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What Is Bad Co-Parenting? 9 Signs to Look For

by | Jan 17, 2024 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

Shared parenting is hard – but how do you know if you’re dealing with a bad co-parent or just someone who is just annoying?

Sometimes we have to suck it up and deal with annoying.

If we addressed everything our ex did that was annoying, we’d probably die from emotional exhaustion.

Instead, it’s important to understand exactly what bad (not annoying) co-parenting is so that you can address it with clarity and strategy.

This is about recognizing things like the refusal to communicate and take care of parental responsibilities.

It’s about knowing if you are in a manipulative situation that is harming you and your child.

So if you’re in a tough co-parenting situation, let’s take a look at the signs to see if you’re actually dealing with a bad co-parent:

Signs of a Bad and Toxic Co-Parent

1. Lack of Empathy

One of the key signs that you are dealing with a bad co-parent is their consistent lack of empathy. If your ex-partner consistently dismisses your feelings, concerns, or the needs of your children, it may be a sign of narcissistic behavior.

For example, if you tell your ex you’re worried about something, they may tell you that you are being overdramatic. This leaves you feeling unheard and unvalidated.

2. Manipulative Behaviors

Manipulative tactics, like guilt-tripping, gaslighting, or constant attempts to control situations, can create a toxic co-parenting dynamic.

Imagine that you need to reschedule a visit because of a family event. Your co-parent might try to make you feel guilty, saying that you are “taking time away from their child,” even if you offer to reschedule.

3. Inconsistent Parenting

A bad co-parent may be inconsistent with their involvement and commitment to parenting. This inconsistency can lead to confusion and instability for your kiddos, which can affect their emotional well-being.

For example, your ex might promise to attend a school event but cancel at the last minute or just not show up. Or they don’t stick to the parenting plan and frequently miss visitations.

4. Difficulty in Co-Parenting Communication

Effective communication is the only way that co-parenting can truly work. A bad co-parent may cause unnecessary and stupid conflicts, refuse to communicate, or use communication as a tool for manipulation.

I know many times I tried to bring legitimate concerns to my ex in a way that was straightforward and civil – only to have him personally attack me or try to turn the conversation into a heated argument.

5. Self-Centered Behavior

A narcissistic co-parent often prioritizes their own needs and desires over those of their children. Their self-centered approach can result in neglecting their children’s emotional and physical needs.

For instance, your ex might try to change their parenting time schedule based on their convenience instead of sticking to something that works for the child. Or they may refuse to pay child support because they want to keep their money and not give you any.

6. Lack of Boundaries

A bad co-parent is not likely going to respect your boundaries. They may consistently violate them, making it challenging for you to maintain a cooperative relationship with the other parent.

An example would be your ex showing up unannounced at your home and ignoring the agreed-upon visitation schedule. Or they continually call you when you have asked them to communicate with you through text or email.

7. Constant Criticism

Excessive criticism, whether points at your or your children, is a huge bad co-parenting red flag. A toxic co-parent may use criticism as a way to assert their control and undermine your confidence as a parent.

Your ex might make comments about your child’s clothes or their performance in school, blaming you for issues and telling you what you do wrong and how you should do it differently.

8. Emotional Turmoil for the Kids

Unfortunately, it’s the kids that get caught in the middle of a bad co-parent’s nonsense.

Children are highly perceptive, and a bad co-parenting situation can have a negative impact on their emotional well-being.

Be sure to watch for signs of distress or behavioral changes in your children.

9. Inappropriate Co-Parenting Behavior

Actions like involving the children in adult conflicts, using them to send messages to the other parent, or trying to turn them against you are all inappropriate co-parenting behaviors.

These need to be addressed directly. If your ex won’t correct these behaviors, then it’s time to talk to a lawyer.

How to Deal With a Bad Co-Parent

Dealing with a bad co-parent takes tons of patience with some strategic approaches.

Even though this blog offers tons of ways to deal with difficult co-parents, here are some ideas in a nutshell:

  • Establish Clear Boundaries: Clearly define and communicate boundaries to your ex. This can include how you communicate (text, email, etc.), what you will respond to, and what you will ignore.
  • Focus on Communication: Yeah, communication is a huge source of stress when you’re dealing with a bad co-parent. Make sure you focus all conversations on your child and limit them to text or email to avoid face-to-face confrontation.
  • Talk to Lawyer: If nothing you do works, or you need some professional guidance, talk to a family law attorney (even if it’s a free consultation at your local family court office).
  • Prioritize Your Kiddos: Remember that your kids are the most important part of co-parenting. Keep their best interests at heart when you make parenting decisions.
  • Self-Care: You’re also an important part of this too! Make sure you’re taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally during these struggles.

For more about taking care of yourself through co-parenting challenges, check out my article here!

Bad Co-Parenting Quotes You Can Relate To

When things get tough, sometimes it helps to find solace in the experiences of others. Here are some quotes that are hopefully comforting and make you feel less alone:

“Co-parenting with a narcissist is like trying to co-pilot a plane with someone who’s constantly trying to crash it.”

“In the chaos of co-parenting, always be calm for your children. Let it all out when they’re not around.”

“It takes strength to deal with a bad co-parent, and it takes love to make sure your child doesn’t feel the weight of it.”

“Co-parenting with a narcissist: Where every success is a threat, and every failure is ‘your fault.’”

“The best revenge is living a happy life despite a difficult co-parent.”

Raising Children With a Bad Co-Parent

Dealing with a bad co-parent is challenging and stressful – but knowing what to look for can help you address the behaviors and create a healthier environment for your child.

While you may never reach 100% successful co-parenting, calming the chaos that affects your child is possible.

Make sure you check out my other articles to help you deal with a narcissistic co-parent!

Are you dealing with a bad co-parent? What signs are you noticing? Let us know in the comments below! ⬇️⬇️⬇️

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Let’s create a supportive community and navigate the complexities of co-parenting with strength and resilience!


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