Most of the divorced with kids crowd will have played the "competition game" before. Some play competitive all the time. Experts will tell you it's not good for the kids. I've been collecting stories from children of divorce for years, and the kids will tell you it's not good.
Even with all the data pointing to the fact that using your kids as pawns and competing for your kids is not good for them, people continue to do it. If you are one of those that are stuck with an ex that just can't stop competing, I've got a trick for you. Follow my advice and you can compete and WIN! Bonus effect, your kids win when you compete to win my way.
Here's how to compete to win with an ex that can't stop competing.
Compete for Time - You can't control what your kids do when they aren't with you, but you can control some things when they are with you. So compete to spend the most quality time you can with your kids when they are with you. Single parents don't often have much time, but you can carve out special time devoted to your kids each day that you have them. Choose a book you all can enjoy and take turns reading for 30 minutes each night. Cook dinner together, play a board game, take turns making up stories and sharing them -- there are tons of things you can do inside of 30 minutes to spend quality time with your children and develop a good relationship with them. Only one rule, you can't talk about your ex or anything that goes on over at the other house.
Compete to Be The Kindest - Again, you can only control you, so why not compete to be the nicest one? If you have a nasty ex, you are most likely guaranteed to win, but the real winners will be your children. You will be setting a fine example of how to treat others and how to rise above in situations beyond your control. You can demonstrate the fine art of taking the high road. Double bonus, the less time you spend playing competition with the ex, the more time you have for better things.
Compete to Be the Best Parent You Can Be - Parenting is hard work and it takes time. It's even harder after divorce. Did you know it's the little day to day things that build great relationships? Each day you have a chance to be the best parent you can be. You only have to compete with yourself and the kids always win! Slow down, the earth won't stop spinning. Practice patience, practice kindness, practice listening and practice forgiveness. Each time you pay attention to these things, you will find that your life flows smoother, you get along with your children better and you might even find that your ex lets up on harassing you when he/she figures out you won't fight back anymore. The days are long, but the years fly by -- you don't want to spend the short few (half time) years with your children complaining about your ex or competing with your ex.
You can start today. Be creative, you can do it!
Here are three scenarios: (1) Kids go with one parent on a private jet to a private island, nothing but water sports, chefs and nannies. Kids do tons of things, but parents are mostly busy by themselves. Kids come back and tell the other parent all about the fancy trip. Other parent gets sad. (2) Kids go with one parent on a road trip to the beach. All three kids pile in the car and they stay at average hotels. They play car games, sleep together in one room and tell bedtime stories and build sandcastles on the beach together. (3) Single parent takes the two kids and they have a picnic under the kitchen table and build a fort in the bedroom and camp out and eat cold smores.
Here's a little secret - my kids and your kids could really care less how fancy things are (despite what they might say to you) but they really care that you spend time with time, listen to them, really listen to them, and get to know them. So while scenario number one might sound like the winner, the kids in scenario two and three will remember these things for over 20 years. The kids in scenario one let this trip blend in with all the others, the ones where the kids are left with the nannies and in camps.