ne of the joys of parenting is re-living life through your child’s eyes.
It could be anything from the first time they tried Carrots to listening to the third side of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti album and everything in between.
I know that it’s brought me a tremendous amount of joy being able to see the delight in my kids eyes when they discover something new.
Along that delight of “old things” becoming new again, comes a responsibility on how to present it.
You might be exited at first, or even a little apprehensive, depending on what it is - But as least there is some sort of enthusiasm on your part.
You also know that certain things need to be limited, like television and screen time in general.
Plus you obviously wouldn’t expose a young child to something that might scare them.
At the same time you want to make it explicit that things like love and support are in an endless supply coming from you, as a parent. While you might need to limit a few things, you will always love your child and that love will never run out.
Today’s Podcast is about the lines of responsibility and what it means to be a responsible CoParent to your child. I also want to discuss how to divide up the roles of responsibility with your CoParent, which is a pretty important subject.
If you’ve missed the previous three episodes of this Podcast, we came up with a term together that I am going to use in this segment as well. This is the term “partarent” and, in simplest terms, it’s referring to the person with whom you co-parent your child. It’s basically a word that is just the combination of “part-time parent” and “ex-partner”. The intention is that this term transcends gender is just simply a shortcut term for the person you co-parent with.
I want to coin another phrase that is unique to this Blog.
It’s an acronym... and before you roll your eyes at me, there is a reason for doing this.
It’s a shortcut to something that has deeper meanings and potentially future implications:
It’s LORP, and it stands for “the Lines of Responsible Parenting”.
And while I’m a sucker for preaching about how flexibility is important and that we should always proceed with positive praise, the term LORP is going to stand for the “how it should be” rather than the “what is so”.
This means that sometimes you need to lay-down-the-law in your household and sometimes you need to let kids discover things for themselves. But let me give a few examples of what I’m talking about:
So, the LORP for kids under the age of 2 is that you cover up electrical sockets.
The LORP for 10 year old girls who are online is that you apply parental controls on the computer she is using.
The LORP for a 16 year old boy is that he must have a driver’s license before he drives the car.
While these might seem intuitive to you, since you are such a good parent, sometimes you just need to spell them out. And that’s exactly what we’re going to explore.
Why Does LORP Matter?
Because kids rely on you for the essentials of life, like food, shelter and clothing it’s important to put them first. Of course, any good parent is going to put the needs of their children over and beyond their own. That goes without saying.
So, while it’s super fun to see their enthusiasm and delight with trying something new, and even getting into a positive routine (like brushing their teeth or self-care of some sort) there are times when you need to draw the line.
For me, these are areas where I don’t compromise and you shouldn’t either.
Forget about definitions like “helicopter parenting” and even the feeling that you might be meddling in their lives. This is where you’ve got to set up healthy expectations and express this to your Pararent so that you are both on the same page.
For me, I’ve noticed the following as a general outline for me and my kids.
Sleep, eating, care/self-care and computer usage, specifically online computer usage.
Here’s what’s specifically worked for me:
Sleep must be 8 hours a night or more. Bedtime is typically 8:00 for kids 5 to 9 and I let them wake up on their own. Older kids, it’s 9:00 bedtime on a School Night.
Eating is a limitation of sugar and processed food by simply not bringing it into the house so that it’s not an option. This doesn’t mean that I deny them Sugar and Processed Foods, rather I vote “against” it by not buying it very often and, like I said, not letting it in the house.
Teeth must be brushed twice a day and shower at least every other day, even if it means I have to draw a bath and hang out, watching them in the water.
Online computer usage is no more than 2 hours a day for both of my kids. The teenager is more concerned about online usage than my 6 year old, who just wants to play video games.
Of course, any computer time uses high heuristics, or rules, when it comes to Parental controls. Even if you have to spend a little more time running up and down the stairs to approve websites they want to visit, it’s worth it in the long run.
Okay, there ya go.
Those are ultra-specific things that vary according to the age of the child and the environmental conditions of my CoParent Culture.
Sometimes these bleed into things outside of the home, meaning things outside of the control within the house. For example, I don’t start or allow Computer or Phone time if we’re walking home from school or waiting for food in a restaurant.
For me, being Present is the outcome I am looking for. I want my kids, even if they aren’t focused, to be present on the people around them and the world around them. As you heard from the specifics that I listed, there is plenty of “veg out” time on their own if they want to use up their computer time.
Along with these rules comes an understanding.
Now, when it comes to making these known or explicit to your Pararent, I highly encourage you to lay it all out. Be as open as you can and don’t be afraid of being ultra-specific, like I was with the bedtime or the computer time.
If you are getting resistance from them, consider that an opportunity to talk about it.
Like I mentioned in the first episode, you want to re-create your relationship to your child’s Co-parent in a way where you can freely listen to them. You might not agree, but at least they are able to be heard and you have the opportunity to listen to their reasons why they disagree.
Ultimately, we know that it’s up to you your Partarent to keep each other in integrity with your child. It’s certainly not the kids job to tattle on their CoParent.
When A Single Point Of Contact Makes Sense
With some things, it’s helpful to have a single point of contact. What I mean by this is that one Parent takes full responsibility for something that typically would be a dual-person role in a more traditional family structure.
Most of the time this might make sense if one person is handling the insurance or works less hours, where it’s a matter of sheer convenience rather than a “have to” kind of situation.
Move importantly, these are things that you and your Partarent agree that one person should handle.
It might be as simple as a Soccer practice commitment every Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 or making sure that your child makes it on time to a doctor's appointment. But if there is going to be a single point of contact, the other CoParent needs to be in communication with the other.
So, again, this is where you need to be super specific and as explicit as possible. Things like doctor's appointments, especially when the kids are super young (like before the start school) are often recurring and appointments need to be kept.
Each situation is going to be slightly different, but what I’ve found to be most effective is that if one person handles something, just leave it in their hands unless it’s really clear that there needs to be some sort of intervention.
That said, I make a conscious effort to text my Partarent whenever anything happens: Good or bad dentists appointments, extra long Softball practice or some sort of school activity that might be happening. It doesn’t matter what it is.
In fact, we made a pact years ago that we could never over-communicate about our child. Of course, we did this before texting was in your pocket - which just makes it a little easier.
The reason for the clarity is because you are less likely to miss appointments and get the Lines of Responsible Parenting crossed when you are in communication with each other.
But what happens if they do cross? Or what happens when one of the Parents drops the ball and misses an appointment or gets hit with a large medical bill that was due to insurance not covering it properly?
Again, here is an opportunity keep consistent lines of communication open and available.
What Happens When LORP Lines Cross?
It’s been my experience that this is the one thing, aside from alimony and money exchange that is a huge potential road-block.
Sure, it’s a pain to have to reschedule appointments and missed Softball practices are a bummer, but the real challenge comes from not communicating properly with your CoParent.
Maybe you had a coach call you, waiting with your daughter after practice has ended.
Or maybe you were cleaning out your daughter’s backpack and found three empty soda cans when you requested of your partarent that they not have sugar for a couple days.
You can see where this is going.
And the reality is that we’re all human and we make mistakes.
Not only do we make mistakes, but there is chance that some of us invite those mistakes simply because we want our children to like us.
Ah ha, so there it is. This is the time when it’s very convenient to not mention something to your Partarent, especially if it violated a previous agreement and integrity was broken.
And hey, I’ve done this. I’ve intentionally withheld information for my Daughter to like me.
It wasn’t until later on when I came back to my Partarent and confessed, which wasn’t easy to do, but it did close the loop on being out of integrity and being a bad example for my kid.
And we’ve all done something like this in the past, either pre-Co-Parenting or during our Co-Parenting life.
When they cross like this, make sure to not react. You might feel mad in the moment, but remember that Mature Boundary we discussed in episode 3? This is an opportunity to really make that something incredibly present for you.
So, stay calm.
And while there is probably a reasonable explanation for what happened, maybe it’s not the best time to bring it up in the moment. Sometimes it's best to just let things breathe, especially if your child isn’t in any way, shape or form in any sort of danger.
Then, when the time is right, reach out to your Partarent and ask about what happened.
Make sure that you give your Co-Parent the space they need to answer you in a way that isn’t going to come off as defensive. Maybe your Partarent had no idea about the soda cans and your daughter got them from a friend at school.
There are going to be stumbling blocks along the way, but crossing the Lines of Responsible Parenting doesn’t need to be a challenge.
Again I would suggest to internalize this as an opportunity to communicate with your Co-Parent.
In addition to obviously staying calm, try to re-create them - putting on their perspective and putting yourself into their shoes.
It also doesn’t hurt to remind them that your role isn’t to be your child’s friend… that will come later in life, if you’ve raised adults that respect and honor you. Your job is to be your child’s Parent.
Sometimes being a parent isn’t always a clear-cut path, but you can certainly do your best to foster an environment of love and understanding.
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