Recently, a father was provided with some proven tactics for better communication. He responded, “Yes, but you don’t know my ex. The other parent is the problem! What you say may be true for communicating with reasonable human beings, but it won’t work in my case.”
When you focus on the other parent’s need to change, you are making a fundamental mistake that is counterproductive to the goal of improving the co-parental relationship. In fact, we only have control over our own behavior, and we can do very little about what the other parent may think, feel, or do.
In our communication with the other parent, it is important to choose our words, tone of voice, and body language with care. When trust is lacking and there is a history of angry words between two people, those individuals tend to “have their antennae up;” each is expecting an insult, sarcastic remark, or roll of the eyes at any moment. For the sake of our children, we must strive not to offend the other parent or to incite unnecessary conflict.
“But why should I tip-toe around that other parent? Why should I go out of my way to be decent to someone who so clearly does not deserve decent treatment?”
It doesn’t matter whether or not the other parent has “earned the right” to be treated with kindness. Our children have the right to see and hear their parents speaking to each other with kindness and decency. We choose our words carefully and we attempt to avoid unnecessary conflict with the other parent because our children will benefit.
Concentrating on the other parent’s behavior leaves you feeling victimized and powerless. Take the lead. Begin taking small steps toward changing your own behavior today. It feels good to be the bigger person.
For a more detailed look at improving communication to minimize and resolve conflicts, please
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