How do you handle it if after a divorce you and your Ex have different values or parenting styles? Do you hear “Mommy would let me” or “It is much more fun to live with Daddy”? Here is some great advice on this topic frequently raised by clients to their divorce lawyers. Dr. Greg Ramey, PhD, a child psychologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital and author of the Family Wise Column in the Dayton Daily News responded as follows:
My 7-year-old came back from a visit with his dad and asked me why he can do things there that he can’t do at home (e.g., stay up late, watch certain videos and eat certain types of food). I have an excellent relationship with my ex and I don’t want to say or do anything that will cause problems. I disagree with my ex on these issues but I don’t want to say that to my son.
You can be honest with your son without criticizing your ex-husband. How about trying something as simple as this?”Grownups sometimes have different opinions on raising kids. Families may have different rules about bedtime, television and chores. I do things here that I think are best for you. Your dad is doing the same thing in his house. I know this might be a little confusing for you but you’ll need to learn that there are different rules in different homes. Just like different teachers may have different classroom rules, you have two parents that have different opinions about what they think is best for you.”
To read other Questions and Answers by Dr. Ramey, click here
Dr. Anthony E. Wolf is a practicing child and adolescent psychologist in the Springfield, Massachusetts, area and the author of six parenting books, including “Get out of my life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager.” He is also a columnist for The Globe and Mail in Toronto, Canada. Dr.Wolf was asked a similar question. His thoughts on the subject are similar to Dr. Ramey’s:
My ex-husband uses every opportunity available to undermine my authority with our children. My decisions not to let one of them stay out late at night or to require him to stay in for the weekend because he has school projects to complete in a subject that he’s failing are actively circumvented by my ex. He tells our children that my decisions are wrong, that he would have let them stay out with friends, or that, because the kids are very bright, schoolwork isn’t as important as an active social life. When one of my sons was angry with me for insisting that he do his household chores, he walked out of the house and went to his father’s home. I feel that my relationship with my children is at stake in every conflict. My ex cheerfully acknowledges what he’s been doing and says he feels there’s no reason to change anything at all. Any advice you might have for divorced parents would be valuable!
It’s great when divorced parents work together for what is in their child’s best interest. Obviously, that’s not always the case. What goes on in one home may directly conflict with the rules in the other. The parents may genuinely disagree as to what is best. But also they may disagree purely out of spite.The best course is to try to strike a compromise with your ex. But if time has shown that co-operation and negotiation do not work, what you are stuck with is the way it is with most divorced parents: You have a set of rules at your house, and your former spouse has a different set.It’s extremely frustrating when you genuinely believe that you are right. When you believe that what your ex is doing is definitely not in your child’s best interest and sabotages what you are doing – yet because their rules are more attractive, your ex seems to have all the leverage. “Yeah, Dad’s way more cool about stuff than Mom.” The bottom line is that you can only control that part of your child’s life when they are with you. So stick with the rules you believe in: “This is the deal when you are here with me. What goes on at your dad’s is up to him.”
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.