In situations where parents are at odds or separated, it’s not uncommon for one parent to criticize or diminish the other in front of the child. It may be overt or covert… intentional or incidental… but it happens.
When it does, the criticizing parent may feel they are simply telling the truth (and in the process establishing who is the better parent). They may even feel they’re helping the child feel safer by assuring them there is at least one caring/loving/responsible parent.
That is not what’s happening.
Here’s what’s actually happening:
Every child knows they are the product of both parents. When one parent teaches the child there is something wrong with the other parent, the lesson the child learns is not “thank goodness I have at least one good parent.” The lesson the child learns is “uh oh, if there’s something wrong with one of my parents there is something wrong with me.”
This is not a helpful lesson for any child.
Co-parenting is about support. Not just for the child, but for each other as well. That’s a good lesson for anyone!