>>>>>>>>> Hi T. I’ve commented below.
I think our 16 year old daughter is still playing mom and dad against each other when it comes to getting what she wants. C___ is still living with her dad. I have read your parenting strategies, and being her mother, I’ve been enacting the rules as best I can from a distance and I should say that I have seen some improvements in her. It’s difficult because I work 2 jobs, but I’ve managed to have dinner with her once a week, tell her I love her every night, encourage her by saying things like how I think she’s showing responsibility by doing her homework or how proud I am of her for this or that - for not lying today, for not skipping school, etc.
>>>>>>>>> This is so terribly important. This is a great of example of “catching your child in the act of NOT doing something wrong.” Most parents overlook this important ingredient to successful assertive-parenting.
I’m always asking her things about her day and giving her a chance to tell me what’s going on in her life. I think that’s very important. I advised her father to assign her chores, and I guess he’s done that, but I don’t think he’s assigned her an allowance because she still complains that she thinks she should be entitled to money if she asks for it. Instead, I think he gives her money which I know isn’t the way it should be done, but I can’t argue with him because that’s his house and we’re divorced. He and I don’t get along and he won’t get on the same page with me on parenting her so I’ve given up on trying. Instead, whenever he says something negative about her to think about – I just try to counter it with something positive to help show her that he’s not always right and he can make mistakes. I think it’s helped her become a better person recently. I think she’s begun to realize that parents can make mistakes, and I want to also thank you for that.
>>>>>>>>> Here you have demonstrated a great example of “picking you battles carefully” …you’ve realized that you cannot control your ex-husband’s parenting habits, and you are working around him rather than wasting time/energy trying to change him.
My concern, though, is whether or not the trust issue is going to be met. I’ve talked to C___ about the bond between us recently and how I said, ‘we need to mend this’. C___ says she wants to try and her father ALWAYS wants to give her the benefit of the doubt unless he sees or hears different where I’m always the suspicious one. It’s been a source of contention between her father and me. He is always ready to tell C___ that I don’t trust her and tear into our relationship.
>>>>>>>>> I regularly encourage parents to not believe anything their kid tells them (as in 0%) until it can be verified. Here’s why: You AND your ex-husband have been “punked” more than you’ll ever know (i.e., deceived, lied to, manipulated, etc.).
C___ has been a habitual liar with me so there is plenty of reason for distrust. But recently, after 4 months of being in her father’s care, she is now saying how she wants to turn over a new leaf and try to start off fresh. Me, I say, “Not so fast!” Her father says, “Sure, why not?”
All year this year, her grades have been nearly all F’s. But I took your advice and got out of the hand holding business. Instead, I said to C___ that if she would just bring home a completed weekly progress report (a written report from her teachers) - good or bad – she could go out that weekend.
>>>>>>>>>> You get another “A” for parenting, dear mom!
C___ has a job at McDonald’s and works every weekend so I wasn’t giving her but one night out with her friends. The other stipulation was she’d give a phone number from a “land” line to be reached, an address of the location she’s at, and a list of names of the people who would be with her. She agreed to everything. Her curfew, being she’s on probation, is 11 p.m., but Courtney wanted to stay overnight. That was the part I wasn’t sure about. Going out was all right, but I didn’t really think she had earned a privilege of staying out all night with her dishonesty, however, again this isn’t my home.
Her father said she’d have to finish all chores and I said she would have to do her homework before her departure, but I was still unsure if that was enough. Her progress report wasn’t that great, she actually could’ve brought home 2 books to study for upcoming tests next Tuesday that she had failing grades, but she didn’t, and her dad hadn’t said yes to her going out before she called me. So why was she calling me for this request? Because I was the one who had given her the progress report stipulation in the first place weeks ago?
Dad’s house should be dad’s rules, right? Wrong. He doesn’t enforce any rules and she knows it. Did he have a leg to stand on, now, by telling her no? What reason could he have given her by this time if he didn’t want her to go? She had out-smarted us both by getting me on the phone and trying to play my parenting skills against him. Do you see this? It happens all of the time. If I had tried to take a stand at this point and said she couldn’t go, he would have let her go just despite me. But what if he had wanted to do something with her that evening? Should he have said, “No you can’t go out because I have made plans to take you somewhere tonight with me…”? Then state a consequence if she rages? Does his plans become a priority over hers?
By the way, I should tell you that I do like your line, “I don’t want to argue.” It has worked for me when talking with both C___ and her father and it is a wonderful diffuser in fights as long as you can keep cool.
Please advise. Thanks.
If I understand correctly, your ex-husband is not only on a different page than you -- he is actively working AGAINST you. Thus, it will be in YOUR best interest to ‘schmooze’ him. Let me explain (and this is all a ‘con job’ on your part):
- Objective of the schmooze: To get your ex on your team as much as possible.
- Goal of the schmooze: To diffuse your daughter’s ability to play one parent against the other.
- Method: Use some of the parenting strategies ON THE EX-HUSBAND (you’ve already been doing this with the “I’m not going to argue” line).
Thus, catch your husband in the act of ‘doing things right’ -- and catch him in the act of ‘not doing things wrong.’ Provide an appropriate quantity (not too much) of acknowledgment and praise (even though you will often get the impression that you are simply feeding him a line of ‘bullshit’). And give him the impression you are being authentic; convey that you really mean it.
“I noticed that you didn’t allow C_____ to manipulate you when she told you ‘_______________________’. I appreciate you working with me on this.”
“Thanks for calling me back regarding ______________________. What’s your suggestion? I really need your help on this.”
Let me share an example of my recent schmooze. The following conversation was recorded and transcribed (I do this occasionally for training purposes for other therapists). This is a one-on-one session with a 15-year-old female client. She was very angry about many things (including being made to attend a brief counseling session with me).
Interview [23 minutes]
Therapist: What’s up?
Youth: -silence- [no eye contact; melancholic affect]
Therapist: [therapist begins quietly playing with his cell phone]
Therapist: You look pissed. Who’s been hassling you?
Youth: [pause] Everybody.
Therapist: [pause] Who’s the worst?
Youth: My mom.
Therapist: She’s annoying?
Youth: Uh huh.
Therapist: [pause] She thinks you need counseling.
Youth: Yea, right!
Therapist: [long pause] I don’t think you need counseling. [pause] I just think you’re under a lot of stress.
Therapist: How do you manage with all the stress you’re going through?
Youth: I don’t know.
Therapist: I don’t know how you get through life, but evidently you’re doing it.
Youth: [nods her head ‘yes’; begins to make eye contact]
Therapist: Got any tips for me? I’m having a stressful day myself.
Youth: Not really.
Therapist: [pause] Do you just tune people out when they get on your nerves?
Therapist: Me too …but sometimes when I tune people out, they think I’m ignoring them and then they feel hurt.
Therapist: [pause] You ever get mad at people just so they’ll leave you alone?
Youth: [nods her head ‘yes’]
Therapist: What’s the most annoying bullshit you have to put up with?
Youth: My mom telling me what to do. She doesn’t understand me, and she doesn’t know my friends. She trashes my friends, but she doesn’t even know them. It’s none of her business. It’s none of her business who I hang with.
Therapist: [pause] That’s one of those annoying things?
Youth: Uh huh!
Therapist: [pause] You know …you could have come in here today with an attitude …but you didn’t. You could have come in here and told me to ‘kiss off’ …but you didn’t. You could have refused to talk to me …but you talked anyway. That’s you being responsible. So, it’s not a question of whether you can or can’t be responsible – you ARE being responsible. So what can YOU do to take care of YOU? What can you do FOR YOU – not for the judge, the PO, your mom, or anybody else?
Youth: Finish school …take care of my dogs.
Therapist: You’ve got dogs?
Youth: Yea …Max and Casey.
Therapist: What kind are they?
Youth: Chihuahua puppies.
Therapist: Cool ...so you take good care of your dogs?
Youth: [nods head ‘yes’]
Therapist: [therapist asks a lot of questions about client’s dogs; client is very informative]
Therapist: [pause] Thanks for the tips on how to deal with annoying people. I need all the help I can get!
Youth: [nods head ‘yes’]
Therapist: [pause] Is there anything else we need to talk about?
Youth: [nods head ‘no’]
Therapist: I appreciate you making time for me today.
Youth: You’re welcome.
Therapist: Tell your mom she can call me if she needs to, O.K.?
So anyway, cultivate the “art of schmoozing” – not because your ex deserves it, but because your job will be far easier if he works WITH you instead of AGAINST you - even if it’s only 49% of the time. And it is very possible that you will get a significant level of cooperation if you schmooze just right.
Side note: One mother told me she would have the following thought right before she ‘put on the schmooze’ to her ex-husband: “I’m going to compliment the hell out of this bastard.”