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Good cop bad cop
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Good cop bad cop

MiaBy Mia Von Scha


In parenting I often find one parent playing good cop and one bad cop. I’m generalizing here, but it’s very often mom playing the good and dad bringing in the other end. So do we, as women, tend to push the disciplinarian side onto our spouses? Or are they naturally like that? Or are they just not trying to be nice?

Well, mothers, and I’m generalizing again, tend to be naturally more nurturing and more likely to have their children in their highest values. We, as women, are also more likely to come across messages from our own childhoods, the media, and well-meaning parenting books that our homes are supposed to be peaceful, happy, calm places and we must do everything we can to stay calm and be caring towards our kids. This tends to give people (and mothers in particular) an unrealistic idea of a one-sided family and a one-sided life.

There is no such thing. Every family will have both war and peace in various forms. So the more the mother tries desperately to create a peaceful, happy, calm (and one-sided) home, the more the father has to balance this out by becoming stricter and more aggressive. Life (and families) are always balanced, and life is two-sided – there is both good and bad, happy and sad, kind and cruel in perfect balance in every moment.

This misconception of the peaceful happy home is the source of most guilt, shame and blame in families because they are striving for the unattainable. If everyone just relaxed, and both parents were allowed to be gentle at some times and strict at others, then kids would grow up with a much more balanced view of life and themselves.

When we put all the discipline onto one parent we end up playing ‘good cop bad cop’ and children become infatuated with one parent and resentful of the other. This ultimately leads to them rejecting one half of themselves (they also have both good and bad, kind and cruel, helpful and unhelpful etc).

If we want to raise kids with a healthy sense of self, we need to get rid of our fantasies about a one-sided life and relax into being who we are – whole people with both sides. When we as women do this, we give our partner’s permission to display both sides too. Then we can both be good cop sometimes and bad cop at other times and our kids can see us as whole human beings who are ultimately neither good nor bad!