Does Politeness Really Matter When You Co-Parent?
We know that effective communication requires politeness, because no one opens up to insults and rough talk. This is why in co-parenting, in particular, we should always use deliberate language and treat our utterances as though they carry the power of life and death.
We should learn how to talk to each other. But we don’t. We stress the bricks and mortar and we seem to get some foundation for understanding language. But a house is more than a foundation. It needs pillars to buttress its frame, a roof, and much more before we can say it’s complete. Effective communication should be similarly dealt with as a whole. It is more than the sum of its parts, and knowing its parts cannot be a substitute as knowledge of the whole.
In short, we must be polite. We must avoid finger pointing statements about past events by focusing on present strengths and family interests. Delete certain words from statements regarding your children. Take out, “you, I, or me” whenever there’s acrimony, as these words bring up negative emotions. Saying, “my son…, my daughter…, or my children…,” suggests that you have competing ownership interests in your children. Instead, try using “we, us, or our.” Create the belief in shared responsibilities. Imply that you have equal access and that you will maintain undivided interests in raising your children into successful adults. We don’t produce children asexually, nor do we bud-off kids without partners. So, we shouldn’t communicate as if single parenting is somehow a biological reality, or something heroic.
Extending our possessive tendencies to our children is a mistake we must fix quickly. We have no legal, moral, spiritual, or any other principle by which we may own another human being. That includes our children. So why do we aggravate each other with poor language about “our children?” We may not intend to assert ownership, but our dialogues are problematic. And it’s our unguarded language that portrays our family ties as property rights.
We insist on exercising our parental rights against each other. But what do we really mean by our parental rights? Is it not our carelessly worded language and deeds that threaten our families? Is it not we, who bring the machinery of the government into our homes? Do we appreciate the awesome powers of government when we seek to hurt each other by asking for public condemnation against each other during our private family squabbles?
We pay so little attention to the contents of our communications. It is interesting that we don’t perceive our parental rights to be at risk when we’re blinded by materialistic love. But we fear losing our rights, when blinded by anger and hatred during our divorces.
Politeness is the minimum evidence of respect between parents. It demands that we take time to compose our messages with respect. If we take time to weed out hurtful words and gestures from our conversations, we’ll have fewer quarrels. Our misconceptions produce arguments, but much of what we argue about is too silly to disclose publicly. That is why we are often emotionally unprepared to let them go. Our communications are embarrassing little misunderstandings, which we blow out of proportion. We should be clear and concise. Our focus should be on the ordinary meanings that best capture what we want others to understand by our messages, and we must keep our children’s best interest at the forefront of our minds.
© Jeremiah N. Ollennu and www.ollennuandassociates.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jeremiah N. Ollennu and www.ollennuandassociates.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.