You may inquire, “What if all that I do is calmly speak the unexaggerated truth?” It is that exact situation that this Tip is written to address. If you exaggerate about your Ex, or do not tell the whole truth (in other words, lie), I assume that you do not need a Tip to tell you to stop. But let’s be honest. “Truth” can be an excuse to vent to your kids.
Unfortunately, when you criticize your Ex, your children are as likely to blame you as him or her, regardless of the “truth.” I am no therapist but I observe the following children’s views:
– When Dad talks negatively about Mom, whether it is true or not, Child just wants him to stop. If he persists, Child begins to resent him. Haranguing is no more useful here than getting Child to keep her room clean.
– Child’s relationship with Dad, on some level, is none of Mom’s business and Mom’s negative comments make child more protective of Dad and their relationship.
– Child was a party to the divorce and knows that the complaining parent wasn’t exactly perfect themself. Child is willing to forgive both parents; why can’t they do the same?
– And finally, and perhaps most powerfully, “That’s my Mother/Father you’re talking about, shut up.”
I have seen children in their twenties, thirties and forties show respect and admiration for a divorced parent who never criticized the other parent to them – even if the other parent was truly deserving of criticism. I have seen children in their twenties, thirties and forties just shake their heads at the negative comments made by one parent about the other. They did not seem to care much about the “truth.” . They did seem to care about the indirect coercion of such criticism.
If your Ex is a jerk, your children will figure that out on their own, normally much more quickly if they do not feel the need to rebel against your criticisms. If your children choose to ignore the evidence against your Ex, that is their prerogative. The bottom line is that you can only hurt your relationship with your child; it will never improve with the smack talk.