“Max ran in the door announcing he was getting a hover board at his dad’s, and I thought I was going to come unglued. We’d already talked about the dangers, recalls, and, and, WE’D AGREED: ‘no hover board’!! So, I picked up the phone (texted, emailed).”
OK, you can already imagine that this could go one of two ways, right? Let’s play it out. Beth could accuse (rightfully or not):
- “What are you doing getting Max a hover board after we had decided he wasn’t to have one!?! What’s wrong with you – you always have to be the ‘cool parent’ rather than the real parent.”
Or, Beth might lead with curiosity:
- “Martin, can I talk to you for a moment? Max just came in telling me he’s getting a hover board at your house?? (said in curious, clarifying, questioning tone) My understanding is that we’ve agreed that he’s not to have a hover board. Could you please clarify?
Co-parenting requires maturity and restraint.
Whether we’re talking about Martin’s restraint regarding Max’s repeated requests for a hover board when he and Beth had already discussed and agreed ‘no hover board’ or Beth’s restraint in using skillful communication and assuming the best about Martin – even when she’s upset – until she has more information.
Let’s look at Martin’s response:
- “For crying out loud, Beth, I didn’t tell Max he could have a hover board to use. I told him we’d get a hover board to take apart together and look at the issues involved in construction. You know Max has always loved taking things apart – we have a mini-me electrical engineer on our hands!”
Rebuilding trust with your co-parent can take time. Settling down the emotional tone, practicing curious questions, working toward constructive problem-solving, and making and keeping agreements are keys. Accusations, lecturing, blaming, micro-managing, raging, attacking are all ineffective methods of problem-solving, communicating and laying a path for a better future.
Co-parenting can involve a long game. Keep in mind that everyone in the family is re-finding their balance, building new skills, and working with difficult emotions. Giving some grace while keeping your eye on the future you want for your children – one where both parents provide an atmosphere of love and care without undue stress between you. Meanwhile, you use the skills you can be proud of, model what you want your children to witness and emulate in their relationships.
Don’t sweat the small stuff; problem-solve constructively the important stuff.