Detailed Guide To Counter Parenting

mother and daughter bonding in bed
  • Sabotaging the other parent is the main characteristic of counter parenting.
  • Counterparents are usually narcissists with a tendency for manipulation and gaslighting.
  • You can notice counter parenting effects in children’s behavior.
  • Seeking professional help may help you overcome counter parenting.
  • Creating individual parenting styles that work together can benefit both parents and children.

Counter parenting, unlike the co-parenting definition, refers to parents who cannot work together effectively and resolve their mutual problems without involving the children. It is a common situation happening among divorced parents and married couples.

Counter parenting negatively affects the child’s emotional state, self-esteem, and overall development. Later in life, it may have severe consequences on the child’s relationship with their parents and general social life.

Below, we explain everything you need to know about counter parenting, its impact on children’s development, and how to find a balance between different parenting styles.

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What Is Counter-Parenting?

So, what is counter parenting? Contrary to the co parenting definition, counter parenting is when one parent actively works against the other. This is also why you’ll come across Google searches like “wife undermines my parenting” and “saboteur definition”.

It’s characterized by continuous badmouthing, canceling visits to prevent the other parent from speaking to their child, blaming them if anything goes wrong, and allowing the child everything the other doesn’t. In other words, one of the parents is trying to sabotage the other.

Traditional parenting methods involve strict rules and high discipline, obeying and respecting authority, and rewarding and punishing depending on the child’s behavior. If parents disagree on practicing the same parenting methods, one is more likely to develop counter-parent behavior.

Effects of Counter Parenting

Emotional well-being, personal development, and general child behavior can be highly affected by counter parenting. For a counter-parent, the child’s emotions and needs become secondary, and confronting the other parent comes first. This parenting style can make the child feel unloved, develop lower self-esteem, be distant, and feel like they’re never good enough.

There are many more negative outcomes for a child raised with counter parents. However, there are also some positives – these children tend to develop self-reliance and learn to take care of their needs early on.

Counter Parenting Behavior

There are several common behaviors of counter parenting: extreme control, emotional exploitation, manipulation and gaslighting, lack of empathy, and constant criticism. However, this behavior can range from soft passive aggressiveness to extreme hostility.

A counter parent is commonly a narcissistic person. They may disobey rules set by the other parent and even tell their child their other parent doesn’t love them. They over-encourage the child to be independent, make their own decisions, and always let the child do everything the other parent doesn’t.

The Balance Between Counter Parenting and Structure

Although it’s beneficial to teach your child independence from a young age, which will help them grow into a self-reliant person, it’s essential to maintain balance to prevent unwanted consequences. Parents nurturing children skills is all about teaching empathy and open communication and making the kids feel loved and understood by both parents.

Monitoring Counter Parenting Behavior

Sometimes, you might not even know you’ve been dealing with a counter-parent. There are several signs to look for in your and your child’s relationship with the other parent.

For example, if your child has been sharing less and less and hasn’t been socializing much, consider the possibility that your child has been counter-parented. Also, if you’ve experienced consistent gaslighting or your child is always isolated from you and your family, consider them signs of counter parenting.

Remember that the best punishment for a narcissist is coming to a resolution. Practicing self-reflection with the counter-parent and child can help everyone to understand their emotions and behavior better. Maintaining open communication within the family can help in overcoming counter parenting behavior.


Effects on Children’s Development

Counter parenting can affect the child’s emotional, cognitive, and social development positively and negatively. Being raised by a counter-parent without receiving the needed love, understanding, and attention can contribute to the lack of this development. Your child could experience difficulties building relationships with friends if they’re socially, emotionally, and cognitively undeveloped.

Therefore, having a consistent relationship with your child will positively affect their development through family engagement and time spent together. There are many strategies used by parents focusing child development to support their intellectual and social development.

Seeking Professional Help

Sometimes, seeking professional help may contribute to addressing the challenges in counter parenting. If you’ve tried implementing techniques to enhance parental collaboration with your co-parent with no resolution, it’s time to seek professional help. Whether it’s a parent expert, therapist, or counselor, if you follow their guidance, you can also improve your co-parenting style and relationship.

There are different counter parenting tailored therapies you can try: individual or group therapy, support groups, or working with coaches. All of them will create a safe environment where you and your partner can openly discuss your different parenting styles to understand each other and work against the challenges you experience.

Finding a Balanced Parenting Approach

You can balance traditional and counter parenting styles to develop a healthy relationship with your partner and create a safe and nurturing environment for your children. Setting boundaries both of you respect will help you to create a frame in which you can discuss different techniques you want to use in co-parenting.

Together, decide what rewards and punishments would be acceptable for both of you.

Involve your children in the decision-making process – this way, you will make decisions based on every family member’s needs and start teaching your children how to make reasonable decisions.

But what does this balanced parenting approach look like in real life? Let’s say you are a stay-at-home parent, and your ex-partner works 8-hour shifts Mon-Fri. You spend all your time with your children, practicing koala parenting, playing, feeding, and simply being around them.

The healthy thing to do would be to let the other parent have the kids over every weekend so they spend a near-equal amount together. You can easily divide your responsibilities by communicating openly and addressing your needs. You can also maintain weekly meetings on financial discussions, including your children, to teach them budgeting at an early age.


We can all agree that co-parenting is a challenging duty. However, by building and maintaining an open and healthy relationship with your partner, you can communicate everything you don’t like in each other’s parenting style.

Every individual is different, and so is every child. The important thing here is to create a safe environment for both of you, to find a common language, and to create your parenting style.

Stay open-minded, informed, and willing to adjust your approach as needed for the well-being of your children. This way, you’re building stronger co-parenting relationships and creating a safe, nurturing, and happy environment for the proper development of your children.

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