Even couples in the most committed and stable relationships often have differences in opinion over parenting styles. It is no surprise, then, that when couples separate or divorce, parenting styles may become even more disparate. Parents must learn to work together and co-parent even in two separate households, with two separate parenting styles. While different styles are to be expected, there are times when the other parent goes beyond a simple difference in opinion or style and crosses over into inappropriately aggressive parenting.
Aggressive parenting can come in a large variety of forms. People commonly think of an overabundance of yelling directly at the child, but that is not all that can qualify as aggressive parenting. Unnecessary restrictions on the child, lying about or grossly exaggerating claims of the other parent’s parenting deficiencies, controlling behavior, or attempting to get coworkers and friends on “their side” can all be examples of aggressive parenting. Even when not aimed directly at a child, these techniques can adversely affect the child. Children can start to perform poorly in school or exhibit anxiety. Even worse, a child can start to emulate the aggressive behavior.
The first step to dealing with an aggressive parent is to take a step back and not engage with the aggression. If your former spouse or partner, for example, is verbally aggressive and yells at every custody exchange, you may want to bring a trusted friend with you to the exchange and under no circumstances should you reciprocate the aggressive verbal behavior.
Another technique could be to engage in family counseling. This would include not only you and your child, but also your former spouse. A counselor can help the family better learn to communicate and function as a supportive unit, even while living and parenting in two different households.
Finally, if all else fails and your former spouse continues to act aggressively despite your best efforts, it may be time to talk to your attorney about a motion of contempt and/or modifying the parenting plan in some way that helps reduce the other parent’s negative behaviors. Aggressive parenting directed at a child can clearly be damaging to that child. However, aggressive parenting directed at you is still damaging to your child. This can result in feelings of worthlessness or anxiety in your child. Parental alienation syndrome can also be a result. Aggressive parenting is not in a child’s best interest, and in extreme enough cases can be a reason for a court to modify a parenting schedule.
Co-parenting with an aggressive parent is difficult even in the best of circumstances. We have extensive experience helping our clients navigate these situations. Call us today at (253) 272-9459 to discuss your case and your options