Discipline Following Divorce


When parents divorce, children often blame themselves. They become angry and feel that they can’t trust their father or mother. Children may show a complete turn around in behavior and personality. Divorce is a perfect set-up for disciplinary problems because the parents are preoccupied in dealing with their own emotional distresses. The root of these problems is fear—fear that they will lose the “other” parent, too. The following sections provide some do’s and don’ts for dealing with discipline after divorce.


  • Don’t allow them to think the divorce is their fault. This is critical because doing so can be severely detrimental to the development of the child’s self-perception and feelings of self-worth.
  • Don't turn into the “fun” parent. Realize that both parents are going to want to secure their love and relationship with the children. Doing this may include spoiling them or allowing rules to slide. This type of behavior only adds to the inconsistency in their lives.
  • Don't demean your ex-spouse in front of your children. Your child loves both parents and will most likely be spending time with both of you. Try to avoid placing negative images or feelings toward a parent who is naturally loved by your child. Allow your ex-spouse the chance to begin a new relationship with your child.
  • Don't withdraw. Divorce is hard on the parents, but it is crucial that the relationship with your children remains as normal as possible. Withdrawing or becoming depressed allows room for your children to have developmental problems and places them at a higher risk for finding negative alternatives for love. 
  • Don't fight with your divorced spouse for attention. Realize that your children’s other parents will deal with your children differently than you do. Accept differences and make sure that you are offering your child a grounded, safe, and loving environment.


  • Reaffirm your love and availability. Children need to know that although your feelings for your spouse have changed, your feelings for them have not. Explain that your children still have a “mommy” and “daddy” who will love and take care of them.
  • Make as few changes as possible immediately following the divorce. Losing a parent is shocking enough without yanking your child from comfortable friends, schools, and environment.
  • Level with your children. Before your children start to make up their own reasons why you and your spouse separated, explain it to them in language they can understand.
  • Organize the single-parent home. When parents divorce, discipline often becomes relaxed and household routines become disorganized. Call family meetings for the purpose of setting rules, standards, and expectations. Once you have set these rules, stick to them. 
  • Set aside time to spend with each other and have fun. Try to relieve the stress with fun activities every now and then.