Are you a good or bad cop?

12 July 2018

How do you get your children to behave well?
We’re all familiar with the scene in the interrogation room in cop shows. One cop is the threatening one, while the other is more sympathetic, to manipulate the bad guy into doing the right thing.

But is that an appropriate role model for bringing up our children? We decided to ask over 1,200 British parents about the way they chose to bring up their children.

Bribery always works - Maxine and Ally, parents

Good cops, Bad cops

Many parents find themselves falling into good cop/bad cop routines, with 73% of parents believing their children see them as one or the other. And mums were more likely to feel like good cops while dads were a little more likely to think their children saw them as bad cops.

I do think you need that one parent to be the stricter parent - Maxine and Ally, parents.

Good cops, Bad cops

Children also seem to be pretty good at working out how to play the game, choosing one parent or the other depending on what they want.

‘Our baby knows exactly who to go to get what he needs – rough playtime, dada does everything – cuddles, I need a bit of sympathy… mama does that.’ – Natalie and Nicholas, parents


Does being the family cop make you happy?

There’s some discontent among those parents who find themselves stuck with the stick of bad cop rather than being the carrot-waving good cop. 45% of mums who find themselves cast as bad cops are unhappy about it. Only 31% of bad cop dads feel the same.

Claire will say it much softer, and [our daughter] will listen and say ‘Mummy knows how to talk to me’. – Claire and Mark, parents

Good cops, Bad cops

One parent, two cops?

Good cops, Bad cops

If you’re a single parent, you face a different challenge altogether – you may have to be both good and bad cop. 7 in 10 told us they find balancing the two difficult.

Our video interviews suggested single parents can also get help from older generations.

I’ll say to her – ‘Would you like to go to grandma’s for a couple of hours? And then I go and drop her at my mum’s. Maybe like a day. Or two.’ – Marcia, single mum


Do parents favour gentler ways of raising children?

Our findings suggested only 35% thought ‘gentle parenting’ – a focus on empathy rather than punishment and rewards – sounded like a good idea.

Though, ultimately, you have to find your own way to bring up your children to be happy and confident.

Each child is different… and I guess you just have to trial and error with everything and see what works with your child.’ – Sarah, parent 

Good cops, Bad cops