Childrearing

Splitsville: Can You Stay Out Of A Fight Between Your Kids And Their Father?

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Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.

Parents and kids fight. It’s never pleasant or pretty. In my personal experience, it’s the most heart-wrenching part of parenting. I hate knowing that I’ve hurt or upset my child. But at the end of the day, it’s my job to be in charge and to be responsible. So, whether I like it or not, I put my foot down and keep a straight face when my three year old tells me, “We’re not best friends anymore, Momma!” To her, this is one of the greatest insults she can bestow.

Those fights are difficult, but luckily I have the time and space to work through them. We can calm down and talk a little later. My daughter can go to bed, wake up and discuss our issue over Apple Jacks. I have a couple different avenues for dealing with our arguments. Thankfully so far, they’ve all ended with lots of hugs, kisses and maybe a couple giggles.

Unfortunately, my daughter and her father don’t always have the time available to fix those problems. They see each other for about three hours once or twice a month. If they end on a bad note, it casts a negative cloud over the next few weeks. Because of this fear, my ex rarely confronts our daughter about bad behavior, choosing instead to focus on the positives and try to keep their visit happy.

This avoidance leads to its own problems. See, we have a pretty intelligent pre-schooler on our hands and once she learns that you aren’t going to reprimand her, she’ll start testing her limits. She’ll push your buttons, strain your patience and try to determine just how unruly she can be without getting in to trouble. I mean, she’s a child. Testing you is part of the deal.

As we’ve recently learned, the result of his avoidance and her testing is a huge blowout. That’s right, my pre-schooler got into a no-holds-barred fight with her father. When she had pushed too far and he finally decided to discipline her, she didn’t know how to react. She started to throw a tantrum, as toddlers often do. Because he’d always worked so hard to keep things positive, her dad didn’t know how to respond to her meltdown. The result was two frustrated and angry people arriving on my doorstep an hour before drop-off time.

Now, I have no idea what to do. They didn’t have the time to kiss and make-up. And I’ve learned that my little girl is surprisingly adept at holding a grudge. In fact, she’s a pro. Two weeks later and she isn’t budging. She’s still angry with her father for yelling at her. And I’m left trying to explain that she has to listen to her father, that he’s just as in charge as I am. It isn’t the same as hearing it from him though. She can’t listen to her father because I told her to. She needs to respect him as an authority in her life. And I simply don’t think that I’m capable of convincing her that on my own.

I don’t want to get involved in my daughter’s fight with her father. I hope that the two of them can sit down, maybe eat some Apple Jacks, and work through it on their own. But even if I try to reassert her father’s position for him, I don’t know how much good I can do. Do I concentrate on trying to support my daughter because she needs me right now? Or do I try to help build up her relationship with her dad, because I know she’ll need it in the future?

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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