Taking the High Road
Communication and cooperation are supposed to be
two-way streets, but things don't always turn out
the way they should. No matter how much of a jerk
your ex is and no matter how horribly she treats
you it's critical that you learn to be a mensch
(that's a Yiddish word that means "a decent human
being" or "someone who does the right thing"). Here
are some things that can help make you the mensch
you and your kids need you to be:
- Remember that everything you do has to be
done with the best interests of your kids in
- Unless your ex is doing something truly
dangerous, let her parent the way she wants to.
She may have been a rotten partner, but that
doesn't mean she's a rotten mother.
- Don't use the kids to relay messages to your
- Honor your commitments. This means not being
late, keeping your promises, following the terms
of your parenting agreement to the letter, and
making your child support payments in full and
- Share information. Send your ex a copy of
any information you get about your kids that you
think she doesn't have or would be interested
in. This includes report cards, notices of
parent teacher meetings, school photographs, and
even copies of the kids' art projects.
- Remember that you can't control her but you
can control yourself.
- Keep your comparisons to a minimum. Yes, she
may be living in a mansion while you're sleeping
in your old bunk bed in your parents' garage.
But that's just the way things are.
- Be flexible. Kids get sick, and plans
change. But don't be so flexible that you let
your ex take advantage of you. Stand up for your
rights when it's appropriate to do so.
- Don't deliberately do things that you know
will annoy her.
- Listen to what she says to you. Try to find
the truth in it. Who knows, she may actually
come up with something that can help you.
- Give her the benefit of the doubtat
least for a while. Don't assume that she's doing
things to deliberately hurt you.
- Get some help. If your anger for your ex is
so consuming that it gets in the way of your
parenting, you really need some help dealing
- Apologize to her if you've done something
wrong. It might hurt you do to this, especially
if she never apologizes to you, but it's the
right thing to do.
- Don't assume you know what she'll say or how
she'll react in a given situation. Yes, you may
have been together for years, and yes, she may
have reacted that was every other time this
situation has come up, but people can and do
change. Give her a chance. And if she does react
the way you thought she would, at least you
won't be surprised.
- Force yourself to make reasonable
compromises. Granted, now that you're a single
fathers, you've lost one of the biggest natural
incentives to cooperate with your ex: the desire
to keep your relationship together. But learning
when to compromise may be more important now
than it was then.
- Try to keep from getting defensive. One of
the most painful things your ex can do to you is
to question whether you have what it takes to
care for your children. If she ever makes this
kind of accusation, before blowing up, take a
second and honestly ask yourself whether there's
even a glimmer of truth to what she's saying. If
there are areas you really need help in, you
might want to sign yourself up for a parenting
class at your local community college.
- Stop relying on her for approval. You're a
big boy now and it's up to you to do what you
think is right.
- Learn to work around her anger. Do not get
dragged into a shouting match, no matter how
tempting. There's absolutely nothing good that
can come from it. Instead of responding to her
unreasonable demands, ignore them. And remember,
you can always take a walk. You do not have to
stick around and be abusedverbally or
Ultimately, no matter what you do, your ex is
still her own person and theres nothing you
can do to force her to behave the way your want her
to. But hopefully, if she sees ou taking the high
road for long enough, she'll eventually decide to
join you there.
©2007, Armin Brott
* * *
It's clear that most American children suffer
too much mother and too little father. - Gloria
nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott
is the author of Blueprint
for Men's Health: A guide to a health
Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for
New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First
Dad's Guide to the Toddler
Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a
Partner and Father for
Life. He has written on parenting and fatherhood
for the New York Times Magazine, The
Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of
other periodicals. He also hosts Positive
Parenting, a nationally distributed, weekly
talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland,
California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com
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