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Separated Parents and Adequate Parenting

December 9, 2019

It can be so challenging when parents (separated or not) have different views on discipline and the care of their kids generally.

One may spank, the other not. This tends to be felt as a major difference. The challenge increases when one realizes that spanking (depending on circumstances and delivery and intensity) isn’t unlawful (pat on bum, slap on wrist – leaving no marks).

The other challenge is differentiating from poor parenting or abuse or neglect.

In truth, people are allowed to be poor at parenting. We refer to the minimum standard as “adequate parenting.”

That is parenting just good enough to keep kids out of serious harm or trouble and discipline from being clearly abusive.

When parents do separate, this adequate parenting can become quite an issue.

With parenting behavior that doesn’t quite cross the line or parenting behavior that is on the line and the line is vague, parental conflict can escalate dramatically.

When these matters fall to court or arbitration, the trier of facts must then consider what is referred to as the best interests of the child.

More and more, having a meaningful relationship with both parents is increasingly valued in that determination. That may result in outcomes where the time the children spend between separated parent is or is near equal.

While a parent may seek to limit the time and influence of an “adequate”parent”, they may not be able to do so.

The challenge for that parent is to manage themselves and their concerns so they don’t inadvertently spill onto the child. That spill can even be in the form of overcompensation from feeling guilt.

The objective is to concentrate then on one’s own parenting. Your child will then be subject to both.

Hopefully the better parent’s influence will prevail and more lead that child to a reasonable adulthood.

Certainly be available for any issues arising from concern with the other parent’s abilities, but otherwise, you be the best you you can be as that is where you have the most control.



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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW for counseling and support – to build your successful practice


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, former 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 Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

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