By Michael Aurit, JD, MDR
Co-Parent: I would ask you about switching our days with the kids next week, but you’re totally in your own world, and now that you’ve got a “new friend,” what I think doesn’t matter.
You could react.
You: My own world?? You’ve been in your own world for years!
You: What does my new friend, who has a name, have to do with anything?
You: When have you ever asked me to switch days!?
And the conversation goes downhill from there.
Or—you could reframe.
You: I think I’m hearing you say that you want to trade Monday for Tuesday next week. That works for me.
Imagine your co-parent’s response to that beauty!
Reframing is restating what someone says to you in a new and more productive way. Reframing a statement that focuses on the true meaning and removes any blame, criticism, or defensiveness. Reframing is the most effective strategy I use as a professional mediator to help parents communicate better.
Here are some tips when reframing something your co-parent says or writes:
- Validate your co-parent’s emotions.
- Clarify your co-parent’s intent of the message.
- Remove any blame, criticism, or defensive language or tone.
- Use more neutral or positive language.
- Highlight any opportunities.
Co-Parent: You’re always late, and it cuts into my time with the kids!
Here’s how you can pause, reframe,
[Validate] I understand—I would be upset too.
[Clarify their intent] Every moment matters.
[Remove blame / Use positive language] I hear you saying that it’s important that the kids be ready for you on time.
[Neutral] For the next month, they have swim lessons until 5 p.m., so the earliest they can be ready is 5:15 p.m.
[Highlight opportunity] Would it work for you to pick them up from swimming or drop them off 15 minutes later to make up the time?
You don’t have control over what your co-parent says, but as a courageous co-parent, you can pause and reframe it before responding. Reframing instantly changes the course of the conversation.
Your co-parent can let go of frustration or defensiveness, hearing that you understand their true intention. By responding strategically rather than reacting, you will receive more peaceful responses from your co-parent, staying true to your goal of maintaining peace in your life.
Now, step into your power and practice reframing in all your relationships.
The Karaoke Experiment
In a recent study at Harvard, Professor Alison Brooks had a large group of people sing karaoke for a crowd of strangers. She told the singers that someone would ask them how they felt before their big performance. Half were told to respond, “I’m feeling anxious,” and the other half were told to respond, “I’m feeling excited.” Nintendo’s Super Karaoke results showed that the group that said “anxious” had an accuracy rate of about 50% compared to “excited,” which had about 80% accuracy.
Holy Reframing-Realization!—using more positive language affects our perspective and improves behavior. The words co-parents choose to convey their message are just as important as the message itself.