“In The Best Interests of the Children?” NOT.

My least favourite phrase, the one that makes my eye roll almost every time I hear it?

“In the best interests of the children.”

Think about it. How do you define what is in the best interests of your children?

Is your perception of what is in the best interest of your children different from your neighbours? The grocery store clerk? The social worker that works at the hospital? Your child’s teacher? Your sisters?

Probably.

Because each person I listed above grew up with his or her own, unique perception of the world.

Their own unique perception of right and wrong.

Their own unique perception of what success looks like.

Their own unique perception of parenting should look like.

Their own unique perception of what is in the best interest of their children.

Goodness, even most siblings can’t agree on what is in the best interest of kids… and they usually grew up raised in a similar fashion?!?!

And just because everyone has their own unique perception of the world, it doesn’t make their perception wrong – it just makes it unique. A perception that is different from your own, unique view of the world.

The likelihood that you and your Ex are going to have the same perception, the same ideals, the same definition of what is in the best interest of your kids? Very unlikely.

SO STOP TRYING TO CONVINCE THEM THAT YOUR DEFINITION OF WHAT IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILDREN IS THE RIGHT ONE!!!!

Yes, I just yelled that at you.

If someone is colour blind and they can only see varying shades of yellow, trying to convince them that the car you just bought is blue – not yellow – is going to fall on deaf ears.

People’s perceptions of what is in the best interest of their children is deeply in-bedded in their DNA, in their belief system.

And if your Ex has high conflict tendencies, their perception of what is in the children’s best interests usually means contradicting everything that you believe is in the children’s best interests – just for the sake of saying the opposite of what you say.

How do you co-parent with someone who has fundamental differences from you in what they believe to be in the best interest of the children?

(Tip: The below usually has better success when mediated with a trained professional)

1) You get your Ex to provide 3 non-negotiable’s around what they believe are in the best interest of the children. (Caveat: they likely don’t know the answer so will try and skirt around the topic, don’t get distracted by the words they use to create drama, just keep coming back to what their 3 non-negotiables are around what they believe are in the children’s best interests.)

2) Then provide your 3 non-negotiables.

3) See if there is any common ground – if your Ex has high conflict tendencies, he/she will change the non-negotiables to be opposite to yours. That’s ok.

4) You then propose that to agree to disagree on what you each believe to be in the best interest of the children – but agree to be respectful of the other parents non-negotiables in front of the children.

A person with true high conflict tendencies likely won’t be able to bite their tongue, nor be able to agree to disagree, nor be supportive of your non-negotiables. And that’s also ok.

The exercise wasn’t to get your non-negotiables written in blood somewhere; it was to help you define your own belief system around your non-negotiables.

So that when the children are in your home, during your parenting time, you can stay true to your non-negotiable what is in the best interest of your the children.

And when they go to their other parent’s house, for their parenting time, you have to let go of your non-negotiables and let them parent as they see fit (even if you think they are UNFIT).

You can try till you are blue in the face but you will never, ever, convince your Ex that what you believe is in the best interests of the children is right.

Just like they can try and convince you that their way is the right way, it’s never going to happen.

I am often asked what I think is in the best interest of children and I always give the same response, just one non-negotiable, regardless of circumstance.

If you truly want to do what is in the best interest of your children, give them the opportunity to love you and their other parent unconditionally. It’s their life to live – complete with ebbs, flows, disappointment and joy – let them experience it.