We receive phone calls from parents on a regular basis, frustrated by an “overly permissive” co-parent. One parent does not think video games are appropriate; the other allows the child to play Minecraft. One parent is still encouraging the child to stick to movies like Toy Story; the other feels that watching Iron Man is just fine. One parent feels like a child is old enough and mature enough to come home from school to an empty house for an hour or so; the other believes that the child should attend after-care until a parent can pick him up.
Inevitably, there will come a time following the end of the co-parents’ relationship where they will part ways when it comes to parenting decisions which are not in the nature of “joint legal custody,” e.g. the big decisions related to education, non-emergency medical treatment, and religious training. Parents are not always in complete agreement. Recognizing that there will be divergent views on some parenting issues is the first step toward working through those issues, as well as the other parent’s discomfort with parenting choices.
Parents must first consider: is the activity causing a physical danger to the child? Unless it’s axe or knife throwing, probably not. Secondly, are other children that child’s age doing similar things? There are probably parents who fall on both sides of the issue. Ask friends and co-workers, for example, at what age their child started staying home without a parent present, and under what circumstances. When did their children first see Star Wars? Every child is different, and while some movies may be traumatizing to one child, other children may know and understand “playing pretend” and enjoy them. Finally, contact your attorney before firing off a nasty-gram to your co-parent about the issue. Your attorney will help you parse out actual “legal” issues from simple differences in parenting.
Bottom line, there will be things that your co-parent does with which you will not agree. However, unless they are issues related to joint legal custody matters or will cause physical or emotional trauma to the child, you will probably have to live with them. You are no longer in the same household as your co-parent and cannot control what goes on in his/her household.
Focus instead on promoting your own parenting values in your home. Your child will have the benefit of observing two parents who trust the other’s parenting and allow the child to thrive in both homes.