Parenting must include a healthy balance of nurturing and training.  A stable coParent-child relationship is undermined when a parent feels they must give in or overindulge the child in an effort to win the best parent competition.

Resist the urge to let discipline slide.  Maintaining your role as the parent in the relationship preserves your child’s sense of predictability and security. Active engagement with your child in a positive and compassionate way promotes an emotional connection that makes your child feel safe, heard, and understood. Developing a strong emotional bond and mutual respect encourages your child to likewise develop positive behavior patterns with others.  If this is the type of relationship you had with a parent, you already know the skills that were modeled for you.  If you did not have a strong positive relationship with a parent, consider counseling to develop positive parenting skills.  There are also many commendable books on positive parenting you can use as references.

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You have little say, however, over the way the coParent engages in parenting the child if abuse and neglect are not present. First of all, what is “abuse” or “neglect” is in the eye of the beholder.  You may think it is abuse for your child to sleep on the couch during parenting time with the coParent.  You may think it is neglect for the child to only have the option of sugary cereals for breakfast.  These are preferences, not fundamental child survival issues.  That is the baseline most often used by child protection authorities and the courts. Check out what the baseline is before launching into a campaign to correct or curb the practices of the other parent.

Parents want to secure the best possible quality of life for their child. It’s heartrending to realize that your child may not have a coParent who is pursuing a positive relationship to the same extent as you. As much as you long for your child to have a great relationship with both parents, the only relationship you can control is your own relationship with your child.  Concentrating on your own relationship with the child is a much more productive use of your time and resources than worrying about how to make the other parent do better.  You have no control over that.

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About Kathleen Bird

Kathleen BirdKathleen Bird, JD is a mediator, parent educator, former judge, and family lawyer. Her book, Self-Centered Co-Parenting, is the result of her experience working with thousands of frustrated parents to find a self-empowering method for quality parenting and decision-making.