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Competitive co-parenting: A danger to the family

Navigating life after a divorce can be a challenge, especially when it comes to parenting. A divorce can take a hefty emotional toll on the entire family. And, unfortunately, it is common for parents to fall into a pattern of competitive co-parenting.


What is competitive co-parenting?

Competitive co-parenting occurs when divorced parents compete with each other for the child’s affections. There are many reasons behind such competition. Some parents might feel guilty, while others might even hope to punish the other parent after the divorce.

Essentially, parents try to seem like the better parent. They want their child to like them more than they do the other parent. Often, this behavior might begin while parents are still married, and divorce only emphasizes the competition between parents.

In many cases, parents might not even be aware of the competition since it can manifest in many ways, including:

  • Not enforcing rules to be “the fun parent”
  • Badmouthing the other parent in front of the child
  • Buying expensive gifts, toys or vacations for the child

Regardless of how it manifests, these actions are all in an attempt to outdo the other parent.

This competition can be unhealthy

Unfortunately, when parents compete, it is often not about the child. It is about the other parent, and perhaps the leftover emotions from a complex divorce.

The children often get lost in the midst of this competition. And several studies have found that such competition can hurt a child’s development in the long run.

Even if parents do not get along after the divorce, it is critical that they eliminate competition and focus on what is in the best interests of their child. Colorado family courts consider these factors when determining custody, but divorced parents should continue to prioritize their child’s best interests.

It might be helpful to address the root of the competition as well as how parents can meet their child’s needs and interests in the parenting agreement.

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