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Slight co-parenting struggle

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  • #1100647 Reply
    Andrea Letsen

    Hello all!

    Hope everyone’s good and healthy!

    Just wanted a bit of advice regarding my coparenting circumstances. I will preface by explaining that me and my ex husband are very good friends, there is no (and never has been) any animosity between us.

    So my ex husband sees our son every week day for 2-3 hours before he goes to work (he works nights), and has him on the weekends from Saturday until Monday. He is a truly amazing father.

    The one and only issue I am often faced with is discipline. Out of me and the father, I am definitely the ‘strict one’. I have rules and structure in my home for my son – pretty standard stuff like tidying his room every day, making sure he does his piano and guitar practise every day, 2 hours screen time and zero social media (he is 11).

    On the weekends however, when he is at his other home with his dad – the rules are a lot more relaxed… to the point that they may as well not exist. My ex husband is so laid back he may as well be lying down. The problem is father does try to discipline son when he does something wrong, but it’s more threat rather than action. If I ask my son to do something and he doesn’t, the consequence is immediate (his xbox time for that night is revoked). Luckily he is extremely well behaved so I don’t have to do it often. However, when he comes back from his dads, he comes home with a bit of a negative attitude. Eye rolling, huffing and puffing, appears much happier to argue rather than to just get on with what he should be doing (I hope I am articulating this correctly).

    I know his dad will ask son to do something, and when he doesn’t his dad will ask him again, and again, and again, and then the threat of discipline is made – “son, I’ll turn the xbox off if you don’t do as I’ve asked…. son I mean it…. son don’t think I’m joking…. so you want me to turn it off?…. you have 5 minutes to do what I asked… I mean it son” but there’s no follow-through, so son doesn’t do it as he knows they’re empty threats.

    I know I cannot have a say in how father chooses to spend his time with son, especially in their home. But it does get a bit frustrating when son comes home to me with this ‘whatever’ attitude he’s picked up from dads. I have spoken to dad about it, many times, and I get the same stuff with no follow through – “yes i know, I have to be consistent, I will start doing that from now on, yes you’re right it does need to change” but then it doesn’t change.

    This really isn’t a huge deal as my son is overall a very polite, well mannered, well behaved young man who is perfect in every way (obviously in my eyes lol). I just wondered if anyone has any suggestions how I can get my son to better respect his fathers authority and treat his dad as well as he does me. He told his dad to shut up in front of me not long ago, which cost him 2 days of xbox – it was awful to hear him speak to his dad like that because he has an incredible dad. And he’s an incredible son.

    It would be nice for my son to come home on a monday and hear his dad tell me that there were no issues, that son did as he was told and to have my son come back without the negative attitude he appears to pick up over the weekend (this attitude never appears during week days when he only sees his dad for a few hours). Is this just typical boundary-pushing behaviour for a child his age? Because he knows he can with his dad? He will outgrow it? I’m worrying too much? Or is it something I need to deal with quickly? If so, any suggestions for how to deal with it effectively would be much appreciated.

    Thank you for taking the time to read. Sorry for the length.

    #1100653 Reply

    I don’t think he sounds like that incredible of a dad, and I also don’t think it’s your job to make sure your son treats his dad like he does you. Dad has to earn respect, and he’s choosing how to interact with his kid in a way that doesn’t inspire respect, and is clearly giving the kid some discomfort (judging by how the child is acting out).

    That’s my two cents. I’m sure others who have experience co-parenting will have better practical advice, but it seems to me like you and your son kind of need to accept that this is who dad is, these are his limitations, you know, and don’t expect more of him than he’s able to give.

    #1100655 Reply

    You are obviously a loving mum, but I think that you shouldn’t care so much about what is happening at your ex’s place. This is your ex’s problem. Does the father complain to you about your son’s attitude? He has to figure it out, you are not the complaints’ office.
    Just address the negative attitude your son has at your own place. First, you could ask him wether something is bothering him when he acts out. You know, communicate with your son, not just order him stuff. Then listen, you will see more clearly where is the problem if you are ready to ask him what’s wrong and learn about his point of view. Maybe he is a bit stressed by the start of the week. Maybe it has to do with your ex’s laxist parental style (according to you), or your more controlling approach. Maybe it is something else, perhaps simply the necessity for him to navigate two homes and two opposite policies.
    Anyway, you are close to the age when your son will just tell you to f*** off with your dictating that he has to play his piano and his guitar everyday and to tidy his room everyday and so on. You speak of him a bit like a robot. Let him not be perfect. Give him more autonomy. It is for him to know and feel wether he wants to play the piano and the guitar and so on. Be encouraging, but I would behave more with him like with a pre-teenager. Your goal is to have him be independent and self-confident and in charge of his own life. So don’t try to control his father’s parenting, ask him more questions in a supportive way, and give him more liberties.

    #1100656 Reply

    I am confuse about the custody time between your ex and you. Why are all the week-ends at your ex’s place? I find it strange. Why don’t you alternate? And does your son go everyday for 2-3 hours at your ex’s place, then back to your place? I would find it exhausting. But that is probably a more complex question. Anyway I would factor more your son’s opinion about all this, as he is growing.

    #1100668 Reply

    I have a very similar situation to you – my ex-wife and I are on very good terms, generally agree on most things and have a healthy mutual respect for each other’s overall parenting skill. But we also have pretty big areas where we disagree with the way the other handles things.

    Honestly, as long as you trust the other parent to keep the child safe, healthy and fed, it’s best to just back off and let them handle it themselves. You will never be in 100% agreement with the way the other parent does all things, and they’ll never be 100% in agreement with the way you do things.

    Any time either of us has tried to influence the inner workings of the others household has at best been ignored and at worst caused unnecessary conflict and resentment.

    Keep consistent with your own household rules and you will be fine.

    #1100730 Reply
    Andrea Letsen


    Thank you for the responses and my apologies for the late reply.

    I agree that it is probably best to just leave what happens at his dads up to his dad to sort out. I have no concerns whatsoever about his safety, well-being etc with his father. It is only this minor recurring issue.

    I have sat my son down and spoken to him about it, and I think Kate is right because based on what my son has told me – he mirrors his fathers sometimes lax attitude and acknowledges he can get away with more there.

    As for our custody arrangement, it has been in place for seven years and the father, myself nor our son would have it any other way. Our son gets best of both worlds every day, and neither parent misses out. The arrangement has never once been an issue and nobody is exhausted by it as it was agreed by both me and my ex, much to my sons delight that he never goes long without seeing either of his parents. I consider myself extremely lucky that my ex has such an active role in our sons life. It may not work for everyone but it works for us and that’s what matters.

    Thank you again for taking the time to read, and for the advice given. I’m not going to worry myself anymore about it. As previously said, it is only a minor issue and not worth my energy or the potential for unnecessary friction to go overthinking it and worrying too much. I’ll save that for the teen years lol.

    Love to all and stay safe xx

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