Co-parenting is hard, whether you're in a relationship or going through it with an ex. It's highly unlikely that you're going to find yourself parenting with someone who has the exact same ideas, thoughts, and parenting opinions you do, which leaves a lot of room for miscommunication, anger, and resentment. Not to mention trying to co-parent without contradicting each other and leaving your child confused. It can be done, but you need to have patience, determination, and the resolve to not let your kid know that you and your partner (or ex) have very different parenting skills.
I'm divorced and, honestly, co-parenting with my ex seems to be a roller coaster ride. Some weeks we agree on everything and can make unified decisions for our daughter, and some weeks we argue over everything because we let our egos get in the way. I'll be honest, there are many times where I think co-parenting is just hell, no matter who you're doing it with, and when your co-parent refuses to understand your side of things, it makes it that much worse.
But contradicting each other? That doesn't help either. Not only does it breed problems between you and your co-parent, but it puts your child in a tough spot, too. You want them to respect and listen to both of you, but if you're constantly contradicting each other, your kid doesn't know which way to turn. In fact, they can easily realize that pitting you and your co-parent against each other may get them their way in every scenario.
Trust me, you don't want anything like that to happen. With these 13 ways to co-parent without contradicting each other, you can find a middle ground with your co-parent and make the decision to honor your parenting differences while still keeping your child within their limits and boundaries.
1. Keep In Contact
Even if you're living with your co-parent, you have to keep in touch about your kid. Not only is it good parenting, but it also helps keep the two of you from contradicting each other. Did your kid eat well at dinner? Did you tell him he couldn't have dessert? How did he do in school that day? Did you talk to him about his grades? By staying in contact, neither one of you are at risk of contradicting the other because you didn't know something happened. Everyone is in the know, which means everyone can make a decision together.
2. Go To Therapy
Hey, there's no shame in therapy. There are tons of therapists out there that specialize in forging great co-parenting relationships. If you and your co-parent can't seem to get it together, reach out to a professional to help you fix it.
3. Don't Let The Kids Play Parents Against Each Other
It's easy to do, especially if you and your co-parent are often at odds. But when your kid tells you that their mom grounded them at her house, don't let yourself get played for sympathy and give in to your kid. You're not exuding power over your co-parent, you're giving your kid all of it, and that doesn't end well for anyone. Kids need boundaries. Kids thrive in boundaries.
4. Remain A United Front
Don't let your kids know that you and your co-parent are ever against each other or separated as parents. By keeping a united front, you can cut down on the risk of your kid seeing your bond as weak and pushing for what they want, but it also helps in all parenting decisions. As a united front, you make the decisions together so there's no room for contradiction.
5. Call Each Other When Disciplining Kids
Not only to give your co-parent an update, but also to make sure that you both agree on the discipline and won't contradict each other later. This is especially helpful if you and your co-parent don't live together. If you ground your son on a Friday and he goes to his other parent's house that evening, shouldn't he still be grounded?
6. Make Universal Rules
You know which ones count, like wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle, eating dinner before dessert, and brushing your teeth before bed. When there aren't universal rules, it's easy to let things slide and contradict your co-parent.
7. Don't Teach Your Kids To Lie
I know it's tempting when your co-parent says they told your kid they couldn't have dessert all week and you want to take them out for ice cream, but teaching your kids to lie is never a good idea, especially if it's to their other parent. You have to keep the trust between you and your co-parent so that all of you can have a healthy relationship with your kid.
8. Don't Undermine Each Other's Authority
Another tempting thing, but it never works. Your kids don't need to think one of their parents has precedence over the other or that anyone is more important in the family dynamic. If your co-parent makes a rule, you don't need to undermine them. Talk about it in private if it's something that really bothers you.
9. Set Basic Limits
You and your co-parent need to talk about some limits for the two of you, not just your kids. Like having a firm limit on spanking, on the types of discipline allowed, and what is and isn't OK by either of you.
10. Uphold Another Parent's Decision
This follows up not undermining a parent, but it has to be said. You and your co-parent are parenting together, not separately, and you need to uphold the other parent's decisions. Again, if it's something you absolutely can not agree to, then you need to talk about why.
11. Don't Intervene Unless Your Co-Parent Asks For Help
When you hear your co-parent and kid discussing something, even if it's not discipline related, stay out of it unless your co-parent asks you to join in. This will cut down on a lot of unnecessary contradiction and resentment.
12. Don't Fight About Parenting Choices In Front Of The Kids
Fighting in front of your kids is generally frowned upon, but don't let your kid hear that you and your co-parent have totally different parenting styles and ideas. Your kid is smart and will use that to pit you two against each other later.
13. Choose Your Battles
So your co-parent gave the kids sugary cereal for breakfast instead of the eggs and whole-wheat bread you left out. Is it worth taking away their bowls to make them eat what you wanted them to have? Obviously you can't let all of your decisions go, but you have to choose your battles and make sure the fight is worth it.