How to Deal With a Coparent Who Spoils — Without Losing Your Sanity

Whether you're married, divorced, or separated, it doesn't matter: coparenting is never easy when you and your child's mother or father are on different wavelengths. While it's important for children to have relationships with both parents, if possible, sometimes one parent's spoiling tendencies can contradict the values that you're working so hard to instill in your tot. If your ex is continuously disregarding your requests to cut down on the extravagant gestures and isn't respecting your opinions, there are a number of things you can do before the over-the-top gifts have a lasting, negative impact on your child's behavior. Check out these tips on how to deal with the frustrating situation of an ex who spoils — without losing your cool.

  1. Don't let labels blind you: Don't let fears of not being considered the "fun one" or the "good cop" influence how you parent. If your ex's behavior is changing how your child views you, it becomes even more important to stick to what you feel is important in order for you to instill those values in your child.
  2. Look for the deeper source: Even if it feels like your ex is deliberately disregarding everything you've discussed and is still showering your child with gifts, don't let the frustration get the best of you. Try looking for the deeper reason why he or she feels the need to spoil your child. It's most likely out of guilt, insecurity, or an attempt to make up for lost time. Take comfort in this newfound understanding as you appreciate that you're secure enough in your relationship with your kiddo to do what's best for them in the long run and not because it makes you feel better.
  3. Consider a neutral party: The unbiased opinion of a neutral party can be extremely enlightening. They have the ability to look at the situation removed from any baggage or drama and keep little things from being taken personally and blown into major issues.
  4. Agree ahead of time: If your ex has a clear understanding of what you're trying to enforce ahead of time, everyone will be on the same page before the visit even begins. Keep in mind that many coparents are usually thinking about fun — especially if they spend less time with the tot — and not about your specific concerns unless you make a point of addressing them.
  5. Explain your reasoning: Be sure to discuss the reasoning behind the rules that you'd like your ex to also encourage. Things will go easier during the next visit if he or she knows why something is a major area of concern — instead of assuming you're just trying to make things more difficult for them. This will also make them feel like they're on your team and a part of the solution without thinking you're attacking them.
  6. Be open with your kids about it: From early on, clearly tell your kids that some parents have different rules. It's OK for parents to have special traditions as long as your child doesn't come home with those same expectations. This fosters respect for both ideologies and allows for an open dialogue about what behaviors are valued in your home as you acknowledge the differences.
  7. Don't let them manipulate you: When you sense that an ex is deliberately trying to undermine you, it can become a problem very quickly. Never let him pit you against the children by saying things like, "Mommy won't let you do that, but I will!" If that starts, it's important to address it immediately and make it known to your child that behavior like that won't be tolerated.
  8. Have the difficult talk: Depending on how out of hand things get, you should initiate a serious discussion. This can be difficult with exes, but it's also incredibly important — especially if they're around often. If they're doing things to deliberately undermine your parenting capacity, find a time away from your child to go over what's bothering you. However, remember to stay focused on what behaviors you want to encourage in your child and not just target what you think they're doing wrong.
  9. Don't jump to negative conclusions: Try finding the positive and assuming good intent whenever your ex does something that you think is extravagant. This will help you see things from their perspective and keep you from filling with rage at every gesture you view to be over the top.
  10. Don't take it out on the child: Don't punish your kiddo or badmouth your ex in front of your child whenever he or she is treated to something extravagant. It isn't your kids' fault that they are coming home with expensive gifts or experiences. You don't want them to feel put in the middle or that they can't enjoy their other parent's kind gestures.
  11. Shift your focus: Don't spend all of your energy constantly trying to control what your ex does or doesn't do. Instead, focus on how you can be the best parent possible without letting other frustrations derail you from raising a considerate little person.
  12. Reinforce important values: If you can't get your ex to cut back on the spending sprees, try positively reinforcing key values. If the time your kiddo spends with you is focused on praising certain behaviors, like helping others, doing schoolwork, and completing chores, this will help balance the time he or she spends being exposed to monetary values with your ex.