Ask Your Child to Itemize the Pros and Cons of Your Household.
Here’s an eye-opener: Give your kids a pencil and a piece of paper and ask them to list all of the pros and cons of living (or staying) at your house. Regardless of whether you’re the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent, kids are likely to have some opinions about your home, your yard, your house rules, your food, and your lifestyle. Get them down on paper.
Why is this helpful? For one thing, you may learn something about your child’s likes and dislikes that would otherwise never have been expressed. But you may also learn about areas of potential vulnerability if your child is interviewed by a judge or a psychologist. For example, imagine if your son or daughter told a judge (without ever having first told you) that your cooking stinks or that he or she disapproves of all of the fried food that you serve for dinner. By inquiring into the “pros and cons” of living at your house, you’ll get a deeper understanding of the kinds of things your child might talk about, when prompted by a therapist, a custody evaluator or a judge.
Asking your kids to itemize the positive and negative aspects of your household also presents an opportunity for you to improve your custodial position with the child. If a child complains, for example, that you set bedtime far too early, then you should talk about this subject. Start a dialogue on the issue of bedtime. Perhaps you’ll extend the bedtime on certain days of the week, or on certain other conditions. By showing some give-and-take on these issues, you’ll not only strengthen your communication with the child but you’ll teach the child the value of expressing one’s opinions and a civil, balanced method for achieving results. Imagine if such a child told a judge, “I used to think my mom made me go to bed too early, but we talked about it, and she explained to me how important it was to get a good night’s sleep. So some nights I get to stay up later now, as long as I sleep a little longer in the morning.”
Has anybody ever tried this? Have you ever made changes based on your children’s complaints? Please share.