no matter how much time is spent with either parent. As a parent or step parent it is essential that the rules carry over, no matter how frivolous you believe it may be. When a child is allowed to have different house rules that's when confusion, manipulation and to certain extremes, parental alienation occurs. As a parent you should never compare your home with your ex's home, when you're trying to find something negative your child will be caught in the middle. I've heard some parents and step parents state that they hate the rules at the other parents house, or that they'll be, "damned if the other parent will dictate rules in their home." Not only is this type of behavior toxic but you're setting your child up for failure. You're teaching your children to manipulate and ingratiate themselves through flattery or a willingness to please at the expense of your ex. We need to teach our children that respect is to be had for both parents. This means that each parent needs to accept the rules established which in turn helps to keep contempt to a minimum. Communication and acknowledgement of one another will show benevolence and most importantly it's a respectful gesture towards one another and the willingness of working together, that your children are witnessing. Now you've established boundaries with your child that they need. Both parents are now comfortable knowing that the rules they are strongly convicted about are being implemented and you've as a team established a boundary that says, "thus far you shall come, and no farther". (Job 38:11) Try to remember when it comes to the major decisions they need to be made together. Or at least respected by the other parent. It's important to be pro your child's healthy upbringing. Save your energy and "fight" for the bigger battles, whatever it might be. The little everyday idiosyncrasies should be a collaboration, understanding one another and mutual acceptance. In a two home situation both parents need to cooperate and keep the same rules for their children in each home. This isn't as simple as it sounds however as the parents it is imperative that your child's needs are placed first and that's to understand and acknowledge that your child needs to feel secure in knowing that Mom and Dad are in charge. A child wants to feel that everything is going be ok, that you two as the parents stand in unison. Kids can adjust to different homes once they understand what is expected and accepted. Communication between both parents is key, as a parent you can't feel threatened or disregard what the other parent is saying because your ego is bruised or your needs aren't being met, your feelings are just that, your feelings. This is about your child, you need to be willing to communicate and understand that what is being said and what's being discussed is for the betterment of your child. It may seem small in the grand scheme of things but let your children know what's going on, share with them family plans, family calendar of events, when you're setting up a routine, you're establishing security, comfort and decreasing anxiety. The child will then see in black and white what's going to occur and they aren't in a constant state of limbo and questioning their lives.
In order to be successful co-parents the fighting needs to stop and communication needs to occur. The insecurities need to be placed aside, ego, contempt, hate, it all needs to be brushed aside. You have to be truthful with yourself first in order to have a healthy relationship with your child let alone a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex. Recognize that obstacles will present themselves and it's how you overcome them together as a team that will define your co-parenting relationship. It's imperative that you understand and accept that just because your intimate relationship dissolved it doesn't mean that your co-parenting relationship is doomed. This is the one part of your life that you should make every effort to foster a healthy environment for. Not everything is a court battle, if you both can communicate and follow thru with a mutual understanding that the person will not go back on their word, then settle things out of court. Educate yourselves on what behaviors and even what words can help and or hurt your child, be aware of your actions. Every negative action will create a negative reaction, so be positive. Create a co-parenting plan that reflects communication and the willingness to compromise on issues where one parent feels particularly strongly and partial to. Establish similar rules in reference to discipline, routines, sleeping arrangements, and schedules between homes. If discipline is an issue of contempt, agree on how discipline will be exercised, i.e.; time outs, chores, removing technology and being grounded. If a child is grounded, it must be carried over in the other home, not following through shows disrespect to the other parent and the child will then view the disciplinarian parent as a joke and won't be taken seriously. I understand that it's easier to read an article then actually implement a co-parenting plan however if you can sit your ex down and if they have a shred of compassion and love for their child they will understand and work with you. I'm sorry to say if you're dealing with a narcissist the best thing you can do is implement rules in your own home, the narcissist only cares about themselves and will play the kids and you in order to feed their own ego. With this type of parenting style you are only responsible for your actions and your outcome. Be concerned about what's happening in your home, what you are in control of and implement healthy boundaries for the children and as well as consistency.