If you are the bad cop in your family, don’t worry

Shutterstock.com/ Dmitri Ma

Red from That 70s Show, Marge from The Simpsons, Claire from Modern Family, Lois from Malcolm in the Middle. These are the bad cops. They are the ones who when the children misbehave, lay down the law. We had some debate in the office over whether Homer was the bad cop. How can the good cop be the one who also chokes his son almost every episode? In the end, we settled on Marge because Homer is just as likely to let the kids take a day off school to have some fun while Marge makes sure that the kids play by the rules. What about your family? Are you the bad cop or the good cop to your kids and does it matter?

Before I had my first child, I was worried that I was going to be the bad cop. My husband is the weird/spontaneous/strange “fun” one in our relationship so I knew that when the kids came he would love to take them on adventures. I also know that if they acted out he would be a good disciplinarian but that it would likely fall to me more often. I was right. When our first child arrived we naturally fit into this good cap bad cop dynamic where I tell them they can’t have any sweets and he slips them one quietly with a finger up to his mouth “don’t tell mom”. 

This had worried me before our child arrived. If one owner gives a dog lots of treats and pats and the owner scolds the dog for misbehaving, which owner will the dog prefer? I felt it may be the same about parents so I wanted us both to play the good cop and bad cop role. It didn’t work. I found myself naturally wanting to correct a situation and often having to approach my husband to sort something out for me because I wanted him to be perceived as the bad cop that day. This was unnatural and it didn’t take long for us to realize it wasn’t working and for my child to see right through it.

In the end, we allowed our natural roles to win over and I am happy to say that I am the bad cop today. Don’t get me wrong. I barely raise my voice to my children and never raise a hand but I am the authority figure in the house, I am the one who sets the rules for TV and play and the one who says homework gets done before fun and games.  My husband is an authority figure too and he will enforce these rules as well, but the kids know that it is I who set them.

That is ok because I no longer see it as a bad cop role but the role of logic in the house, the one who keeps balance in order. My husband is like another big kid (don’t tell him I said that) and without me keeping balance the whole house of cards would fall apart. When something goes wrong, the kids call for me, when they have a cut or scrape it is me who kisses it better. They don’t understand the idea of a good cap and bad cop, they see me as the more responsible one, and I am quite alright with that.

The idea of being the bad cop is an archaic and shallow profile put forward by sitcoms. In reality, I show love to my kids all day every day and they value it so much. Because they know how I act when they do something wrong they also appreciate the love I show them a lot too.  Don’t worry about being a good cop or a bad cop, worry instead about the balance in your relationship and ensuring your family is well looked after.