The Co-Parenting Trap

Many of the couples I see in my practice fight over their differences when it comes to parenting styles and the best ways to manage their kid’s behavior.

If you are not one of this majority group, then consider yourself lucky, because the last thing you want to add to a relationship’s stress is co-parenting conflicts, especially if it’s gone unchecked.

Here is the thing: most parents, even the ones who fight, actually want the same thing, which is to raise healthy, happy, and well-adjusted children to be healthy, happy, and well-adjusted adults.  So why is this so darn difficult? Well, it doesn’t have to be so if we understand the root causes of these conflicts.

Co-parenting conflicts arise for a variety of reasons, but the general theme in most conflicts is the fact that you have two individuals who are sharing a task, but are not in agreement as to how this task should be executed, who should be doing what, or what the final outcome should look like.

It’s like asking two sculptors, with varied training, mastery level, artistic view, and sculpting tools to  turn a piece of raw marble into the ideal statue that represents healthy, happy, and well-adjusted adults. You can see from the first glance, this scenario  is open to  many opportunities for conflict  and disagreement, even if those sculptors had the option to choose to work on this project together and have put in a lot of thought toward their common visions and ability to work as a team. Now imagine if they didn’t have that option, and were not prepared to be involved in such a project with a person who is vastly different in artistic vision, abilities, and expectations. Now do you get the picture?

So here is what happens when parents find themselves deeply involved in co–parenting conflicts they cannot escape.

They either continue to butt heads over the littlest of things or one decides to check out and watch from the sidelines while criticizing and possibly sabotaging the other parent, who is now stuck and overwhelmed with the parenting task because they are unable to work collaboratively with their partner. The end result is always the same, which is a poorly executed task, with a high level of stress and resentment. In other words, unhappy children who lack consistent and cooperative parental guidance.

My job is to help couples get on the same page and work together as a team by guiding them through the following process:

  1. Make a commitment to work together as a team in the co-parenting task.  This means that both parents are equally sharing the parenting duties, regardless of whether or not they are the bread-winner or the stay-home parent.  Both opinions should be equally heard and considered to achieve the best outcome for the child.
  2. Explore and identify your own individual vision of what a happy, successful, well-adjusted adult looks like and share it with one another to achieve a common vision on how to raise your child. Keep in mind that your child’s interests, personality, abilities, likes and dislikes should be a driving force behind this vision
  3. Closely examine each of your skills, strengths, and weaknesses. This will help the two of you divide and share the duties in a way that can achieve the best results. For example, if you are the academically inclined parent, take the time to help with homework duties. Also make sure to take turns switching these tasks so that you can have appreciation for your partner.
  4. Get to know your child, not just through your own eyes and experiences but also through the eyes and experiences of your partner. This well help you have a comprehensive assessment of your child’s abilities, personality, and learning style.  The comprehensive assessment will help the two of you agree on the best way to shape your child’s development using the methods that works for his or her needs. Some kids respond to consequences; others respond to incentives; and some respond to a combination of both.

Always remember to be a united front, and, if you are in a disagreement, do it being closed doors. Make decisions together so that you can both take the credit for success and share the burden of disappointment when things are not working.

Lastly and most importantly, take charge of your life, and seize your happily ever after.

Family Conflict Resolution

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