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Constructive and Effective Co-parenting

How does self-centered coParenting create cooperation? Becoming a self-centered coParent will help you gain positive influence over the other parent.
(2 minutes 43 seconds read)

Kathleen Bird
Kathleen Bird, JD is a mediator, parent educator, former judge, and family lawyer.

How does self-centered coParenting create cooperation? Becoming a self-centered coParent will help you gain positive influence over the other parent.

This is an astonishing statement but over and over parents who use these strategies find this to be true. This is a process and you won’t see results overnight. Self-centered coParenting strategies can knock down the barriers that decrease cooperation. When you change the dynamics of parenting interactions, the coParent cannot continue to function in the same old way. Patience and determination are required to turn the corner and see results.  More patience and determination will be required in the future to hold on to whatever cooperation you secure.

Strong emotions can quickly derail coParents’ intention to make good decisions.  After some unpleasant experiences, frustrated parents gradually engage in increasingly negative thinking. Negativity affects assumptions about what is happening and the motivations of the other parent. As negativity increases over time, a parent is even more inclined to think the worst of the other parent’s values and behaviors.  Judging and blaming each other becomes routine. The other parent’s failings are emphasized, with little incentive to remember their strengths and good qualities.

Negative reactivity prompts us to assume the worst rather than keep an open mind until the situation can be assessed accurately.  Communications between parents become more judgmental and lead to threats and ultimatums.  The response to this is more defensive and argumentative communications.

On the other hand, a parent who is uncomfortable with confrontation may tune out and refuse to engage altogether. The downward spiral of negativity causes resentment on both sides.  There is bitterness about disrespectful treatment, unfairness, and foul play. Even when interactions are undertaken in hope of reaching a decision, the negative dynamics quickly cause parents to lose hope that an agreement can ever be reached. Parents then resort to costly power plays, such as litigation, to gain control.  Even if control is achieved this way, it is generally temporary. It only lasting as long as the circumstances which enabled the power play remain in effect. “Victories” are usually fleeting. The cycle repeats itself over and over again.

Look at all the negative aspects of uncooperative coParenting we have just discussed:  negativity, reactivity, unsupported assumptions, blaming, demands, defensiveness, arguments, disrespect, loss of hope, one-sided power plays.  No wonder there is frustration and loss of interest in re-engaging in an effective way.  If this doesn’t work, however, why do more of the same?

Give up on focusing on the negative, dysfunctional and destructive behaviors as solutions and see them for what they are: symptoms of what isn’t working.  Concentrate on constructive and effective conflict management instead of reinforcing the dysfunctional.  It only takes one parent to decide to change.

A self-centered coParent has access to strategies that fulfill the desire for a positive and fulfilling parenting role, regardless of the behaviors and responses of the coParent.  When you interact with the coParent using the skills we discuss, the coParent often starts to take notice and respond in a more positive manner. I have seen this transformation over and over again.

Even if the coParent doesn’t change at all, however, you have accomplished your desire to have the type of relationship with your child and be the type of parent you want to be.