When couples are co-parenting their children after separation or divorce, they may commit to keeping any disagreements they have away from their children. However, it’s all too easy for co-parents to fall into passive-aggressive behaviors that undermine the respect and perhaps even the love their kids have for their other parent.
When one or both parents engage in undermining behaviors, they can harm their children far more than they realize. When one parent criticizes the other, children can feel guilt for not agreeing with the critical parent. They may even feel bad about themselves since they’re a product of both parents. This is particularly true if a parent lashes out with something like, “You’re just like your father” or “You’re as stubborn as your mother.”
Examples of undermining behavior
There are numerous ways a mother or father can try to undermine their child’s love or respect for their other parent. These include:
- Allowing a child to say negative things about their other parent
- Displaying hurt or anger if a child talks positively about their other parent or something they did together – even if it’s done non-verbally
- Telling a child they can choose not to go to their other parent’s house when that parent has scheduled parenting time (or tempting them with an activity that will make them not want to go)
- Contacting a child during their time with their other parent when it’s not necessary (like constantly texting or calling them)
- Telling a child that their other parent’s rules are too strict or too lenient rather than just explaining that you do things differently in your house
- Habitually being a little late when dropping a child off or having them ready for the other parent to pick up.
These are just some examples, but they show that you don’t have to openly disparage your ex to make their job as a parent – and their relationship with your child – more difficult. Whether you recognize some of these behaviors in yourself or your co-parent is guilty of them, it’s wise to deal with them before they become an ingrained habit that can affect your child, how they feel about themselves and how they relate to others for the rest of their life.