Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: How to Communicate with a Jerk
The main principles of communicating with an unreasonable co-parent are very much the same as the principles of negotiating with one. Here, however, I will focus on how important it is to detach yourself from all of the button-pushing that goes on during heated arguments. This includes preventing your attorney from engaging in similar types of nonproductive communication with another attorney. It is one thing to be aggravated by someone who is unreasonable and uncommunicative. It is adding insult to injury to pay someone to do it as poorly as you have done it. Here are some simple principles for communicating if your co-parent is a jerk.
Avoid Questions to Avoid Arguments
If there is a single piece of advice I could give to parents who argue with their co-parent, it is this: Do not ask questions. Questions invite sarcastic answers, and sarcastic comments escalate conflict. Here is an example:
Co-parent A: How can you expect me to live if you won't pay me the money the court has ordered you to pay me?
Co-parent B: Why don't you shake down your lazy boyfriend for some money? I'm tired of giving him a free ride.
Here is another example:
Co-parent A: Do you want our son to grow up without a father? Is that what you are trying to do?
Co-parent B: A father? Is that what you were trying to be? I'm sorry, I must have blinked and missed that part.
Make Your Requests Nonthreatening
If you are trying to communicate something you need or something that must be done, do it with a short, nonthreatening request. Do not begin your request with the following phrases:
- I would like . . .
- I need . . .
- It is important that . . .
- I am upset . . .
- I am angry . . .
- You need to help me . . .
- You need to pay attention to . . .
- It is absolutely necessary that you . . .
All of these phrases invite responses that begin with phrases such as the following:
- What makes you think I care about what you would like . . .
- What makes you think I care about what you need—there are a lot of things I need that you don't care about . . .
- It may be important to you, but it isn't to me . . .
- If you are upset, then I am happy . . .
- If you are angry, that's too bad—try going to therapy . . .
- You need to help yourself . . .
- I need to pay attention to how to get you to stop bothering me . . .
- You may think that is necessary, but I don't . . .
If you give opportunities for sarcasm to your co-parent who does not want to engage in civilized discussion, the hostility will usually escalate and you'll fail to resolve the problem.
Another opening you should never give someone in an argument is What do you expect me to do? The almost universal answer to this question is I expect you to act like a human being.
Unfortunately, by this point in the conversation both parties are acting like human beings—and that is part of the problem. Many human beings do not know how to disagree in a civilized way.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Bullying in Schools
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction
- Steps in the IEP Process