When it comes to co-parenting, what exactly does "too nice" mean?

01/19/2011 08:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I'm not sure there's a "big idea" buried in this post; I'm coming more from a 'stream of consciousness' based on some recent comments. Is there anyone else out there who is dealing with the challenges of co-parenting who is told by their family or friends that they are "too nice" to the other parent/former spouse? Since when was "being nice" considered a negative trait? And why do people think that being unfriendly is a more productive strategy?

This is interesting to me. Sure there are hurt feelings in a divorce. That's probably a huge understatement. In many cases, especially those involving adultery, one party typically feels incredibly violated and dishonored. It's natural to not want to 'be nice' to individuals who are disrespectful to us. And therein lies the conundrum. Since we have children together, I am going to be dealing with my ex- for the rest of my life and being mean is not going to accomplish anything positive at all.

Acting the opposite of "nice" means acting "mean." Why in the world would I want my young kids to see me acting mean to their dad. Kids can be so black and white in their thinking. They quickly categorize things--good/bad, fun/boring, nice/mean. They don't have the maturity to understand that some people may feel that 'mean' is merited. They simply see one parent being mean to the other, and that does nothing but create guilt and confusion.

I don't want my kids to see "mean," and frankly "mean" is much less productive than "nice." What's the saying? Something like, "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Being 'mean' has a direct impact on the future ability of my ex--and I to make decisions and communicate about the best interests of our children. If all of our conversations are tainted with hatred, bitterness, and sarcasm, how are we going to effectively communicate about the people who are most important to us, namely, our children? Frankly, it's stressful to be mean and condescending, and who really has the time for that?

I tell my well-meaning friends who tell me that I'm being "too nice" that being nice doesn't mean you become a doormat and let people walk all over you. It doesn't mean that you become a puppet at the whim of the other person. It doesn't mean they get to take advantage of you. It does mean that regardless of what the other person has said or done, or what he will say or do moving forward, that I am going to respond with respect. If some people define that as being "too nice," then so-be-it.

At the end of the day, I think it all comes down to picking your battles. There are times when I need to be more assertive, or more emphatic to make a point, and when I do need to go there, it's received with more acknowledgment because every piece of communication hasn't been rooted in 'meanness.' But I'm a firm believer in the fact that even assertive and emphatic communication can still be delivered respectfully.

Believe me, I know this can be hard to do, and I don't want this to sound too fairytale-ish, especially for those dealing with the far ends of the spectrum of nasty divorces and unusual circumstances. The intention here is for those situations when simply disrespect comes into play, especially in the 'heat of the moment,' situations. I'll continue to take being 'too nice' over being 'too mean' as a compliment. More importantly, I'll role-model an assertive and respectful 'too nice' for my kids any day of the week.

And that is where my stream of consciousness took me today!