3 Things To Do When Your Co-Parent Badmouths You In Front Of The Kids

April 13, 2020  |  

Back view of black family relaxing in autumn day on a park bench.

Source: skynesher / Getty

In an ideal world, all co-parents would have healthy amicable relationships. After all, just because you don’t make a good romantic pair doesn’t mean you can’t be good parents, right? Sadly, this is not the case in every situation.

When you learn that your co-parent has been speaking negatively about you in the presence of your child, it can be especially frustrating. For one, it doesn’t feel good to know the horrible things that a person says about you when you’re not around. And two, you know that overhearing those conversations inflicts emotional damage on your child, who is completely innocent. In these instances, you may feel helpless, but there are constructive things that you can do to navigate these emotionally taxing situations.

Resist returning the favor

When you find out that your child’s parent has been speaking about you in a negative way, it can be very tempting to return the favor; however, it’s best to remember that aside from making you feel better at the moment this will likely do more harm than good. It’s hurtful to children to hear their parents speak about one another in a negative way.

“If you are a parent that is being bad-mouthed by the other parent do not fall into the trap by returning the serve and engaging in bad mouthing yourself. Two wrongs do not make a right. Your child is likely being emotionally damaged by the bad-mouthing given his conflicting loyalties to both parents,” explained family law attorney Jessica H. Anderson. “If you say to a child: ‘your dad is bad,’ inside the child thinks: ‘I am bad too.’ The best thing you can do is show your child that you have tough skin and that the child is not to blame for the other parent’s immature behavior.”

Counter lies and insults with facts and logic

Instead of getting defensive, calmly respond to what you what your child has shared with the truth. For example, if your co-parent has said that you are a bad mother, you can respond by saying, “How would he know? I’m not even his mom.” Follow up by telling your child that they are the only person who can truly speak on the type of parent that you are.

Reach out to your co-parent

While your co-parent may have been letting off steam, they should recognize that their behavior is hurting your child. Thus when it’s evident that bad-mouthing in front of your kid has become a habit, it’s worth a conversation. Resist the temptation to debate your co-parent about what was said. Instead, lead with your shared interest, which is the welfare of your child. Let them know that it’s best that they not share their negative opinions about you when the kids are present as it is hurting the child more than anyone else. If you feel that you are unable to have a productive conversation, consider calling in help from a third-party such as a therapist or mediator.

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