Parenting is hard work. Co-parenting is even harder particularly if you aren't in a loving relationship with the person you are parenting with. There are two common mistakes that most of us make when it comes to parenting discussions (or arguments) with our parenting partner. If you can change these two mistakes, you are well on your way to parenting in a way that feels better for you, is healthier for your children and contributes to a more cooperative relationship between you and your co-parent.
1. Not saying what you want to say. Many of my clients say, "It's not worth the fight. I'm not going to say anything." The belief is often that if we don't say anything we are actually avoiding a fight. That may be true in the short run but it is rarely true in the long run. If there is something that is vitally important to you about parenting and your children, it's necessary for you to say something. The key is to say it appropriately, without whining, or anger. You may not ultimately get what you want, but you will at least have let your feelings be known.
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It is important to pick your battles and you don't need to fight every detail with your co-parent. Yet, it is equally essential to not deny what is most important to you. Passivity is not the key to healthy co-parenting in that it often leads to resentment and/or passive aggressive behavior. Neither is good for you, your relationship and most especially your children. It's rare for any co-parents to completely agree on everything but it is still important to know where your co-parent stands on any given issue so that you can calmly and rationally discuss it.
2. Yelling or arguing about issues that aren't related to parenting your children. The minute you hear yourself saying something to your parenting partner that has nothing to do with your children, you are headed down a bad path. Here are a few examples: "You are the worst father." "Why don't you ever want to spend time with them?" "Why are you such an idiot?" "I'm a better parent than you are so you should do what I want you to do." There are many more examples but these seem to be a good place to start.
The key to good co-parenting comes from the relationship of the parents and you cannot sustain or build a good relationship by using some of the statements that I listed above. So what should you do? Stick to the facts! Ask for what you want without criticism, sarcasm, belittling, digging, or yelling. Also, try to hear what your parenting partner is attempting to say. Don't talk over them, interrupt, or diminish what they are saying even if you actively disagree with them. Your best bet is to hear them out, acknowledge what they are saying and then offer your opinion of the situation.
It's very easy to get angry and upset when discussing your children and how you want to parent them. Yet, allowing your emotions to get the best of you will not help your children. Playing the victim by getting passive and not stating your wishes will only lead to more anger and resentment by you and your parenting partner. Getting angry and using name calling or insults will only make your relationship more estranged and ultimately hurt your children.
Try these two tips right away and you will notice an improvement in your co-parenting relationship. They aren't always easy to do, but when you get in the habit of calming yourself down, waiting for your partner to calm down and then talking in a respectful and honest way, your relationship is bound to improve. Don't use your parenting relationship to fight or punish the other person. It won't improve your life, your relationships, or the quality of your children's lives.
If you want more tips and detailed information join Dr. Lisa Kaplin and Ron Meyer for a free teleclass on happy co-parenting. They will give you tips, role model conversations and answer any of your questions about parenting and co-parenting. Here's the link to sign up. http://smartwomeninspiredlives.com/events/
You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com
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