In the introductory article in this four part series, we looked at the first item on our list of discipline-related issues that many divorced parents face when trying to co-parent – comparisons. But while it’s hard when your child compares yours and their other parent’s disciplinary style, it’s important to remember that you are in charge, and it’s up to you to make the best possible choice for your child. Moving forward, let’s look at the next item on the list – finding middle ground.
“I’ll agree to later bedtimes, if you’ll agree to no candy at breakfast”
Any time two people get together to embark on a process, there is going to be compromise. No two people are going to agree to every aspect of anything, which is where sacrifice and middle ground come in. This is true of creative collaborations in the music industry, scientific studies conducted by groups, and even books authored by multiple writers. Parenting is certainly no different.
Although there will be parents who are completely unwilling to meet in the middle on any issue, and will refuse to even discuss the idea of collaborative changes to parenting choices, many parents just want what’s best for their kids and are willing to work with their ex to find common ground.
Talking to your ex may still be a difficult endeavor, fraught with emotional landmines. If you keep the conversation short and to the point, and don’t discuss anything that isn’t do with your shared kids, it will be easier. Perhaps start with a telephone conversation at a time when you know they won’t be busy, or a meeting on neutral ground in a public place to avoid dramatic scenes.
Once you are engaged in the discussion, use neutral and inclusive language so that your ex won’t feel like they’re under attack. Avoid saying things like, “You always..” “You never…” and “You should have…” Once your ex feel like they’re being attacked, he or she will likely become defensive and possibly hostile. So pick your words carefully and aim for more “we” than “you”. This will most likely be better received by your ex than the alternative.
Statements like, “Joanie is struggling to stay awake in school, so I was wondering if we could try to aim for earlier bedtimes.” or “Josh’s teacher says he is struggling to focus during lessons, I would like to try cutting back on his sugar intake. What do you think?” These are not accusatory statements, and they don’t imply that the other parent is at fault. What they do imply is a parenting partnership with a focus on what’s best for the children, which will ensure a far better better outcome than shouting, accusations and finger pointing.
Join us next time when we will be looking at the next item on our list – why it’s important not to trash-talk your ex’s parenting choices.