What to do when your child is modeling your ex’s behavior

Child modeling ex's behavior

You endured your ex- spouse’s behavior while you were married, but you don’t have to anymore. The problem is that your child is modeling your ex’s behavior. You hate your ex, but you love your child.

There is no way you will allow your child to model your ex’s negative and/or destructive behavior, nor do you want to further endure that behavior yourself. So what do you do?

It’s a delicate dance.

“When you tear down the other parent, you might as well be tearing down your own child.” How to Talk to your Children About Divorce by Jill Jones-Soderman and Allison Quattrocchi.

It’s natural to be angry at your ex and therefore want to blame them. Like it or not, your child is part of your ex. Your child loves the other parent and it is that love that changes everything. Your anger may be justified, but it isn’t helpful for this situation, and it isn’t helpful to your child.

If you point out, “Don’t be like your father/mother and do XYZ,” your child won’t get the message you are intending to send (i.e. that XYZ behavior is not desirable in the world). Instead, your child will simply hear the message that other parent is a horrible human. Is that the message you wanted to send? Nope.

Instead, address your child’s undesirable behavior SEPARATE from the child’s other parent. Discuss how the child’s XYZ behavior has negative consequences in the world. Don’t mention the ex. Give examples of how this behavior drives negative consequences for others (but not your ex).

If you handle this skillfully enough, your child will connect the other parent’s behavior to the negative consequences, and if your child makes that connection on his/her own, then that connection is FAR more powerful than your message that the other parent is a horrible human.

Is this hard? Yes. Can you do it? Yes!

In short, don’t react to your child’s negative behavior by blaming the ex to your child. Act smarter and you will meet your goal to raise happy, proactive adults.

If you need help telling your kids about your divorce, check-out my blog entry on the topic by clicking here.

If you want to learn more about divorce mediation, click here to download my book, “Divorce Mediation in Oregon.”

If you want to schedule a consultation with me, click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation.