Parental Conflict: Recipe and Resolution

I previously wrote about the lies kids tell, and why they tell them.  For personal reasons, the topic is still on my mind (or, on my mind again) this week.  I’ll spare everyone the rabid details of my family drama, but I do want to address some of the issues at play… 

Control:  Many divorced parents put their children in control (although they probably don’t think of it that way) because they don’t want to deal with each other:

  • “tell your dad to bring you home early”
  • “tell your mom you have a violin lesson tomorrow at 2pm”
  • “make sure you do X, Y and Z this weekend”

Such actions effectively hand over all power to the children and they are free to manipulate the situation toward any number of outcomes, voluntarily or otherwise: 

  • Jenny conveniently “forgets” to tell Daddy that she needs to be home earlier than usual
  • Ethan tells Mommy about his violin lesson at 2:15pm while they’re visiting Grandma in another town
  • Emily does X and Y but not Z.  When Mom questions her actions, Emily lies and says, “Daddy wouldn’t let me” 

In any case, Mom and Dad end up mad at each other and their kids are stuck in the middle (or forgotten and off to the side). Some children will continuously capitalize on such opportunities (to get what they want, avoid punishment, reunite their parents, etc) while others feel powerless and live in fear of messing up and creating chaos.  Wouldn’t it be easier if Mom and Dad were in control?

Co-Parent Team: It’s imperative to present a united front to the kids so they know they cannot manipulate either to turn on the other.  As far as the kids should know, Mom and Dad are on the same team: 

  • Mom and Dad both love their children (this is an important one!)
  • Mom and Dad both want the homework to be done.
  • Mom and Dad are both interested in the kids’ activities
  • Mom and Dad are both concerned about safety
  • Mom and Dad both want the kids to have fun
  • Mom and Dad might have different rules in their houses, but each supports the other while the kids are in that home

Controlling Emotions:  SCREAMING REAL LOUD does not mean a person is “superior”.  It doesn’t mean that party is “winning”.  It is indicative of a loss of self-control and there’s nothing admirable about that.

Respect:  Shouting, name-calling, put-downs, etc are all popular tactics when it comes to conflict.  Unfortunately, these weapons serve little purpose beyond stroking the ego of the person on the offense.  True communication cannot take place without a consistent flow of respect between the stakeholders.  If Mom and Dad don’t model respect for their children, what will their children learn about respect?  What will the children learn about resolving conflict?

…I’ve been told there’s a lot that I don’t understand because I haven’t given birth.  But in this case, I think my lack of Parental Filter allows me to see things a little more clearly.  In general, am I wrong about any of this?

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Posted in children of divorce, divorce and tagged , , , .


  1. I’ve seen that more often that I can recount. Fortunately it isn’t an issue in my own case. However as my kids get older I am seeing they are doing more of the communication not because we are doing so its just they know whats going on.

  2. My SD (16) “feels powerless and lives in fear of messing up and creating chaos.” I wish she and her therapist understood that her mother is creating the chaos and that the best thing therapist can do for SD is teach her that: (1) she is not responsible for the chaos, (2) there are techniques for living with the chaos until she’s old enough to move out and go to college and (3) co-parenting is a pipe dream with her mother so it makes more sense to parallel parent. Sadly, mom has so brainwashed SD that SD resists all efforts at rational approaches to the situation.

  3. I am dreading the days of homework and required sports/classes on weekends because I will have to coordinate things with my ex. From the get go he has refused to do things like take a child for a haircut or bring them to a birthday parties that were inconvenient for him. I am surmising (and I have been correct thus far) that when the kids activities are inconvenient for him, they will not be done. It would be nice to have a partner or any kind.

      • Possibly, it just failed to occur to me that when my kid has a ball game or a birthday party he wouldn’t just bring them, and not look to have me do it or arrange it for him. He is slowly becoming a slightly better parent, I am standing my ground firmly without getting upset (now that I expect him to try and get out of everything – if you expect a bad reaction, it’s much easier to not be upset when that’s what you get)

        • My ex told me in no uncertain terms never to accept an invitation to a birthday party or ask him to bring a child to a required activity (match/game/recital) during “his” time. He just won’t do it. I agree it would be nice to have a partner of any kind. The children have adjusted to his wishes, but they have missed out on a lot of time with their teams and friends.

          My ex would not have signed a Parenting Plan that obliged him to take the children to their scheduled activiites or birthday parties. He wants to be absolutely free to do what he wants to do, whatever that is. During “his” time with the children, that generally leaves them stuck sitting around the house in pajamas, playing video games and watching TV.

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