I share the responsibility of caring and raising my amazing 10-year-old son. His mother and I get along great because we finally get it. We recognize the trials and tribulations we went through are no longer important. What is important is the best interest of our son. Here are six tips that I had to learn to become a better co-parent with my child’s mother.
Tip 1: Understand and Accept Role as a Leader
There is a significant difference between leader and ruler. A leader leads by example. This means sometimes I had to submit for the best interest of my child and our co-parenting relationship. What I say does NOT always go! My child is learning from my leadership. I want him to know how a leader is strong in every way possible, strong enough to bend but not break. I had to lose the “I am the Father and that’s it” attitude. My position should be leading in a way that is healthy and creates a thriving environment for my son and yes, my son’s mother. This does not mean that I am taking care of her. It means that I must support her. I had to bury my ego. If I try to rule my child’s mother then I create resentment and make things worse. A leader can co-lead and that is exactly what we do.
Tip 2: Respect and Honor the Mother as a Gift to Your Child
I was having a hard day when my mother happened to call me and said, “The greatest gift you could ever give your son is respecting and honoring his mother.” I thought about what she said and my attitude changed. Regardless of what was going on, I did not want to hurt my son by watching him trying to figure out why his dad was making his mother upset. I was not willing to be responsible for that anguish. I understood the trickle effect of what I could do to his mother emotionally and psychologically and how that would impact him as well.
With this decision, he would learn how to respect and honor his mother as well. He would learn how to respect and honor women and his #DearFutureWife. The mother of your child carried your child for you and now feels alone, ashamed, and that you get to do whatever you want. She also feels that the promise that was given to her of being a family, wearing your ring, and living in the same household was broken. Whether you told her this or not, this is her expectation. Respect and Honor Her.
Tip 3: Establish and Maintain Boundaries
Establish clear boundaries. Lines can not be blurred! There can’t be any mixed signals of maybe working things out and becoming a family. You can not get intimate every once in a while because “you already have a child together.” Nor should you lead her on to get what you want from her. All those mixed signals are recipes for disaster and co-parenting stagnation. You both are establishing a business partnership where lines do not need to be crossed. Every time you cross those lines, you erase any progress that you gained because emotions get back into it and expectations change. It clouds judgment and decision-making. Women are emotional and men are emotional as well. Men just express it differently.
Boundaries also help your child understand your relationship. Children want their parents to be together. When you send them mixed signals, it will confuse them. Both of you need to be consistent in what you tell your child. If you are involved with our child’s mother and also dating other women, what signal does that send your child? What example are you are setting for your children? Having loose boundaries will make your dating very hard.
Tip 4: Establish Consistency
Be consistent. If you set a schedule to see your child, keep it! If you need to switch the schedule, be consistent in communication. We need to create a routine for our children. Children thrive in consistency. It’s hard for adults to function in an inconsistent environment, so you can imagine how a child would operate not knowing what’s next. Be consistent with your words and actions. You cannot tell our child’s mother that you will do something and end up doing the opposite. They depend on our consistency for our children. They have lives as well and want to schedule things while the child is with us.
They depend on financial support for the children. Let’s not get into “she is spending my money on frivolous things that aren’t for our kids.” The problem with that thinking is you are counting her money blindly. You are counting when she gets her nails done, but not when she buys food your child. You are counting when she buys herself a dress, but not when she buys your child new shoes. Even if you feel like you are doing everything, you are not. Just like when your child is with you and randomly asks for something at the store and you buy it, it happens to her as well.
Being consistent helps us to plan for our free time, work, dating and everything else. You know your schedule, when it is your time with your child, and when you are free.
Tip 5: Be Present in their Presence
When you have your children, be with them. Don’t pass them off to family members or friends. Don’t spend time with your children upset with your co-parent. Children can sense everything you are feeling. Stop what you are doing and be what they need. They do not have you all the time so they value the time they do have with you. You should as well. Your presence is way more valuable than any present you could ever give them. Be their present. Be present in their presence! Learn how your child thinks, acts, and feels. Establish a relationship with your children so they know you are available.
Tip 6: Keep Your Issues In-House
Too many people involved will only create too many opinions. Choose who you can trust and will support you by listening and comforting you. Avoid those who will attempt to make things worse for the both of you. Keep your issues in-house to maintain boundaries, which keeps the friction low. I had to keep what I did for our child separate from what she did for him in her household. We didn’t need to compete for his love. He cared that both of his parents loved him. He cared that we got along. He cared that both of us were in his life. The only competition we needed to compete in was having the happiest and most loved child.
I had to reach a level of maturity that has helped me be an effective co-parent. Things aren’t perfect. I just made up in my mind that I needed to do certain things to create an environment where our son would benefit from effective co-parenting.
This originally appeared on Bashea’s blog, Bashea Williams.