Divorced parents raising their children in two households face real difficulties. The children will likely attempt to leverage what the one parent is supposedly saying or doing to gain advantage with the other. Parents often try to “win over” their children, as if to become the favored parent. Such a competition can get ugly, with nobody winning.
If they are feeling guilty over the divorce or what they have put their children through, parents easily become overmuch child-centered, giving the children whatever they want, which is what spoiling is all about. Spoiling is when you give children what they want at the expense of what they need—which includes such things as consistent discipline and delayed gratification. Spoiling happens when a household becomes child-centered instead of family or parent-centered. I tell parents to let their “No” be as loud as their “Yes,” no more and no less.
It is a blessing for the children as well as the adults when ex-spouses have a relatively amicable parting, and continue to work together as friends in sharing child-rearing. One of the most vexing problems in single parenting, however, is when tension and hostility exist between the former spouses. The children suffer through this, and are too often used by one or both parents as pawns to get at each other. The one parent seeks to negate the rules of the other, and/or criticizes their parental style.
Jousting between ex-spouses can go on for years, even for the rest of their lives. If you are a single parent raising children in a situation of tension and disagreement with your former spouse, here are some suggestions:
- Accept that this is a long-term issue. This may not be resolved until the children have grown up sufficiently to see the actual situation for themselves. Some things, after you do what you can, you just have to learn to live with. By “live with,” I do not mean suffer through, but find a way to minimize the emotional distress and turmoil the other is causing you.
- Do not bad mouth your former spouse. Even if they are criticizing you, do not reciprocate. Two wrongs do not a right make. You can calmly defend yourself without launching into an attack of your adversary.
- Remember that you children love and need to be able to love, both parents. Children do not enjoy hearing hurtful things about either parent, especially from one of the parents concerning the other one. Sooner or later, hate-mongers get back what they having been dishing out. At some point, their children typically distance themselves from such negativity.
- Your rules in your house are the “law of the land.” If the rules are different in the other household, that in no way invalidates your rules. As long as your children are living in your house, you have the parental authority to establish and enforce your rules. If they wish to live with the other parent, let them go—but first and foremost, make sure they know you would like them to stay, that the door is always open for them to return, and that you love them very much. Tell them that loving them means doing what you believe is best for them, while not caving into their demands. Real love is tough love.
Source = Hal Green