Coparenting Tips for Improving Communication from the expert authors of Overcoming the Alienation Crisis: 33 Coparenting Solutions. For more information about OCB Publications go here.
My child complains about the chores they have to do at the resisted parent’s home. How do I respond?
Besides death and taxes, one of life’s certainties is that a child who has chores will complain to somebody and possibly multiple somebodies. A common polarization occurs when one parent is more permissive and indulges the children while the other parent is more structured and comfortable giving the children consequences when they do not meet their responsibilities. Everyone knows that children prefer to hang out in homes where they have fewer chores, limits, and consequences. Also, children tend to present as victims: “She makes us clean the dishes, clean our bathroom, and pick up dog poop while she’s on Facebook.”
When a child complains about chores at the coparent’s home, the Escalated Parent takes the child at their word and makes another entry in their parenting journal about the outrageous and abusive behavior the children are being subjected to.
The Neutral Coparent could make a gracefully worded inquiry to their coparent about the child’s complaint. For example, “George, the kids complained again that at your house they have to do lots of chores. They seem to think they are doing work that you should be doing. Let’s not get tripped up on this. What would be helpful for me to know to support you around chores? Do you have a suggestion for how I could respond to them?” The Neutral Coparent could say something to the children like, “You are fortunate that Dad makes you do chores. He is trying to help you learn to be independent and self-reliant. Sometimes I am too soft with you.” You could say that you expect them to like or not to like some of the things you do as a parent and some of the parenting practices of their other parent, but in the long run they will benefit from the differences.
The Neutral Coparent encourages the child to voice their concerns directly to the other parent. The problem exists between the child and the coparent, and the Neutral Coparent can reduce the family’s conflict by not inserting themselves into the middle of this problem. However, it can be hard for a parent to restrain their desire to shield their child from what the child portrays as unhealthy stress. Finally, the Neutral Coparent accepts the issue as an opportunity to learn more about themselves as a parent, to ask if they need to shut off their worried thoughts more quickly, and to raise their expectations about the children being able to problem-solve for themselves.