Divorce Mediation Challenge: Cool Dad v. Strict Mom
One of the greatest challenges to mediating a child custody solution is a stark difference in parenting styles. One classic combination, where opposites tend to repulse instead of attract, is the Cool Dad versus the Strict Mom.
Strict Mom starts getting the kids ready for bed at the stroke of 7:00, so they are completely tucked in promptly at 7:30. Cool Dad starts playing with the kids at 6:50 and chimes in with the toddlers when they whine, “But, Mom, do we have to?” What follows is a protracted battle of wills, where Mom plays Captain Hook to Dad’s Peter Pan. If, for this and other reasons, the marriage breaks up, these patterns take on added life during the fight for child custody, as each parent dreads giving the other control over their children. As the parents dig in their heels, how can a divorce mediator find grounds for compromise?
Often, the answer is to help each party understand why the other has taken the position they have. Strict Mom isn’t being mean by sending the kids to bed on a regular schedule. She’s giving them important structure that ensures they sleep well, wake up refreshed, and don’t go through the next day tired, cranky and uncooperative. On the other hand, Cool Dad isn’t trying to be a disruptive force. He’s been out of the house all day and wants some fun time with his kids at the end of the day. He wants them to know that even though he doesn’t spend as much time with them as he’d like, he still loves them.
When parties to mediation understand the values behind the positions, it’s often easier to move them from a rigid position to a compromise that still upholds those values. Cool Dad wants to show his kids love and affection; Strict Mom wants to be able to get the kids up in the morning ready to face the day. Both values are important and not in conflict.
Naturally, each parent will have to make adjustments to share child custody, but if they mediate their differences in good faith, they can create a parenting plan that allows for quality time and structure. Mom might still worry at first that Dad will stray from the plan and keep the kids up all night, but that probably won’t last when he’s also the one getting them ready for day care or school in the morning.
If you are considering mediation for your New York divorce, Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc. can help. Call us at 1.631.683.8172 or contact our Long Island office online.