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How To Respond To A Combative Co-Parent

If you are currently trying to co-parent with your uncooperative ex, you are not alone. While some fall into a stress-free co-parenting relationship post-divorce, others are not so lucky. You may need time to work out emotions and settle into the swing of co-parenting. But even with time, some bad habits are hard to break.

If you find yourself stuck dealing with a combative co-parent, it can be hard to know how to handle conflict or deal with their challenging behavior. We have comprised some liberated responses to help you respond and diffuse the anger with your ex's combative statements.

Remaining calm in the process is key. Also, keep in mind that it is not necessarily about who is right or wrong. The idea is to alleviate anger to maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship centered around your children.

Here Are 3 Tips For Responding To A Combative Co-Parent

1. Respond vs. React

When they do not get their way, your co-parent may resort to personal attacks, accusations, or even threats. The best way to deal with this is to limit communication and respond with logic, rather than emotions.

You cannot control what your ex does or says. Someone with a combative personality will choose conflict over logic any day of the week. Try not to engage when your ex is provoking you, as you know they are only doing so to gain power over you.

2.Use Facts And Discovery Questions

If you are under verbal attack, it is best to respond with the facts and eliminate emotions. Use your parenting agreement to your advantage by referring to it during times of conflict. For example, if your co-parent says,

You can’t do anything right. No wonder the kids hate going to your house.

You might respond with, I’m sorry you feel that way. Please have them ready to be picked up at 4pm as per our parenting agreement.

The purpose of this response is to stay completely outside the attack. Remember that the only reason your co-parent is attacking you is that they want a reaction. If you do not let these attacks hurt you, the focus will remain on your children, instead of who will win this fight.

Discovery questions are also an important asset to use when trying to get to the root of the conflict. These are questions that start with Where, What, How, When, and Can You Tell Me More. Responding to attacks with discovery questions can help ease tension and will make the conversation a lot more constructive. For example, if your co-parent says,

You’re a terrible mother, why didn’t you answer my call today? I’m not letting you see our child until you speak with me.

You can respond with, I understand your concern. Due to my work schedule, I was not available when you called. What time after 3pm will you be available to talk?

In this example, you are only addressing the facts of the matter, and completely disregarding the threat. Discovery questions can help you work together to propose a solution to your conflict.

3.Let Go Of The Power Struggle

Understand that the reason your co-parent is combative in the first place is that they seek control over you. Some of these issues could have been present in your marriage as well, so it can be difficult to unlearn these habits. When your co-parent attacks you, try not to take it personally. They are attempting to get an emotional reaction out of you, which will give them more power over the situation.

These tips can help you understand conflicts with your co-parent, but how do you apply them?

Here are some common examples of co-parenting conflicts and the language you can use to diffuse them.

Parent 1: Why aren’t the kids ready for me to pick them up?

Parent 2: According to our parenting agreement, the pickup time is at 4pm. It’s currently 3:45pm. Please give them a few minutes to gather their belongings.

Parent 1: You’re being unfair. I am introducing my significant other to the kids.

Parent 2: I’m sorry you feel that way. Unfortunately, as our parenting agreement states, we both agreed to at least 6 months of dating before introducing the kids to a new partner. Would you agree this is what is best for the kids?

Parent 1: Why didn’t the kids have their iPad with them when I picked them up?

Parent 2: I’m not sure why it didn’t get packed. What is a good time for me to drop it off?

Parent 1: You’re are so selfish. Why did you hide the kids’ medical records from me?

Parent 2: You are welcome to access the kids’ medical information through the online portal or check the email address we created for the kids’ doctor's records.

Parent 1: I hate your spouse. Tell them to stop reprimanding my kids.

Parent 2: This conversation isn’t productive. I’m more than happy to discuss step-parent roles or any misunderstandings. When is a good time for us to talk about boundaries?

Parent 1: I’m going to the parent-teacher conference alone, I don’t want you there.

Parent 2: You are entitled to your opinion. Are you suggesting separate meetings with teachers? Or, what is the reason for us not attending together for our child?

Parent 1: Why are you getting so hysterical if the kids stay up late?

Parent 2: As per our parenting agreement, we decided that the kids go to bed at 8pm so they can get proper rest and not be in a mood when they go to school. How do we make that happen?

Parent 1: It was your weekend with the kids. Why did you leave them with a babysitter when I have the first right of refusal?

Parent 2: I called into work last minute and didn't want to bother you. Next time, I will check with you first.

If you and your co-parent are in a constant state of discord, then it may be time to seek a neutral party who can assist in creating a plan that is in the best interest of the children. Click here to find out more.


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