“My biggest issue is trying to share custody of my kids with my ex who is not looking out for my kid’s best interests right now. I wish he were rational. It is to spite me for leaving him – he makes the wrong choices for the kids.” That’s what I recently read in an online support group for coParents.

We can learn a lot about this woman’s coParenting struggles by taking a look at the language she uses to describe her situation. When she says she’s, “trying to share custody of my kids with my ex,” does it sound as though her “ex” is actually the kids’ other parent? To the extent that she doesn’t recognize her “ex” as her kids’ other parent, how might that impact her perceptions regarding parenting related issues? If they disagree on parenting choices, does that mean she’s right, and he’s wrong? Even parents who are still together make different choices.

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Does doing things differently automatically mean they’re done worse? The Cambridge Dictionary defines different as “not the same.” Do you see the word “wrong” in there anywhere?

If both parents can’t agree on what’s in their kids’ best interests, does that mean one parent is wrong, and the other is right? When parents litigate, the only person involved in the case responsible for assessing what’s in the child’s best interest is the judge. However, a judge’s subjective knowledge of the family is limited. Too often their subjective determination may not be in the best interest of the child. If they’re not litigating, and using an app like coParenter to work out differences between them instead, is one parent automatically the final arbiter of things? If so, based on what and on whose authority?

In her book The Reflective Parent: How to Do Less and Relate More with Your Kids, psychiatrist, founder and co-director of the Center for Reflective Communities, Regina Pally, says the following:

“The ability to be reflective is essential for relating well to others because it enables us to try to see the world from the other person’s perspective as well as our own and to accept that there is always more than one way to view a situation…. All your relationships will be smoother if you can see the other person’s perspective as well as your own.”

 Pally continues: “Too many happy and loving marriages and other parenting partnerships end up having so much extra conflict because each partner gets bogged down in thinking their perspective is the right one or the best one. Parents don’t have to see eye to eye on everything, but they should try to see where the other person is coming from and respect and value their viewpoint. Parent couples are better able to compromise and find agreement if each parent feels understood by the other parent.”

 While we don’t know the specifics, does the mother who posted the comment I mentioned above sound reflective to you?

In her comment, she also said, “I wish he were rational.”

However, consider the following information set forth by nationally recognized peacemaker, mediator and trainer, Douglas E. Noll, in his book Elusive Peace: How Modern Diplomatic Strategies Could Better Resolve World Conflicts:

“Discoveries in behavioral economics, cognitive and social neuroscience, and social psychology have demonstrated that emotions weave through our every thought, decision, and action. To paraphrase…. we are 98 percent emotional and 2 percent rational. We are not nearly as rational as we think we are.”

While our coParent example may wish that her ex were more rational, he can most certainly say the same about her. How do we know she’s not the one making the bad parenting decisions?

We only see one side and perspective is everything. It would serve her and her children so much more if she’d work on being reflective. Attempting to take a walk in her coParent’s shoes could make a world of difference for how she and her coParent solve parenting problems going forward.

 

 

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About Mark Baer

Mark BaerMark Baer is a lawyer, mediator and conflict resolution consultant. He has decades of experience in family law and has crafted a reputation within the industry for his psychologically-minded and child-centered approach.

Mark is also a well-known writer and columnist for a number of publications on the interplay between psychology and conflict resolution within the field of family law, as well as familial and interpersonal relationships in general. He has had a regular “Psychology and Family Law” column in the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association’s award-winning bimonthly newsletter since 2008. A member of Psychology Today’s expert community, Mark also has a blog column titled “Empathy and Relationships: Fostering Genuine Open-Mindedness.” He is also a HuffPost Blogger and a number of those blog articles have been referenced in books, law review articles, by evidence-based public policy think tanks, and elsewhere. Mark has written extensively for a number of other publications, as well. His material has been used and shared by law school professors, and by some of the highest ranked dispute resolution organizations in the country, such as the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law and the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program at Harvard Law School.

He has also presented on several occasions at the California Psychological Association Convention, the American Bar Association Section of Family Law CLE Conference, and the Southern California Mediation Association Conference, among other such organizations.

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