I have been experimenting with a technique of communication for the high-conflict ex.
Employ when you need him to say yes to a request. It is especially effective when your children are asking for a deviation from the regular parenting schedule.
I call it the “cafeteria plan.“
Here is how it works:
- Figure out exactly what you or your children want.
- Clearly ask for that in writing.
- Explain why it is desirable
- Explain how that is also what he wants because that is what is best for the child.
- Then offer a buffet of ways to make it happen (think of yourself as the cafeteria lady offering dishes)
Let me give you an example:
Recently I had a client whose child wanted to take karate lessons. His preference was to take lessons at the local studio so he could be in class with his buddies. Dad lives about 40 minutes from that location, so he wanted the activity to occur closer to his home. He refused to consent. My client felt that the children should not be prejudiced by the Dad’s decision to move out of their school zone. But, that reason was not going to get a lot of traction. We employed the cafeteria plan.
Johnny would like to attend karate this summer at the local martial arts studio. I understand your preference for him to take karate closer to you. This issue is – he wants to take his brown belt certification with his school friends. That is especially important as there will be a lot of partner exercise. As a teenage boy, he is at an age where he has very specific opinions and as his parents, we can listen. Here are some suggestions of how we can make this work:
For the evening classes that fall during your parenting time (there are 6), Johnny can come to my house after school and I will get him to the karate studio for class. You can either:
- pick him up after class
- let him stay here on those nights and I will drop him at school the next morning – you resume your time after school
- meet me at a halfway point – I will drive him after class toward your home
This will not work if your email is laced with disdain and judgment.
Let’s be strategic. There is no need to argue with an obstinate ex. And involving your lawyer will add to your legal fees. There is a far better way to get your ex to yes.