We all get annoyed when someone becomes a back-seat driver in our own car. “Slow down!” “Speed up!” “Why are you going this way???” Back-seat drivers can make us feel like bumbling fools or they can just simply drive us crazy. But how can the same type of dynamic play out in the parenting relationship?
“You can’t say that!”
“Do it this way!”
“Just let me handle it.”
Gosh. Isn’t that annoying? Frustrating? Degrading? When one parent continually tries to tell the other parent where to go and what to do when it comes to the kids—or just takes the proverbial wheel out of his/her hands, it creates an unhealthy dynamic– one parent who constantly feels shamed, unsure and/or on the defensive and, what I call, a “back-seat-driver parent,” who hovers, corrects, and micromanages his or her partner.
We all only want the best for our children and our families. So how can we keep our back-seat driving tendencies in check when it comes to our co-parenting style?
(1) Don’t auto-correct: When you see the other parent handling a problem or interaction differently that you would, pause. Cut the other person some slack! Nobody wants to feel that they can’t do anything without shaming, comparing, and immediate commentary. Remember–Just because they do things a different way, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
(2) His/her best may be good enough or better: Don’t be so blinded by “your way” that you get in your own way of seeing that his/her way might be good enough or better. Everyone has something to learn—and yes, everyone has something to teach too.
(3) Do it in private: When you disagree with the way that something was handled, don’t reprimand your partner in public. Speak to him/her privately about what you disapproved of and how you think things could have been dealt with instead. And, even in private, allow respect to govern the conversation.
(4) Use specific rather than global remarks: Rather than making comments like “you always do that!” or “you are so argumentative!” be specific about what happened. “When you were with Molly this morning, you yelled a great deal rather than putting her in time out like we discussed yesterday.” When we make our remarks specific, you show that you don’t agree with a specific action, when we make them global, they seem like an attack on the other parent’s character.
(5) Open up a discussion as a united front: You are not always right. When your children are behaving in ways that you don’t find acceptable, have a conversation with the other parent to discuss what to about it. Ask; how do you think we should handle this? Here are some of my ideas…” Listen as well as offering your own thoughts.
(6) Step in only when mistakes are detrimental: If safety or bad long-term repercussions seem imminent, step in. Just know the difference between differences in opinion and harmful conduct.
(7) Remember the values and lessons you hope to teach: When we consistently step in and cut the other parent off at the knees, we can inadvertently convey to our children that the other parent isn’t worthy enough, smart enough, or good enough. We also demonstrate to our kids that if they have a difference of agreement with someone else—adult or otherwise—they can simply take the controls and do whatever they want. At the foundation of parenting, we always want to conduct ourselves with respect in order to both show respect to the other parent and teach the children the importance of respect in every relationship.
Most everyone has moments of back-seat driver parenting (whether by a co-parent or another family member) so it follows that most parents have also been on the receiving end of auto-correcting remarks or disapproving looks. We all make mistakes. It’s what we do on a daily basis that matter the most. Nobody is perfect—not the other parent, and yes, not you either! Step back and give yourself a break and while you’re at it, give that same gift to the person who is on your parenting team too. On days that run long and tempers run short, we all deserve one!
Are you a back-seat-driving parent? 7 Ways to Keep Micromanagement of the Other Parent in Check is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System