Re: Co-Parenting Challenges After Divorce
My older daughter (7 year old, almost 8) is a very logical minded kid, and she is all about fairness and doing the right thing. Earlier this year she started telling me about situations where her mother had lied to her... often involving me, but sometimes just the interaction between them.
DD: "Can I take toy X to Mom's this weekend!"
Me: "Nah, remember our rule, you need to bring back toy Y first"
DD: "It's lost, Mom says I lost it."
Me: "Where did you see it last?"
DD: "I had it in bed when I went to sleep, but when I woke up it wasn't there anymore."
Me: "Did you check on the floor, or around the bed."
DD: "Yes, I looked everywhere."
Me: "Well sometimes things get misplaced... that's ok. I'll tell you what, check again this weekend as hard as you can, and if it's still missing we'll just call it an accident. Then you can take toy X next week as long as this doesn't become a habit."
DD: "I think Mom is hiding them."
Me: "Why do you think that?"
DD: "She does that with our toys when she doesn't like something we've done."
Me: "So your toys go to time out to teach you?"
DD: "No, she always says we lost them, but really I know she took them."
Me: "I think she's trying to get you to address a concern about something else. What do you think that is?"
DD: "Yeah, but it's not fair... because she's lying."
Me: "Well, yeah... I suppose.
DD: "I'm pretty sure she has toy Y, and she's making me look for it even though she has it."
Me: "Well lets ask her when I drop you off."
DD: "She'll just lie to you about it, she'll say it was my fault..."
So a conversation like this is pretty standard with my daughter... she's very insightful. I've become aware the last year that she's vented about her mothers actions that she doesn't understand... particularly the lying. Some of this can actually be turned into a good lesson of life just isn't fair sometimes and people don't always act as you expect, but you can find what motivates them and learn methods to accomplish your goal to make both you and them happy. She's too young for a lot of that though. I started to question myself... to make sure I'm not promoting this. Really, as I see it, this boils down to a personality clash... my daughter is wired a lot differently than her mother. She's just naturally a tune to a more structured, fair and on the surface way of doing things (which is actually a lot like me)... I think some of that is taught, but the majority seems to be hard wired. Her younger sister is so opposite... she's rather please people, and will fudge the truth to accomplish that goal. This daughters however, was never like that, fairness and bunt was always her way.
I suspect her mother is frustrated that she is more like me... and I think her mother is playing games with her in order to punish (teach, in her mind) her and try to get her to follow her not to cut and dry, or clear, set of rules.
Anyways, I'm digressing... the point here is. I had a conversation with my daughter not long ago telling her that calling her mother a liar isn't a good thing, but that she should rather get to the bottom of what is motivating her mother to act as she is. I thought about this later and wondered... I don't want to invalidate my daughters observations and feelings. I also don't want to be a platform to promote her growing up resenting her mother. Some earlier also mentioned the possibility that the kids are learning to play us against each other... I tend to think of this daughter as always being truthful. Her and I just sort of have that understanding of always being honest with one another (which is why she points so harshly to the lying). I try not to engage in the confirmation of lies (such as the "well yeah, I suppose" comment above) because I don't want her to start to excuse things that she can find work arounds for.
In this case it may very well be that her mother is jealous she's enjoying a toy from my house (that behavior fits with her past)... but it could also be that my daughter really lost the toy and because of her observations of he's mom behavior jumps to the conclusion that mom is hiding them. It's easy to blame her, to me...
How does one find a middle ground with this? Any advice?