If parenting is hard, then coParenting with a difficult coParent might be one of the hardest situations ever. So, what should you do when you have an especially tricky coParenting relationship? Fighting fire with fire is definitely NOT the way the go.
coParenter asked mediation expert Woody Mosten to share some tips for motivating a challenging coParent to make a change that’s best for the children. Using the example of getting a resistant coParent to sign up and use the coParenter app, we asked Woody how to get through to a person who refuses to cooperate.
So, what should you do when you have a coParenting relationship where one person just refuses to be cooperative about using the app, for example, and almost everything else?
“it’s the hardest thing in the world,” Woody says. “But never stop trying. The welfare of the children requires at least one parent to take the first, second, and sometimes the hundredth step without much reciprocity or apparent productivity.”
“Second, when there’s this kind of problem – retaliation or retribution only escalates things into a cold war where people don’t talk. The lines need to be as open as possible. Even when the other parent isn’t playing.”
Mosten explains that it’s often difficult for two newly separated people to communicate about emotionally charged things such as their children. He recommends getting the help of a third person.
He says: “When the other person is not reciprocating the one trying may need some help. That means they may need a therapist or a very perceptive friend or a parenting coach specializing in post-divorce parenting to help the two communicate.”
Mosten acknowledged that coParenter’s Get Help feature would be extremely beneficial because a mediator can moderate a discussion between the parties. But when one coParent refuses to sign up, Mosten says, “Don’t give up.”
He continues, “If coParents have a joint person or a friend maybe they can enlist that person to make the recommendation at a later time. Sometimes the resistant coParent devalues the message from their coParent, but if the same message came from a different person, they might be more receptive. Even religious leaders can serve as that third party.”
Give Them Time
Mosten explains that “while one may think they’ve tried everything there’s usually something else to be tried. And sometimes doing nothing – backing off for a time – is the best strategy. This gives the resistant coParent time to think critically about what you’re asking of them.”
First, let a few days go by and try again, Mosten recommends. Don’t push too hard but bring it up gently a week, or even a month later. “Just because one coParent is ready to do something doesn’t mean the other party will be too,” he says.
Another parenting problem that requires immediate discussion may come up during the waiting period. That might be an opportunity to reopen the debate, especially if the other parent had time to think things through. “I advise parents to play the long game,” Mosten says.
While you’re waiting for the other person to sign up for the coParenter app or waiting for them to come around to any number of other coParenting desires you may have (limiting screen time, for example), try putting yourself in your coParent’s shoes. It really can help change your perspective.
Your coParent may have legitimate reasons for why they’re not ready to sign up for coParenter. Are they busy at work preparing for a big presentation? Are they dating someone new and feeling distracted? Are they still so angry with you about your separation and are being difficult just for the sake of being difficult? Seeing things from their point of view can help you be more patient.
Write A Letter
Mosten says that there is one last thing he recommends when all else fails. “Sometimes having one’s lawyer write a very nice letter to your coParent’s attorney about using the app can be all the motivation they need. Family law attorneys typically want their clients to resolve conflict. Everyone wants their client to do what’s best for their children and for themselves. In the long run, using the coParenter app costs less than taking everything to Court.”
There is a cost associated with getting an attorney to write a letter for you, but when the recalcitrant parent’s counsel learns about and sees the benefit of the coParenter app, they’ll likely become an ally for it. Then, at the urging of their attorney, your stubborn coParent is more likely to try something new!
No Magic Pill
In his work, Mosten says that “people want a magic pill. They want a guarantee that a certain course of action will have the intended result.” But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. He emphasized the importance, yet again, of not giving up on having a harmonious and organized relationship with your coParent whether that be in using the app or something else. Perseverance, patience, and being the bigger person are sometimes the only way to deal with a problematic coParent.