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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Take the High Road - Be a Positive Role Model

This has been one of those weeks already, and it is only Tuesday. The divisive things that parents say to children and the begrudging and even cruel way parents lash out against each other are painful to witness sometimes. To-the-death battles over length of hair, cleanliness of play clothes, the source of ordinary childhood bumps and bruises, and pull-ups vs panties are devastating when the battle field is a young child. 35% of the children caught in the middle of custody battles are under the age of 5. Another 48% are between the ages of 6 and 11. These little ones need the space and the permission to just be play and laugh and run and explore. They deserve adults who take the high road to protect the children, adults who are positive role models.

What do you think?

scenario 1: One parent carefully chooses new toys for his or her children. The children are delighted with the gifts and have fun playing with them with the parent. The other parent picks the children up, takes the new toys away from them and throws the toys in the garbage or immediately drops them off at a charity for donation.

Scenario 2: One parent trims the child's hair. The other parent doesn't like it so they shave the child's head.

Scenario 3: One parent gives 28 days written notice for vacation instead of 30 because of late confirmation on an annual family reunion. The other parents says no because the request was 2 days late.

Clearly parents rationalize each of these choices. And, if honest, they would admit to some satisfaction in thwarting the parent's happiness or peace. Some parents not only rationalize but practice denial of the reality that they are harming their children by, in the first example, actively demonstrating their intolerance for the other parent; in the second example, using the child as a tool to covertly criticize the other parent; and, in the third example, use a technicality to deprive the child of contact with the extended family of the other parent.

Go ahead and indulge yourself in the fantasy of getting back at the other parent. That can be a healthy exercise when you still have a lot of unresolved anger, disappointment and hurt feelings. But when it comes time to take action, think about your kids. Think about what you should do in their best interest for a life unburdened by the need to take care of you and your adult concerns and worries. If you do that, in a reasonably honest fashion, you will probably take the high road most of the time.

Taking the high road as a coparent means bearing some discomfort from time to time, letting the other parent benefit from a decision, and giving up a couple of hours or days so your children gets a "yes" instead of "it's not my fault your mother/father can never....." Go ahead and try it -- let them have the positive experience of you taking the high road and modeling compromise for their sake.

You will end up feeling better about yourself and your children will be happier because they don't have to deal with your revenge and moral superiority. Harsh? Maybe for some parents it is. But for many who continue to say no out of spite long after it's time to move on, it's a fair assessment.