The Irony of Fighting Over “Children’s Best Interests”


Co-parents often fight over what is in the children’s best interest. People throw around the phrase “in the best interest of the child” as if it an absolute, concrete, set in stone thing. It usually isn’t.

Co-parents think that their idea of what is in the best interest of the child is what’s in the best interest of the child. In reality, it is just an idea, based on their beliefs. We all have different beliefs about what benefits children, and although research helps us understand what is in a child’s best interest, people’s individual beliefs are often not based in research.

And, even research is tricky. Research tends to focus on one aspect of a child’s life and children’s lives are not simple. There are layers upon layers of things that affect a child’s development and well-being. In many cases it is almost impossible to look at all of the interacting variables and make a clear-cut judgment.

There is great irony in being in conflict about what is in a child’s best interest. The irony is that CONFLICT is not in a child’s best interest! One of the things that hurt children the most is when their parents fight over them and stay in conflict.

Co-parents can fight over what is in the child’s best interest without considering the impact of the fight itself. This truth is what makes me most sad about these situations. Co-parents often can’t see what they are putting their children in the middle of, and how harmful it is. They will loudly proclaim what is the best interest of their child, without seeing that what they are engaging in is not in the best interest of the child.

Here are some things for co-parents to think about. 

  1. Co-parents would be wise to examine their ideas. I cringe when I am working with co-parents and they strongly announce what is in the best interest of the child as if it is fact. I am reminded of the bumper sticker I’ve seen: “Don’t always believe what you think.” Question your own beliefs about what is in your children’s best interest. Have the wisdom to know that just because you believe something doesn’t mean it’s true.
  2.  It is better to let go of most arguments even if you don’t get what you want. Truly, save conflict for important things, and be VERY DISCERNING about what is really important.
  3. Your goal is to raise happy, well-adjusted children, not to WIN. Always consider whether the action you are taking will contribute to raising happy, healthy children. If your action is likely to stir up conflict, be truthful with yourself about how conflict impacts your children, and be wise about the way you move forward.
  4. Focus on connection and relationship with children. We know from the research that CONNECTION and RELATIONSHIP are what’s most important to children’s development. When you are with your children, REALLY BE with your children. SEE them. HEAR them. They will benefit from this much, much more than most of the things you fight about. The POWER you have to raise happy well-adjusted children lies in the way you connect with them in the time that you have with them. Don’t squander it!

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One Response

  1. I really appreciate your perspective on what is “ in the best interest of the child.” I have been struggling to understand what that means, and I’m glad to know it’s not black and white – the realm of court and legalities can be misleading and confusing.

    Thank you for your help.

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I am Alisa Jaffe Holleron, the creator/author of An Unexpected Journey book, classes and professional workshops. I hope you will explore my material, purchase a book, come to a class, or if you are a professional, come to a workshop, and learn about the work that I am proud to say has helped many many divorced co-parents find power and wisdom in very difficult circumstances. I look forward to serving you!

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