Unfortunately, I have witnessed this way more times than I’d like to admit.
Whether it’s the married parents, the divorced parents, or other family members, it’s so damaging for children to hear negative comments about their parents. It makes me so sad when I see this happen because these people who engage in this behavior are thinking of no one but themselves and hurting the innocent.
I feel extremely lucky that even despite differences of opinions, my children’s father and I have committed to never participating in this and the result is the kids having loving relationship with both of us and our new partners. It was one of the first and best pieces of advice we received when separating. When you talk badly about the other parent, you are hurting your kids. Wow. That was enough for me.
It does NOT make one parent look better to degrade the other. While the child might be quiet about it now because they are figuring out how to process it, they will probably have a strong opinion about it as they age. Trust me, it will not be in the favor of the degrading parent.
A child is a part of each parent. When they hear something bad about one parent, they hear it as something bad about themselves. It lowers their self esteem because they see loser, jerk, greedy, liar etc. as being part of their character. It’s just the way the psyche works. When something goes wrong, it’s so easy to talk about why it’s someone else’s fault, but to discuss those flaws of someone they love in front of children will not result in any good. First of all, it will teach them the opposite of respect. Look, we all get frustrated sometimes, but your child is not your friend with which you can dump all of your icky feelings onto, especially about their own parent!
So for the parent who does do this: If you want to raise levels of anxiety, fear, insecurity, unhappiness and the question of whether you can be trusted or not, then go ahead and talk poorly of the parent you don’t like. You will succeed in negatively impacting their lives and the motive of getting them to trust you more or like you better will ultimately fail.
Children should not have to be manipulated. In the long run, adults who do this erode their relationship with the child. In other words, it will bite you in the ass soon enough, especially as they become teenagers with very strong opinions and the desire to express them.
Instead, give children confidence and allow them to trust and be trustworthy. I see parents put blame on the divorce itself when they think their child is having a rough time. It’s not so much about the divorce as it is up to the parents making it a positive experience. Maturity and integrity is what they should see and model after. It’s what they will pull from for their future relationships. Why not influence them positively? Guaranteed, kids will be drawn to the one who takes the high road.