2 Toxic Behaviors To Give Up For Better Co-Parenting

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Divorced couple learning to do parent better

Parenting is hard work. Co-parenting is even harder. Especially if you aren't in a loving relationship with the person you are parenting with. There are two common mistakes we make when having 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.

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Here are 2 behaviors to give up for better co-parenting:

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." We believe if we don't say anything, we are avoiding a fight. That may be true in the short run, but it is rarely true in the long run. If there is something vitally important about parenting and your children, you must say something. The key is to say it appropriately, without complaining or anger. You may not ultimately get what you want, but you will at least have let your feelings be known.

happy child with big smile

Photo: Kikujiarm via Shutterstock

It is important to pick your battles. You don't need to fight every detail with your co-parent. Yet, it is equally essential not to deny what is most important to you. Passivity is not the key to healthy co-parenting because it often leads to resentment or passive-aggressive behavior. Neither is good for you, your relationship, and especially your children. It's rare for any co-parents to agree on everything, but it is still important to know where your co-parent stands on any given issue so you can calmly and rationally discuss it.

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2. Yelling or arguing about issues that aren't related to parenting your children.

The minute you say 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. You cannot sustain or build a good relationship by using the statements listed previously. 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.



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It's 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 respectfully and honestly, 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.

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Lisa Kaplin is a psychologist, certified professional life and executive coach, and a highly experienced corporate speaker. She helps people overcome stress and overwhelm to find joy in their personal lives and success and meaning in their professional lives.