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Co-parenting with a Bad Role Model

When you want your children to grow up with strong Christian values but their other parent isn’t on board it can be more than infuriating. It can be a dilemma. It’s especially a dilemma if your children’s other parent is an active influence in their lives.

In an ideal world, divorced parents work together for the good of their children. But, the words divorce and ideal aren’t a natural match. And, if your ex has committed adultery, has an addiction problem, or lacks integrity, your children are subject to have those influences in their lives.

No wonder you’re concerned.

On the one hand, scriptures tell us, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 (NIV)

And, doesn’t this scripture suggest that as a responsible parent you should teach your children to honor both their parents?

But, why would you want to teach your kids to honor a parent whose behavior isn’t honorable?

On the other hand, we’re also told to, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

Isn’t it right to teach your children that marriage is sacred and that adultery is wrong? That drugs, gambling, and alcohol abuse can lead to addictions. Of course it is!

Yet, if you focus on your children’s other parent’s shortcomings are you teaching your children to dishonor that parent? Are you adding frustration to their lives? Are you going to inadvertently cause them to bond with the other parent because after all, even the bond between a poor parent and child can be strong?
How do you negotiate your way through this when the other parent isn’t honorable?

I’ve talked with parents who swing to both ends of the spectrum on this. What about a mom who tells her teenage kids that they must respect their dad even though the teenagers are very aware of their dad’s multiple affairs. Is this teaching them that you can have affairs and have no consequences?

Are respecting someone and being honorable toward them the same thing? I don’t think they always are.

How about a dad who constantly tells his children that their mom is nothing more than a drunk.
This message hammers home that they come from one adult who is evidently pretty worthless. Their mother may have a drinking problem but is dwelling on it healthy for the children?

Here are four thoughts for your reflection:

  1. Teaching children to respect in the face of behavior they know is not respectable does not help them distinguish right from wrong.
  2. Bashing your kid’s other parent’s misdoings builds tension and division that probably isn’t healthy for you or your children.
  3. Children cannot make their parents honorable. Children can however, act in an honorable way toward each parent. You can model this.
  4. You can teach right from wrong without launching an attack on your ex. If you instill strong values, your children will soon enough be able to form their own judgements.

It can be a delicate balance but acting honorably toward your children’s other parent doesn’t mean declaring dishonorable behavior to be honorable. I pray you will be able to help your children make this distinction while at the same time teaching them right from wrong. If you can, I believe both you and your children will live a more peaceful life.

What are your thoughts on this challenging topic?  Please leave a comment.

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