Tonight's fun read about co-parenting and custody was written by our
Atlanta Child Custody Attorney, Cherese Clark.
"Start your engines. On your mark, get set, GOOOOO," is an announcement
fitting of a NASCAR race towards the checkered flag, trophy and champaign
shower. Unfortunately this is also often the subconscious mind-set of
many co-parents who descend into an adversarial relationship and begin
the race for their child's attention, love, and affection. Revving
up this engine is a crash and burn and ultimately everyone loses the race,
particularly the child. Here's why:
1. Letting Your Child Run The Show FALLS FLAT.
"Just Say No" is not just a catchy slogan for D.A.R.E. It is
a way to teach children the importance of compromise and patience. How
many times have you seen a child in a store begging for candy? The parent
says "no" and an all out tantrum equivalent to WWIII ensues.
While it is good that children masterfully test their boundaries, saying
"no" doesn't make you a bad mom or dad. Teaching your child
to accept "no" dispels that wicked feeling of entitlement and
replaces it with the ability to accept that things may not always go their
way. The skills you teach your children today are tools they use as adults.
Being the pushover parent will not make you the favored parent. It makes
you the easy parent. You simply fall flat.
2. Failing to Discipline Children KILLS THE ENGINE.
How many times have children said "if you do (disfavored action),
then I'm going to (inappropriate conduct)," only for it to be
followed by the child asking, "can I go back to (other parent's)
house?" That is frustrating.
This a sneaky method that children often use to manipulate the situation
to try to get what they want at that time. Children being teed off about
their discipline is normal. That doesn't make you the bad parent.
Rather, it is a sure sign that you are doing something right by teaching
that the child must accept the consequences of her behavior and choices-
a lesson that some full grown adults still fail to realize. It teaches
taking responsibility which leads to accountability, a life lesson that
gets lost when a child's poor behavior is ignored for fear of her
disliking you. The goal should be to reform not condone, excuse and enable.
3. Divide and Conquer LOSES THE RACE.
Children are master manipulators. They are observant and learn how to quickly
assess a situation to effortlessly maneuver it to their advantage. Don't
let your child set you up against the other parent. Do not be a victim
of the "divide and conquer" strategy. Children will exploit
every one of their parents' weaknesses, particularly your understandable
dislike for the other parent. The best way to overcome this artful strategy
is to build a better co-parenting relationship with that other parent.
Teamwork here is a must.
Learn to talk and brainstorm with your ex (yes, your ex) about ways to
raise your child and collaborate on what it is that you want the child
to learn, how your want them to behave, and what values you want them
to embody. Remember that your children are a reflection of you...both.
Just remember that parenting is not a competition. Custody is not a zero
sum game. Saying "no" is necessary. Discipline is necessary.
Sometimes even precision co-parenting is necessary. Although building
a strong, close relationship with your child is essential to their development,
there is a healthy balance required between being your child's friend
Don't race against the other parent to the finish line. That only runs
over your child. Parenting is not Nascar. Parenting, when done well,
is cooperative not competetive.
If parenting is a race at all, it is only won when you finish it together.