Are You a Coparent Bully?
Recently I posted an article asking - Are you a coparent pushover? These coparent pushovers are generally trying to do good, bending to the whim of their coparent for what they think is the sake of their kids. We talked about how it's important for coparents to stand up for themselves - for the sake of themselves, and to set a good example for the children.
Now let's take a look at the opposite side of the spectrum and ask - Are you a coparent bully?
Bullies are master manipulators, and their ultimate goal is to have power and control – in this case, over their coparent. And although sometimes they may be easy to recognize, this is not always the case. Some bullies are sly, even friendly, and may not even realize that they are bullying their coparent.
When it comes to kids it is so important that one parent not bully the other. It is likely that kids will remember this long into adulthood, and may grow to resent the parent that was a bully, feeling sorry for the parent that was bullied throughout their childhood. In the end, the bully is the one that may lose, alienating their children, which is exactly the pain that they may be trying to inflict on their coparent.
But some parents might not realize that they are bullying their coparent. Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself:
- Do you nitpick your coparent's parenting skills? Do you expect your coparent to raise the kids in their house the way you would in yours, down to every last detail? Or do you give them a hard time every time they do something that you may not like, even if it is a small thing? Remember, your parent has just as much right as you do to decide how to parent your kids. Ideally you would make these decisions together, but since you are parenting in two households, ultimately it's out of your hands. You do not have veto power over what goes on in their house. Other than clear legal or safety issues, such as the breach of a parenting agreement, you can't tell you coparent how to raise the kids in their house. The best thing do to is to calmly express your concerns, and hopefully come to an agreement, but in the end this is something you need to accept in the long term.
Example: You make the kids clean their plates at your house, your coparent lets them be excused from dinner regardless. This isn't going to affect them in the long term, and your co-parent has their own reasons for how they run dinnertime. This is something to let go control of.
- Do you purposely limit the amount of time your coparent spends with the kids? Do you turn down requests from your ex to spend extra time with the kids? This is a power play. Again, barring safety concerns, there are very few reasons to limit your ex's time with the kids , especially if they are wanting to be a larger part of the kids lives. Instead of trying to control your coparent's access, instead think of all of the things you could do with that extra time to yourself!
Example: Your ex offers to babysit while you have a doctor's appointment. You decide to let your mom watch the kids instead. If the roles were reversed, wouldn't you be upset that your ex gave someone else dibs over kid duty rather than their own parent? Give your coparent that extra time with the kids when you can, it might not be as easy for you, but it's better for the children.
- Do you badmouth your ex to your kids? Your coparent's behavior might not be all that savory to you, it's actually quite likely, but that doesn't mean the kids need to know how you feel about them. You need to consider the children's feelings here, and remember that this could be one of those things that comes back to bite you later. Eventually the kids will realize what's going on, and they won't like it.
Example: Your ex is late. Again! Frustrated, you throw out a few choice words about your coparent in front of your kids. Be more careful about what you say in front of your children about your coparent. It's doing way more harm than you realize, both to your kids, and to yourself! The kids could very well resent you badmouthing their mom or dad! And try to be more tolerant of your ex's behaviors that you may not agree with. Chance are they have a few words they could say about yours as well! And ultimately, what kind of example are you setting for your children, and how they should treat others?
- Do you change parenting schedules on a whim and expect your coparent to comply quietly? Do you schedule appointments regardless of what your parenting agreement states? Your parenting schedule is a previously agreed on, court ordered agreement. If there is cause to change it, it needs to be something that both parents agree to.
Example: If the kids have a dentist appointment, or even if one of them isn't feeling well, you do not have the right to take that time away from your coparent. Take the extra time to schedule appointments when it works for everyone's schedule. Your coparent may even be more than willing to take the kids to the dentist - then you get a break! And chances are they are also perfectly capable of taking care of a sick child. Taking on all of these responsibilities yourself not only makes it more stressful for you, but it sends the wrong message to both your ex and your kids - that you don't trust your coparent to be responsible for the kids. Time to reevaluate the situation, and above all, make sure your ex gets their fair share of time.
Whether you consider yourself a bully, a pushover, or none of the above - these are all good rules to live by while coparenting. Because keeping the peace between two households, and putting the kid's feelings first, is what co-parenting is ultimately all about.