You Don’t Have to Get a Divorce to Have a Parenting Plan
Most states require divorcing couples who have dependent children to come up with a parenting plan. The plan lays out when the kids are with each parent and who is responsible for what. The court has to approve the plan to make sure it is in the best interest of the children. However, you don't have to be divorced to draw up a parenting plan. Parents with more than one child will find a plan very helpful in managing their time, and in consistancy between both parents.
Disciplining the kids can grow from dealing with a naughty baby to a full-blown marital melt-down. In your parenting plan, decide together how you will discipline the kids. And remember, having your own way is not worth the stress on the marriage. Hash it out and compromise.
Decide together who has responsibility for what. Sometimes you’ll have to modify this part of the parenting plan on a day-to-day basis. Negotiate kid responsibilities, meals and chores. Don’t forget to negotiate couple time and the all-important just-for-me down time so you can take a bubble bath (uninterrupted) or watch a movie or read a book or go out with friends. If you don’t plan time for each of you and time together, it won’t happen.
Part of your parenting plan should include the word, “No.” If you do not say no to your kids, they will have you driving them somewhere or picking them up constantly. They do not need to be involved in every function and activity they want to. It’s okay to put a limit on it…but you do have to plan for it and be in agreement. That keeps them from playing you against each other. You know, going to Dad and saying, “Mom said it’s okay if it’s okay with you,” and then going to Mom and saying the same thing.
That’s part of why you need a parenting plan. Kids are smart and they are master manipulators. They are geniuses at finding and exploiting any and all cracks, loopholes and soft spots. You have to be proactive to stay ahead of them.
Your parenting plan must include secret signals because they protect your sanity. You need the usual marital secret signals, like the one that says, “I can’t stand these people. Please get me out of here!” With kids though, you need a separate set of secret signals, and you’ll probably need to develop it over time. You’ll need secret looks that signal agreement or disagreement without the kids picking up on it. You’ll need a secret signal for, “Please help me out, this kid is driving me crazy” and one for, “I know what he did is hysterical but don’t you dare laugh. I’m trying to make a point, here.”
You don’t have to get a divorce to make a parenting plan. All you have to do is sit down with your spouse and talk about it. Discuss what each of you thinks “good parenting” looks like and how you’ll accomplish it. Make a parenting plan that helps your support and care for each other, and is in the best interest of your kids. After all, what could be more important than your children?