Someone recently posted the following comment in an online support group:

“My biggest issue is trying to share custody of my kids with my ex who is not looking out for my kids best interests right now. I wish he was rational. It is to spite me for leaving him - he makes the wrong choices for the kids.”

When someone says “trying to share custody of my kids with my ex,” does it sound as though her “ex” is actually the kids’ other parent? To the extent that she doesn’t recognize her “ex” as her kids’ other parent, how might that impact her perceptions regarding parenting related issues? If they disagree on parenting related issues, does that mean she’s right and he’s wrong? Different parents, even different parents of the same children, make different choices.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines different as “not the same.” As such, does different mean wrong or bad?

If both parents can’t agree on what’s in their kids’ best interests, does that mean one parent is wrong and the other is right? When parents litigate, the only person involved in the case responsible for assessing what’s in the child’s best interest is the judge. However, a judge’s subjective knowledge of the family is so limited, too often their subjective determination may not actually be in the best interest of the child. If they’re not litigating, is one parent automatically the final arbiter of such things? If so, based upon what and on whose authority?

In her book The Reflective ParentHow to Do Less and Relate More with Your Kids, psychiatrist, founder and co-director of the Center for Reflective Communities, Regina Pally, says the following:

“The ability to be reflective is essential for relating well to others, because it enables us to try to see the world from the other person’s perspective as well as our own and to accept that there is always more than one way to view a situation….

All your relationships will be smoother if you can see the other person’s perspective as well as your own…. Too many happy and loving marriages and other parenting partnerships end up having so much extra conflict because each partner gets bogged down in thinking their own perspective is the right one or the best one. Parents don’t have to see eye to eye on everything, but they do have to see where the other person is coming from and to respect and value their viewpoint. Generally, parent couples are better able to compromise and find agreement if each parent feels understood by the other parent….

As much as you might wish you knew all the answers, no one can…. Scientists believe people do better in life if they have a variety of ways of seeing the world and a variety of options for how to behave. Since this is a more adaptive way of being, model it for your child….

Reflective parenting is designed to help parents resist the urge to be convinced that they are absolutely right about their perspective by helping them to reframe their observations and remain open-minded to other possibilities.”

While we don’t know the specifics, does the mother who posted that comment sound reflective to you?

In her comment, she also said, “I wish he was rational.”

However, consider the following information set forth by nationally recognized peacemaker, mediator and trainer, Douglas E. Noll, in his book Elusive Peace: How Modern Diplomatic Strategies Could Better Resolve World Conflicts:

"New discoveries in behavioral economics, cognitive and social neuroscience, and social psychology have demonstrated that emotions weave through our every thought, decision, and action. To paraphrase neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, we are 98 percent emotional and 2 percent rational. We are not nearly as rational as we think we are."

So, while she may wish that her ex were more rational, he can most certainly say the same about her.

In her book, Pally also says the following:

“This social learning is filtered through the parents, who teach their child their personal interpretation of what is most important for the child to know….

Our sociable human nature does not necessarily mean being outgoing and gregarious. It means being able to engage with and relate to other people. It is not about the numbers of people you engage with; it is about how you relate, in terms of empathizing, being cooperative, and considering other people’s point of view.”

Everyone would benefit, if we all made a concerted effort to be more reflective in all of our relationships and interactions. This is particularly true of parents because their children’s “social learning is filtered through” them. You know what is in children’s best interest? That their parents engage in reflective parenting.

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