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My divorced parents care more about hurting each other than they do about me and my sibling. How could I get them to stop this behavior and focus on us instead?

Use Brain Hacks

You can hack your divorced parents’ brains to alter their behavior. Humans are social creatures and we love to feel needed. That’s why the first thing you should do when you move somewhere is to ask your new neighbor for a favor.

So, start with the nuclear option. Use variations of, “Could you please not fuss about Dad today; I’ve had a hectic week and I just need a little peace right now.” It’s super effective because our brains are hard-wired to assist people who need help–especially kids. Since this is the nuclear option, don’t use it every time or it could lose its effectiveness.

Otherwise, stay positive, always agree, ask questions, appeal to nobler motives, and stay positive.

Adjust the following example to fit your situation and personality:

Dad: Your mom is a shoe.

Kid: Yes, she can be hard to deal with sometimes (agreeing). She knows how to cheer me up. (Going positive.) Last week she made me a cake. (No transition words even though it feels awkward. You started out agreeing with him which flips the “agreeable” switch in his brain. Then you suddenly go positive while that switch is on and his brain is stuck in agree mode. If you use a transition word (but, however, although) then you flip the switch back to argue mode. That’s bad. Practice with a friend before trying it on a parent.)

Dad: Rabble rabble rabble.

Kid: What do you like about being a parent? (A question to get his brain to turn on the parenting mode.)

Dad: Blah blah blah.

Kid: Do you know I really love both you and Mom and it’s stressful when you guys try to hurt each other? (Appealing to nobler motives while his brain is in parenting mode.)

Dad: Rabble rabble rabble.

It’s not rocket science. It’s super easy to train your divorced parents to behave, but you have to be very patient and very consistent and trust that it will work. You want to gradually move them over to the light side by nudging them ever so slightly every day. Always stay positive and have high expectations, then go nuclear when it feels like the best option.

Good luck!

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