Co-Parenting, Negative and Positive Parallel Parenting

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The more two parents are on the same page, the clearer the message the child gets. This is co-parenting. The further apart the parents are in terms of what is best for the child, the easier it is for the child to split and pit the parents against one another. This is negative parallel parenting. Positive parenting is all about prioritizing your child’s well-being. Positive parallel parenting is when one parent takes a clear, value-based stand, without attacking or demeaning the other parent. In this environment, it is almost impossible for the child to pit the parents against one another.

Some Definitions

Co-Parenting is when two parents are well aligned in values and their application particularly when it comes to the children. While co-parenting is commonly referenced in terms of separated and divorcing parents, the principle stands for parents still married as well. 

Parallel parenting is when parents are not in agreement regarding values and application particularly in regard to the children. Again, it is perfectly possible and not even uncommon for this to occur within marriages, though the term is used for separated and divorced parents. 

ALL Families

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Whether married or divorced, all families have these dynamics going on in them to some extent. Family dynamics change all the time. Even the most unified parents have small areas of disagreement, and children are masters of spotting inconsistency. Additionally, people are constantly changing. In a world filled with change, they have to. What families have to hold on to in an environment that is always changing and evolving are principles and values. Discord is far more prevalent when parental values are not in alignment and even more so when both parents have values that do not put the child’s well-being first. The distinction between negative and positive parallel parenting lies in the ability to put the children first. Positive parenting is all about prioritizing your child’s well-being.

Negative Parenting

Realistically there is negative parenting and positive parenting. Some people use the misnomer “negative co-parenting” for what is in fact a form of parallel parenting. Negative parenting occurs when the child’s well-being no longer comes first. Think about it, every parent has at one time or another slipped into this trap. Suddenly, that promotion becomes all-important. We tell ourselves we need the money for our family, but prestige and personal fulfillment are at the heart of it. Another example; we introduce our children to the person we are dating before the relationship has proven itself to be stable. We tell ourselves “this is the one” or that our kids need to learn about real life. Really we are just making our own lives more convenient at the expense of the child. 

When people are divorced, the consequences of negative parenting can be amplified as communication is usually diminished relative to parents living in the same household.

Positive Parenting

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Positive parenting, therefore, is child-centric. Child-centric, meaning that the well-being of the child is a highly prioritized value. Whether married, separated, or divorced, when one parent upholds the well-being of the child, the child is far more likely to mature into a well-balanced human being. Child-centric is NOT at the expense of either parent. WHile a parent may make sacrifices for their children, their own basic well-being needs to be whole. Teaching self care as a value to our children requires that we live it. Being 100% available for the needs of our children (or anyone else) demands that we be in our best health and well-being possible given where we are in life. 

Positive Parallel Parenting

This is what we choose when we have no other options. Positive parenting is all about prioritizing your child’s well-being. When we value our children’s well-being highly, we will do everything we can to have our marriage work because a working marriage is more beneficial to the children. When that is not an option, some of us are willing to stick it out in marriages that are less than satisfying for the sake of their children. Still, others don’t see this as being beneficial to our children and get separated and/or divorced. 

Positive parallel parenting requires several conditions to be effective. First we need to understand what is best for our children. What is REALLY Best, not what is “conveniently” best. Second we need to be super clear about our own values and principles because they will be sorely tested. Third we will want to have as complete an understanding of the other parent and their environment. 

What’s Best For The Children

There is a lot of science on child development and child well being out there. Understanding the basic frames of what makes for healthy happy children at all different ages is going to be a great start. We also want to know who children are, where they are developmentally. Understanding their innate abilities, their hopes and dreams is key. 

Watch out for the part of you that wants to use the children and their needs as a weapon against the other parent. This is a normal and natural response to anything we perceive as a threat to our child. When parents are not in full agreement about principles and values, it is easy to slip into the perspective that the other parent is no good and wants to turn the children against them. Though the instinct is normal and natural, the application will only harm the child.

Positive parenting is all about prioritizing your child’s well-being. By definition when we want what is best for our children, we want them to have a working relationship with the other parent. Helping them to do that will necessarily involve educating the child on how to deal with the value breakdowns on the other side without finger pointing. 

Our Own Values

Our natural instincts can be taken to an extreme. In the heat of instinct, it is possible and even likely that we will negate our own values. In fact, if you’re a human being, you can count on it. The clearer you are about your principles and values, the less often this will occur. Our values and principles are what we measure where the line is when following instinct. There are multiple ways to explore values and principles. There are multiple tests you can take, books you can read, and so on. These are fun and worthwhile, and combining them with prayer, meditation and mindfulness will help deepen your understanding of what you truly value. They also reduce how often you will be emotionally triggered. Journaling and working with professionals like coaches and therapists will also help. Remember, positive parenting is all about prioritizing your child’s well-being

UnderstandingThe Other Parent

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In order to equip our children to manage their relationship with the other parent, we need to fully understand the other parent. We need to understand them from a walking in their shoes perspective. Understand how they got to be the way that they are. The greater empathy and compassion we can engage in regarding the other parent, the more effectively we can teach our children.

We are teaching them empathy, understanding, and compassion. We may also be teaching them how to measure truth. How to duck manipulation. We will always be teaching them to honor the other parent as best they can. How challenging this will depend very much on who they are.

Parents who do not put their children first are engaged in some level of narcissism. The more narcissistic the parent, the greater the breakdowns of logic. Concurrently, the greater the levels of emotional abuse, gaslighting, and denial.

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