Are You a Coparent Bully? - Part Three

In my recent post: Are You a Coparent Bully - Part Two, I asked these questions:

In the last two articles about co-parent bullying, we've taken a look at issues like why you might nitpick your coparent or why you might try to limit your ex's time with your children. Now let's look at some of the more aggressive co-parenting behavior that you may be engaging in, even without realizing that you are, in fact, being a bully. 

Do you freak out if plans change, just because they are outside of your control? 
If you need to maintain complete control, even in everyday situations, you will be setting yourself up for consistent disappointment and anxiety. 

Example: Maybe your coparent is running late getting the kids back to your place - or maybe your kids stepparent brought them to the baseball game instead of your ex doing it themselves - or maybe the kids were going to be home with your coparent for the weekend, but they made last minute plans to go out of town instead. If any of these scenarios make you anxious about plans changing unexpectedly, remember that you do not have control of what your ex does with the kids. And there are alway going to be occasional instances that are out of anyone's control, that may end up in an unexpected change of plans. Just because your ex is late with the kids, it does not mean that you get to take it out on them if, say, the bus was late bringing them home. Letting go of the need to maintain control will ease anxiety for you, your coparent, and the children, who would surely feels the effects of tension in the family. 

Do you sabotage your coparent? If you intentionally set your coparent up for failure, then the only one you're hurting is your kids.

Example: You have set up times and dates for parent-teacher conferences, and you neglect to let your coparent know about the appointments. Now the kids are wondering where mom or dad is when it's time to go talk to teacher. You think "Oops! Did I forget to tell you that?" or even worse "If your dad really wanted to be there he would have asked when the conferences were". Now, not every coparenting family is able to get through a parent-teacher conference together, and usually teachers are more than happy to set up different times for parents. However, there are times when one parent sets up appointments, and it's your responsibility to let the other parent know, regardless of whether you think they're paying attention or not. Setting your coparent up for failure will ultimately hurt your children. Telling them that your coparent must have screwed up, or that they just don't care enough about their kids, or that they must have had better things to do, is cruel and unnecessarily painful for your kids. Not to mention self-serving. I'M always there - I care MORE - I do EVERYTHING for the kids - taking that kind of attitude is something that the kids will figure out for themselves as time goes by, leaving you as the parent that looks bad.

Do you use your children to guilt your coparent into giving into you? Using your children to guilt your coparent at any time is not an acceptable solution to any given problem. Issues are bound to arise that you are not happy with. This is what we call life. As long as there are no absolutely critical needs of the kids that are being threatened, then there is no reason to lay the guilt trip on your ex.

Example: Your coparent carries the children's insurance, and they have just informed you that the insurance company will no longer be carrying the plan your kids have been on for quite some time, and they will now need to find new doctors (the horror)! BUT, if your ex would simply pay more, then the kids can keep their doctor and the coverage will be better. You secretly know they can't afford to do that, but if you tell your coparent that "the kids are going to be soooo upset that they have to find a new doctor, they just looooove theirs, and hooooow could you possibly do this to them?", you may just get your way. 

Get real. Money is very serious issue that coparents have to deal with on a regular basis. And changing doctors is something that is really not a major issue at all, barring any critical illnesses. If your coparent is not able to pay for what you want, or be where you want, or make it to every school event, their is no honor in trying to shame them for that, and using the kids to get the job done. Especially for the parent who has "secondary" custody of the kids, or doesn't see them as often, these parents usually have major guilt that goes along with that as it is, and using that against them is just plain cruel. You need to deal with the fact that there are going to be unexpected events, or changes, or disappointments in the kids' lives, that are out of anyone's control. It is just as important for you to teach them that this is ok, even normal, as it is that you learn to live with it yourself. Instead of trying to guilt your ex into figuring out a way to make it work for you. 

- Do you blame your ex for your own bad behavior or unhappiness? Then, do you say these things to your kids? We get it, co-parenting is really tough, and sometimes it's hard to keep ourselves together. But if you tend to blame all that is wrong in your life on your ex, then it is time to move on and take responsibility for your own actions, and your own happiness.

Example: You didn't intent to, but you started smoking again. When your kids question you about it, you say that the divorce has stressed you out too much and that your ex pushed you over the edge, and that's why you're smoking again. 

Whether it's smoking, drinking, gossiping, money problems, etc. - there are no circumstances under which you can blame your ex for your own problems in front of your children. If you are engaging in some kind of behavior that you feel like you need to explain away to your kids, and your kids are taking notice of it, then regain some dignity and take full responsibility. Tell them that you made a bad choice and that you will work on changing it. Blaming it on your ex will just make it look to your children that, not only are you engaging in something that has upset them, but you are putting their other parent down on top of that, something that no child will ever respect.

This also goes for blaming your unhappiness or financial troubles on your ex. It may very well be the case and make sense to you, but don't be the person who lets their ex bring them down - be the person that overcomes divorce with flying colors! It's far more productive to take responsibility for your own life, than to constantly use your ex as that convenient scapegoat to explain away your problems. And your kids and peers will respect you more if you are not blaming all that is wrong with your life on your ex, rather than taking control and making a happier life for yourself. 

These are tough situations for both coparents, but it is crucial to maintain mutual respect for your ex, and to be understanding that you are both maintaining individual lives, apart from your co-parenting family. And ultimately, that you respect your children enough to not put them smack-dab in the middle of the situation. Being a better coparent means always making your ex look good in your children's eyes. Because kids grow up, and they are very smart. They will eventually figure everything out on their own, for good or bad. Don't put yourself in a light that makes you look bad by being negative toward your coparent, or constantly putting them down. 

As always, better communication can be the key difference between frustrated coparents, and coparents that manage their lives successfully. Please take a look at to see how you can better organize parenting between two households with a shared calendar, lists of contacts, storing medical information, expense tracking, and more. 

Also read:
Are You a Coparent Bully - Part One
Are You a Coparent Bully - Part Two