Avoid “good cop, bad cop” parenting as much as possible. In fact, ditch it altogether.

A system that elevates mums over dads, or dads over mums, doesn’t work.

Good cop, bad cop parenting’s long-term costs negate any short-term benefits.

The system is a recipe for favouritism, resentment and parental neglect. Potentially even divorce.

Good cop, bad cop is a poor metaphor for parenting.

It’s even worse as an instruction manual for the dad and mum life.

One parent carries the stick, the other the carrot. One parent is seen to be a pushover. The other an inflexible tyrant.

Acknowledging the drawbacks, the Times of India states,

“Kids maintain secrets from the parent they see as the “bad cop,” and even inform the “good cop” and engage them in the concealment. The “good cop” wants their kid to trust them, so they keep the secret — even if it means harming their marriage and their child’s bond.”

Although disagreement on approach, outcome, or choice, work against a united front. Good cop, bad cop style parenting is not a substitute for a firm, but fair parenting style.

Good cop, bad cop-style parenting implies can lead to the use of manipulation to achieve compliance, or confession.

Kids are not criminals. A good parent won’t be monitoring their kids, as if they were.

I remember an experience with my father. He was quizzing me and a close relative.

We were bored teens. For some entertainment, we’d decided to throw eggs at a balcony across from my dad’s apartment.

The only witness to the egging was one of his old army friends.

He confronted us and instead of playing the responsible dad-card, he went straight for bad cop.

In a long-winded tale, he alleged that multiple police officers, including detectives had been around investigating eggs being thrown at a building.

According to him they were coming back to arrest us. That is, unless we confessed to the “crime.”

My father was fluent in legal jargon, and fear was a way he could control us. Consequently, he treated us like criminals before we’d admitting to committing any “crime”.

I knew it was his friend who had ratted us out. So, I called him on his deception.

It was the first time I ever remember challenging my dad’s tendency to blatantly lie in order to discipline his children.

We ended up cleaning the balcony and apologising to the single mum who lived there.

I was no saint. Egging a single mother’s balcony was a bad call.

Nevertheless, the event stayed with me, and remains an unforgettable lesson about what not to do as a parent.

Kids see through façades.

Among the worst things a parent can do is use lies to scare an unhealthy fear of God or government into their children.

There’s a fine line between good discipline and overbearing parental control.

Parenting is a different kind of law enforcement. More akin to costly discipleship: teaching, nurturing, facilitating, instructing and discipline.

A good parent, unlike a good cop, will train up their child, and by doing so “train themselves out of the job.”

It’s true there are similarities between police and parents.

A good cop is going to deal with the bad cops, in pretty much the same way he deals with the bad guys.

He or she is consistent, honest, and humble.

When it comes to discipline, and decision-making, anger without restraint or reason is a vice. Righteous anger isn’t.

A good cop will get mad from time to time. Good mums and dads will too. That’s okay.

Christian reformer John Calvin explains that we are to take issue with the fault, not the person.

Anger has limitations. Anger, he said, should be ‘directed against the offense.’

Without restraint, anger escalates, rather than defuses ‘injury or offense.’

This is, affirms Calvin, the essence of the good book’s advice:

‘Be angry, but do not sin; don’t let the sun go down on your anger.’
~ Ephesians 4:26

Discipline should be measured and proportional. Incentives and leverage are tools which never fail to inspire.

To quote The Times of India,

‘Giving in to avoid confrontation (and leaving the mess for someone else to clean up) usually leads to greater conflict in the long run.’

In sum, good cop, bad cop parenting, is a cop-out.

The vocation of parent is not the same as the vocation of police officer. Parents are not cops.

Parenting is more like a wrestling match, and mum and dad are a tag team duo.

Parenting is tap-in, tap-out.

It’s a team sport, not an in-house competition for the affection of children.

This said, the buck has to stop with someone. Captains aren’t just handed their commission.

Dads, if you want to wield the right of veto, it’s got to be earned.

Referees don’t undermine just calls. They uphold them.

Good husbands affirm their wives in front of their kids. Use veto powers sparingly.

A united front isn’t all doughnuts and coffee.

Sometimes it’s going to require some tough love and the balance between bringing out the proverbial guns and roses.

Give and take will take time, but achieving this tag team status is worth the effort.

[Photo by Monstera from Pexels]

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

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