I have found that the single most important theme of my parenting style is consistency to the point of being ridiculous with carefully orchestrated periods of total or near-total insanity.
I feel very protective of our time together, so I have resisted enrolling the kids in large numbers of activities. In lieu of filling all their “free-time” with planned activities (and chauffeuring), we spend a lot of time just hanging out together. This works really well for their current age range (5 to 10 years). This is difficult when your ex believes in enrolling the kids in enough organized activities to fill almost all of their time. We have it in our separation agreement that this will be limited to one activity per weekend. School related activities on weeknights are usually not a big issue.
In short- being with dad is just that- a time when they share “my life” and vice versa. We have fun and we get done the stuff that needs to get done. It isn’t a special time when rules don’t apply or special rules apply.
I feel that it has been VERY important to resist arguing with my ex in person or otherwise within earshot of the kids. Also, I feel that it has also been crucial not to badmouth my ex. In fact, it almost goes without saying that whatever happens at “mommies house” is under her roof, her rules, her lifestyle, etc. This is not to say that my ex and I don’t “discuss” their behavior and their lives behind the scenes. But, more often than not, I have had to deal with the question “do they do this to you?…” in terms of daily interactions and parental treatment. On this front, in my case, I feel that a single parent has to pretty much rely on generating, sticking to and enforcing their own set of rules in their household.
It sort of goes without saying that the no badmouthing rule is necessarily a unilateral decision and may not be reciprocal- just as personal parenting styles are just that.
Your ex needs you. This can be demonstrated in several of ways. Gently establish your worth as a parent.
“We must be the change we wish to see.” M.K. Gandhi. Men rarely want sole custody of their children; most women don’t either, but may think that it will cost them to give up joint custody. Therefore, if shared parenting is what we want, then we must establish a good working relationship with the ex spouse. Each parent must do his or her best for their children. Stop to think, what is best for the kids.
Keep your long run goal in mind: shared parenting. Let small stuff go. Choose battles carefully.
Make them clean their room! At least once in a while. If they don’t have any respect for their space, they will have none for anyone else’s.
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