3 Healthier Ways to Respond to Badmouthing

Badmouthing between co-parents can make an already-challenging family situation even more so.

A divorce can lead to bitter feelings and frustration between the individuals who experienced it. Badmouthing is certainly not uncommon in this situation, yet it can make the already-challenging task of co-parenting more stressful than it has to be. Occasional badmouthing between co-parents might be the norm in some instances, while in others, it might feel almost non-stop. Regardless of the degree to which it occurs, the way that parents respond to badmouthing is important, as it can affect how their children not only think of each of their parents but also on how they handle badmouthing and treat others themselves. 

As a parent, doing your best to avoid badmouthing your children's other parent is a positive first step in reducing it from happening overall. But what do you do when the badmouthing is coming from someone else? Whether it's coming from your co-parent, their family, friends, or someone else in your life, enlist the help of healthy strategies to help you quell the badmouthing before it turns into something much larger. Here are three healthier ways to respond to badmouthing. 

Try Not to Become Defensive

When someone is saying negative things about you, it may be hard to fight the urge to step in and defend yourself. However, jumping into the situation without thinking over your defence too much could only prolong the badmouthing. Worse, it might lead you to fall into badmouthing the other person, too. Countering their badmouthing with emotionally-charged comments of your own also continues the cycle, not to mention sets an unhealthy example for your children. 

In truth, how much do you care about what your co-parent thinks or says about you? What is important is what you think about yourself and what kind of role model you are for your children. Resist the urge to become defensive or start saying mean-spirited things yourself. Stay calm and focused on having a productive conversation instead of feeding into the badmouthing.

Stay Neutral 

Hearing that your co-parent or someone else close to you or your children is saying negative things about you can be extremely hurtful. It's hard not to let the negative words of others get you down, especially if that person is criticising your parenting or badmouthing you to your children. Maintain your focus on what kind of example you want to set for your children can help you to find a way to spin your outlook for the better. 

Stay neutral when hearing stories of badmouthing coming from others. It's not always easy, but try not to let it interfere with your parenting and life overall. If you are confident in your parenting, maintain your positive focus on that. If it's your children who tell you that they heard badmouthing about you, don't panic. Address the situation in a neutral tone so that your children feel assured that they can feel safe telling you anything. Additionally, you might take this as an opportunity to discuss badmouthing in general with your children and how it can be hurtful on several levels. 

Take Measures to Make it Stop

When you hear that your co-parent or someone else is badmouthing you, one of your first thoughts may about how you might get this activity to stop. It's important that you take healthy measures to work towards ending the badmouthing rather than prolonging it. If it's your co-parent, talk to them directly and ask for the negative comments to stop. If it's a relative or friend of your co-parent, still consider approaching your co-parent to ask that they help you end this behaviour. Make sure this conversation does not involve your children, as they should never be made get caught in the middle of conflict or difficult conversations between their parents. 

If you aren't able to have a constructive conversation with your co-parent, consider enlisting help from a neutral third party professional. Working with a mediator or a family therapist can increase your odds of having a productive talk that helps you and your co-parent reach a workable resolution. If you feel as though you need additional assistance, consider speaking to your attorney, as they may have the best guidance for you as far as how to handle the situation appropriately while protecting yourself and your children.

No one wants to hear that someone is badmouthing them behind their back. When these situations do arise and have the potential to impact your children, do your best to manage the situation in a healthier way. Stay calm and neutral, and find the most appropriate measures to end the negative talk.