Co-parenting is complicated, but what can make your co-parenting journey a complete nightmare is when your child’s other parent is trying to use your joint parenting arrangement to control you. The signs of a controlling co-parent are not always obvious, as they will usually disguise their desire for control as concern for your child. However, if you begin to look at their actions closely, you’ll start to notice a pattern.
They have unsolicited advice about your love life
While every parent may have some reservations about another person whom they don’t know well being in their child’s presence on a regular basis, their concerns, inquiries, and objections should be within reason. When a person continuously harps on their co-parent’s love life, it’s more about control than anything else.
They make custodial-related threats often
A person who is seeking to control their co-parent and what occurs during their parenting time will often make threats about taking custody when they’re upset. Most of the time, these threats are not triggered by genuine concern regarding the safety or wellbeing of the child when they’re in their other parent’s care. Instead, they’re often fueled by petty disagreements and a desire to control.
They attack your parenting during disagreements
Although their approaches may be different, many co-parenting duos are doing the best that they can and generally prioritize their child’s best interest. Each party understands that there is no such thing as a perfect parent and attacks on parenting are off-limits. Problems are solved as a team and shortcomings are not weaponized. Those seeking control, however, will attack their co-parent’s character and parenting approach any time they get upset.
They speak poorly about you to your kids
Another tactic of controlling co-parents is to speak poorly about their child’s other parent to and in front of the child. This can lead to parental alienation, which is when a child becomes estranged from one parent as a direct result of manipulation on behalf of their other parent. The manipulation is always self-serving and emotionally damaged to the child who is on the receiving end.
They nitpick about what happens during your parenting time
While co-parents should definitely find a way to agree on the big things when it comes to raising their children, the reality is that when a child is being parented in two separate households, there will be some differences. It’s completely unrealistic to expect that everything will be exactly the same because every household is run differently. Trying to call the shots on every single thing that takes place when a child is with their other parent is suggestive of control issues.
They shame you for enjoying yourself
Life definitely changes when you become a parent. You prioritize the care and wellbeing of your child above all else; however, that doesn’t mean that you stop enjoying life. Unfortunately, co-parents with control issues will often criticize their child’s other parent for taking care of themselves or for simply having a good time.
They overwhelm you with unrealistic expectations
Controlling co-parents will also seek to control the narrative. They’re committed to the narrative that they are the better parent and that their co-parent is a failure — even when this is not the case. As a result, they will often make unrealistic and unreasonable requests or demands that they know that their co-parent will not be able to fulfill, which helps to support their narrative.
They manipulate the opinions of relatives and mutual friends
Problematic co-parents also seek to control how other people view their child’s other parent as well. They’re infamous for trashing their co-parent to relatives, mutual friends, and some highly unfortunate cases, teachers and childcare providers.
They blame you for everything that goes wrong
When anything goes wrong — whether it be an injury on the playground or a failing grade — a problematic and controlling co-parent will always find a way to blame their child’s other parent. Further, they will use the situation to justify their controlling behavior or to gain more control.
They violate custodial or child support agreements when they’re upset
Custodial arrangements should be honored as frequently as possible; however, toxic co-parents will often violate these arrangements, by either withholding visitation or refusing to pick up the child when it’s their week, as a direct result of conflict with the other parent.