The Collaborative Divorce Center

Lazy River versus Roller Coaster Parenting

Lazy River vs Roller Coaster Parenting

An Analogy by Pam Masters

I am Pam Masters and I am a collaborative family lawyer, which is to say that I am a settlement specialist and I guide couples and families on the difficult journey of divorce without court involvement. I do this is ways that protects children, preserves financial assets and creates healthy co-parenting relationships

Today I am going to talk to you about a strategy to help reduce conflict in divorce and also enhance co-parenting relationships

I am reading a super interesting book call the The Art Of Possibility.

It is by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. She is a therapist and he is the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  So the premise of this book is that so many of the things that cause us stress or harm are because of certain assumptions we carry with us and that if we can draw a different frame around the situation, new possibilities will present themselves.

There are 12 steps outlined in the book and I want to talk about one here that leapt off the page for me and made me immediately think about the couples and families I work with.

The idea is to give everyone an “A”

In the context of a co-parenting relationship you may have an assumption that your coparent is not a good parent, or makes bad decisions, or doesn’t act in the best interest of your child. So what would happen if you were to set those assumptions aside and give your coparent an “A”? You don’t have to tell them you’re doing this, this is all in your own mind here.

I can tell you what happened in Benjamins class of music students and then we will explore what could happen in the divorce or coparenting context. I think it could be really transofmrative.

Premise is that grades do not indicate a mastery of  the subject matter.  They only compare students to one another.  So Benjamin, the co-author who was teaching at the most prestigious music school in the country and was teaching an advanced level performance class, decided to try an experiment.

On the first day of class, he told them all that he was giving them all A’s. All they had to do was write him a letter from the perspective of themselves at the end of term stating why they deserved the A.

What happened?  Freed from the anxiety of the grade, played with passion and abandon, trying all manner of things because they were not afraid of judgment or failure.

So think about this in the context of a divorce. If each person were to give the other an “A” what would happen differently?

Well, first of all, there would be no defensiveness by either person. NO need to justify their wants, needs or actions

Second, each would feel free to express themselves genuinely,

Third, when you give someone an A, you find yourself speaking to them not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards but from a place of respect that gives them room to fully realize themselves. 

Giving the A, sets you up in partnership with the other person, in a frame of teamwork and relationship-which if you have children together you have whether you want it or not!  Giving an A creates wholeness and functionality.

Imagine how it would affect your children to see you interacting with their other parent this way. Imagine how willing a parent who may be struggling with a parenting issue would be to reach out to his or her co-parent if they knew they would be getting “A” all the time. 

What if your co-parent did something that you thought was wrong, instead of reacting in judgment and confrontation, you threw your hands up in the air and said “how fascinating!” and then explored first within yourself why you disagreed with that action –your objection may be completely irrational and much more about you than the best interest of your child-and then explored with them, keeping in mind that you have already given them an “A” in parenting—why they made the choice they did.  

You’ll be surprised at what you may discover and you children will be well loved and cared for by both of their parents!

Here’s a tip: try this with your kids as well, try it with a server in a restaurant, your employees. See how transformative it is.

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