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Separated Parents? Take the High Road, Not the Bait

March 19, 2014

Separated parents in dispute are good at goading each other to behave inappropriately. Then when one parent does behave inappropriately, that parent excuses the behavior as provoked by the other. This is next followed by retaliatory behavior excused on the basis of the other parent starting it! And so it goes.

When we look at the children of parents in these circumstances, we often see bullying and teasing as part of the child’s repertoire of behavior, creating disturbances at home, school and community.

When the child’s behavior comes to the attention of the parents (school suspension, detention, expulsion) parents are often dismayed yet fail to make the connection to themselves as role models of the very behavior at issue from their child.

There is no amount of talking to, loss of privilege, discipline or advise a parent can administer to a child to correct a child engaged in such behavior when continued to be modeled by the parents. Concentrating on the behavior of the child only suggests the child is the root of the problem as opposed to the symptom. Focusing on the child as the root of the problem is akin to arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It may look good, but the ship eventually still does sink.

There is only one way to change a child’s behavior that is predicated on the parents’ role model. Change the parents. Separated parents are advised that when goaded, take the high road, not the bait.

Do not use the behavior of the other to excuse your own.

As your child experiences you taking the high road, they learn to do so too.

Play nicely – no matter what!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.


Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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