It can be challenging to raise children with someone who insists you have no role in raising children.
Yes, those children are your siblings, and you yourself are a child, and your co-parent is someone who has successfully cleaned your butt on several occasions.
But your siblings’ survival—the world’s entire future—depends upon you. How can you get your co-parent to accept that you alone can fix the ways they’re screwing up this whole child-rearing thing?
And not just a little bit—like, oh my GOD.
Tip No. 1: Repeat all instructions
Your parent barks out a dizzying array of commands all day, every day. Most of them are stupid. Some of them are wrong. All of them are clearly meant for other, non-you kids.
And it is incumbent upon you, as a co-parent, to restate them.
Loudly and repeatedly.
Shriek those instructions like a middle manager clutching a memo from corporate, and corporate wants everyone to PUT SHOES AND SOCKS ON NOW, LIKE RIGHT NOW, WE’RE LATE.
You’re not late. You’re working. Your siblings are late because they are small and inattentive, and your co-parent is late because they don’t plan ahead—by, say, duct-taping everyone’s shoes to their feet the night before, while they’re asleep.
You’ll try that tonight.
In the meantime, while you re-holler your co-parent’s instructions, give them grace by ignoring the non-instructive things they’re shouting, like “YOU ARE NOT THE MOM” and “I DON’T NEED BACK-UP” and “PUT YOUR OWN SHOES ON!”
You hate those shoes. They bought the wrong ones. Be sure to remind them.
Tip No. 2: Find common ground
Try to remember that both you and your parent have objectives. That’s something you have in common.
Your objective is to get your parent to leave you alone with your siblings for a Bluey marathon, interspersed with vicious, hair-pulling fights and consumption of an entire package of Oreos from the cabinet above the microwave, where the good stuff is.
Your parent’s objective is to—well, that’s unclear. Yell a lot and go to work? Seems boring. Have they ever watched Bluey? Have they ever even tried an Oreo? Ask them if they want an Oreo.
How can they not have time for an Oreo? Add this fact to your growing stack of evidence that they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing.
Tip No. 3: Use active listening
It can be hard to listen to someone who is so woefully unqualified to complete even the most basic tasks, like locating the right sweater (with the unicorn riding a surfboard) and not the WRONG sweater (with the unicorn riding a bicycle).
But even so, we all have only one mouth, and two ears, for a reason. And that reason—if your ears hang low—is to swing them to and fro, and to tie them in a knot, and to tie them in a bow. Sing your co-parent a catchy little ditty to help them remember.
Tip No. 4: Even when you disagree, communicate
Use your words. Yes, your parent is wrong about everything all the time, and they need to know it. Tell them in every language you know, and you know several, because your school uses a multilingual curriculum instead of letting you watch Bluey all day.
Express your concerns.
Your parent shouldn’t hold the baby that way. Your siblings like their sandwiches cut in triangles, not rectangles. The bubble bath you all like has Elsa on the bottle, not Olaf, and absolutely not Kristoff—where did they even FIND Kristoff? Did they go to the wrong store again? Probably.
Make sure no one actually cooperates with bathtime until they make it right. But be sure to scream “IT’S TIME TO TAKE A BATH” anyway, because your parent said it, and that’s your job.
Tip No. 5: Be hard on problems, not on your co-parent
It’s important to collaborate to solve problems, even when—especially when—the problem is your co-parent, a clueless grown-up.
You may not always see eye to eye, but that’s because they’re at least a foot taller than you. Focus on the problem: they can’t hear you or see you all the way up there. So the louder you are, and the more you jump up and down and wave your arms around, the better they’ll understand the message you’re conveying.
Which is, of course, that they’re really screwing up this whole parenting thing.
Like, oh my GOD.