Can a boyfriend discipline her sons?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  February 24, 2011 06:00 AM

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My boyfriend and I have been living together for 3 years now. We both pay bills, and he helps with household chores.

My 18-year-old son tends to believe that since he is not married to me, my boyfriend has no say in our home. He feels that my boyfriend cannot tell him or his brothers what to do when it comes to rules. My oldest son thinks it is his responsibility to discipline his siblings since he is 18. I do not condone it or feel that it's his job to discipline them. I tell my oldest son that it's better for him to give them advice than to tell them what to do.

As far as the younger children, they feel that my boyfriend has every right to discipline them and set rules in the house.

Am I wrong for having my boyfriend set rules in our home and does he have the right to discipline the younger and older child?

From: Theresa, Dallas

Hi Theresa,

Even in a step-family where the parents are married and committed to each other, experts would tell you that it's better for the step-parent (whether step-mom or dad) not to try to discipline children not their own. The older the stepchildren are at the time the new family is formed, the more time it takes -- years, not months -- for the adult to gain the trust of the children, especially when it comes to imposing discipline. Since it sounds like your boyfriend has been part of your household only for the past three years, I can absolutely understand why your 18-year-old feels that your boyfriend is over-reaching if he tries to impose rules.

As the oldest, your 18-year-old filled the role of "man of the house," probably with your blessing, and now he feels usurped and unneeded by this (in his eyes) Johnny-Come-Lately. Plus, at 18 -- he's either a high school senior or already out of high school? -- he would be bumping up against any authority figure about this time. The younger boys are a different story. It sounds like they're hungry for a male authority figure in the house.

What would be really nice is for your boyfriend to let your 18-year-old know that he admires all he has done to be a big brother to the younger boys, maybe to even seek his advice now and then. I would try hard for them to have more of a collaborative relationship rather than for the boyfriend to try to be the boss of him. At the same time, I would encourage you to thank your son for all he has done and continues to do; that your boyfriend is someone you love and trust and that he (your son, that is) can relax a little bit now when it comes to taking care of his brothers. But I would not expect the boyfriend to set rules for your 18-year-old; that is something you and your son need to figure out together. You can let him know that you value your boyfriend's opinion and input, but I'd try to keep it between the two of you. That collaborative approach will make it far more likely that your son will end up seeking advice and counsel from your BF, rather than being in a constant power struggle with him.

When you ask if your boyfriend has the right to discipline your children, it sounds to me as if he does this without your wanting him to and/or without consulting with you. The worst thing you can do is just let things sort of drift along; that confuses everyone. You need to be clear with your boyfriend what is and isn't OK. If there are times when your younger boys are sometimes not responsive or respectful of him, it may be because they are getting mixed signals from you either about their relationship with him, or about your relationship with him.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

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19 comments so far...
  1. I have to say I disagree with Barbara that the step-parent shouldn't discipline the child, though my situation is a little different than the LW. I am a full-time step-mom to a bright 7yo girl. She visits her mother every other weekend (when she's around). I get her on the school bus in the morning, off the bus in the afternoon, I feed her, tuck her in a bedtime and bring her to her various activities. If she acts inappropriately, how is she going to learn that such behavior is not ok if the primary female in her life let's it pass? As with the BF of the LW, if he is the primary male in the family, I think he has a duty to teach those boys right from wrong and to be a positive male role model. Children thrive on structure and as long as this man isn't discipling the children in a way that is harmful, either emotionally or physically, I see no problem. I agree that the situation is a little different with the oldest son, but then again, most 18 year olds test their bounds and want to establish themselves as mature adults, not children.

    Posted by Christine February 24, 11 10:34 AM
  1. While I agree that step-parents (and certainly relatively new boyfriends) can't discipline, it is a little crazy to think that they can't enforce rules that were communicated to the kids by the parent. The boyfriend has to live in the house, and it is his house too. Sometimes, on a purely practical level, he won't be able to just sit back and not enforce or discipline. I understand the theory of saying he shouldn't, but in day-to-day living? The theory is of limited use.

    But the boyfriend must understamd, and if he doesn't, the mom here must communicate firmly, that the 18 year old lived most of his life without this random guy. Random guy can't jump in and act as if he is a parent and think everyone should and will toe his line. Doesn't work that way. Kids are people with emotions, not robots. Who cares if boyfriend pays the bills and helps with chores? That doesn't bestow on him the authority and experience of a parent.

    So yes, he can enforce rules set down by mom. But mom and boyfriend need to seriously rethink things if they assume that the 18-year-old should and will just accept this brand-new, out-of-nowhere guy as his "boss." 3 years is not a lot of time in the years of a blended family.

    (And fyi, that your son notes the difference between marriage and just shacking up is awesome. You might want to give a little thought to that there. He doesn't see a reason to consider this random guy as a father-authority figure because there is no commitment between the two of you. Why should he be expected to jump in and embrace this new dad-type then?) Not that getting married would solve it all, but it seems you are on even shakier ground when you two haven't taken that step -- and yet you expect this young adult son to treat him as a virtual parent?)

    Posted by jjlen February 24, 11 10:48 AM
  1. Ugh. Sorry, I can't get past the fact that this woman has a live-in boyfriend with multiple children in the house. That's the first problem. I completely agree with jjlen - why should the oldest son regard this boyfriend as a parental figure when he's not even married to the mom? I sense a whole lot of dysfunction in this house.

    Posted by JKR February 24, 11 11:22 AM
  1. jjlen's last thought is spot on. Your boyfriend and you haven't made a real committment in your son's eyes and he is most definitely not the father.

    Enforcing pre-existing household rules may be one thing - depending on his tack - but to think that your kids should just accept this new authority figure (3 years is not a long time) because you've hooked up with him and share household responsibilities is rather ludicrous.

    As for "rights"? He has the right to do what you allow him to do with or to your kids. YOU are their mother. They should come before anyone - and that includes boyfriends.

    Posted by phe February 24, 11 11:45 AM
  1. Substitute "my sister who lives with us" or "grandma who is staying for the summer" for the boyfriend and think about it then.

    If another adult, whoever that person is, has been left in charge of the kids in Mom's absence, that adult should be in charge. The supervising adult should do things more or less the same as Mom--not necessarily every dotted i and crossed t, but not wildly different. It's not the 18 year old's job to discipline the siblings unless he has been specifically left in charge as a kid-sitter, or it's a matter of life or limb, or the supervising adult has asked for input or assistance. He may be a young adult but he is not a parent and it is unwise to allow an older sibling to take a parental role. If Mom and the other adult are both present, it makes sense for Mom to be the point person with the other as backup as needed.

    The 18-year old should be allowed more freedom from adult supervision that the younger ones, so unless the 18 year old is doing something obnoxious or dangerous, he should not be "disciplined" as if he is much younger.

    Having said that, the wisdom of having this particular fellow in the house, and having him as a long-time boyfriend but not husband, is another matter.

    Posted by di February 24, 11 01:14 PM
  1. New adults in a household do not have the deep-seated goodwill and respect of children that are essential to effective discipline. Therefore they should not discipline the children no matter how convenient it might be for the primary parent or the step or pseudo-step.

    There are more important issues at stake than a parent's convenience in the situation. Parental discipline from a person who is not identified as a parent is potentially toxic over the long run.

    And becoming knows as a parent to a child takes more than a conversation, so mommy can't just declare a man to be a father figure just because she prefers it that way. The process of becoming a parental figure takes years and is all but hopeless if it begins after a certain age, probably age ten.

    This is especially true if the other bio or original parent is it still n the picture. Two parents is plenty

    Posted by neilpaul February 24, 11 01:59 PM
  1. What does "discipline" mean? Grounding? No allowance? Or a sound whupping with a belt? That question ought to be answered first.

    Posted by just-askin February 24, 11 02:54 PM
  1. di -- I agree, but I think what you are describing is not really what is happening. The BF has to be able to enforce rules. Otherwise, what happens whenever mom leaves the house? You'd let any random babysitter do the same thing, so *certainly* someone who lives in the house needs to be able to enforce rules. But the LW said the BF *sets* the rules of the house. And that does not sit well with me; it would be one thing for mom and BF to decide together behind the scenes what the house rules are, have mom communicate them, and then have both mom and BF enforce them. That makes sense. It is necessary (not merely "convenient"). The consequences to things can be laid out by mom, so if a rule needs enforcing, BF is disciplining according to what mom has said.

    Doesn't sound like that is happening. Really sounds as if mom has decided that since she is living with the guy and they share bills, he gets to be instant-dad.

    Posted by jjlen February 24, 11 03:03 PM
  1. Your 18 year old is telling you that since you do not (in his eyes) value the relationship enough to marry the boyfriend, he does not view boyfriend as a father figure/man of the house, therefore, your son's role as man of the house is still in effect. You need to clarify this with your son.

    Posted by ghr February 24, 11 03:11 PM
  1. I couldn't agree more with jjlen.

    For what it's worth, my husband and I were both single parents and we met when our respective children were 2 and 3 years old, 10 years ago. We have been married since the kids were 5 and have we have two younger children together, so our commitment to each other and to our children as a single family unit could not be more clear. My son has no other father figure, my step-daughter has an involved mother. With all of that, my husband and I do not discipline our step children. We have family rules that the kids have agreed to and my husband and I will handle things in the absence of the bio parent the same way that we would expect a baby-sitter or other care giver to do. If there is something that needs further discipline (removal of a privilege or other consequence) then we consult with each other and have the bio parent deliver the message. Yes this means that sometimes things are dragged out and we have to be in constant communication, but it is the right way to handle these situations given the roles we play in our children's and step-children's lives. Three years of involvement from a guy who is a live-in boyfriend and not a husband (nice example of how to live, btw) does not make a parent, especially to a child who has managed just fine for most of his life.

    Posted by Jen February 24, 11 04:03 PM
  1. I grew up with this type of situation, I saw more than one long time boyfriend of my mother's living with us. I also saw a few other boyfriends that she dated that never lived with us. Some tried to be my buddy, some tried to be a father figure, some simply let my mother handle me.

    The answer is no, your boyfriend has no right to discipline your kids. That is your job! You are the mother.

    jjlen is right, your kids fully understand that you are not committed to this man. If you were, he would not be a boyfriend he would be a husband. Your kids don't need a father figure that may or may not be around in a few years. The fact that you have brought him into your home without getting married shows your kids that they are less important to you than your boyfriend is. If there is a reason that you are not married to your boyfriend (legal, allimony, etc.) tell your kids that.

    From the tone of your letter, you are ont comfortable with your boyfriend's discipline. Therefore, how can you expect your kids to be comfortable with it. You need to assert yourself here. He will never be a father to your kids. They are too old for that. Whatever you decide, you need to fix this issue now; it is not going to fix itself.

    To play with the title of the movie, The Kids Are NOT Going To Be All Right. This type of thing seriously messes with kids minds, much more than a parent thinks it does. Take it from someone who has been through it.

    Posted by JCON February 24, 11 04:07 PM
  1. I wouldn't call a man who has lived in the home for 3 years, and I assume been dating the mother for longer, some random guy. So has this problem been going on for 3+ years, or has it surfaced now that the oldest son is 18 and an adult? I think that the son is looking for more responsibility and a lessening of the rules in the household.

    I also don't think it is a big deal that the couple isn't married (maybe because I don't care that my stepdad and mom never married). An 18 year old is old enough to have a discussion about different types of relationships, so LW should discuss it with him.

    Posted by mk February 24, 11 05:17 PM
  1. There are two parental figures here--the mother, and her partner. They are making as much of a commitment as is necessary to send the message that they share the responsibilities of bringing up the woman's children. Having a marriage certificate is no guarantee that parents will fulfill their obligations.

    I think this is the point that the mother needs to make to her 18 year old son--that he is her son, NOT her partner. The mother made the decision about living with a new partner when the oldest child was less than 15. Did his biological dad give him the idea that becoming a parent to his siblings means dishing discipline but not paying the bills?

    There is a basic trust and respect that the younger kids are giving to the new partner. I think this is a good sign of a healthy relationship.
    I think this mother has to tell the oldest son that he is required to respect HER partner, HER house rules as any adult would be expected.

    It's unrealistic for Barbara to say that this specific partner should not make rules. He's not some transient visitor. I would be far more concerned about whoever is promoting the parentified child attitude that is obviously unhealthy.

    Posted by Irene February 24, 11 07:24 PM
  1. BEHOLD!!
    If your sons NEED discipline, than YOU are the one who's not doing YOUR job. They shouldn't need discipline from anyone EXCEPT you, if at all. Kudos to your boyfriend for bringing this to YOUR attention.

    Posted by Muddy M. February 25, 11 02:21 AM
  1. Ack. This reminds me of the set-up of many a Disney movie in the 90s (Rookie of the Year, for one): nice single mom shacks up with creeper who tries to boss around the kids and replace their dad. Your boyfriend might be a nice man, but I can't get past that he lives with you and your family and there's no long-term commitment. Kids need stability - even kids who are 18.

    Posted by megs283 February 25, 11 08:17 AM
  1. Some commenters make it sound like the boyfriend is a one-night stand. They have been living together for three years, and presumably dating for a while before he moved in. We don't know why they choose not to get married at this time, but it's obviously a committed relationship.

    The situation would be the same if he was an "official" stepfather.

    I think Barbara's advice is right on!

    Posted by cause-and-effect February 25, 11 11:47 AM
  1. One more question:

    Would this boyfriend be willing to adopt these children and be their father even if he breaks up with their mother? Because that is the kind of commitment that a father makes to his children.

    The fact that the man has a commitment to the mother, even if true, does not privilege him to act as their father. The children have their own separate dignity. The mother has no right to just toss them in as part of the deal.

    Posted by neilpaul February 25, 11 05:59 PM
  1. "We don't know why they choose not to get married at this time, but it's obviously a committed relationship."

    I don't think the son thinks this is the case.

    Posted by neenee February 26, 11 07:03 PM
  1. Hi Theresa,
    Your last question, "Am I wrong for having my boyfriend set rules in our home and does he have the right to discipline the younger and older child?" and your whole query begs the question, "Why are you two even together?". I have been in exactly the same situation you are in and my opinion is that your 3-year long relationship has given your "boyfriend" implicit and explicit rights to disciplining your children. Your "boyfriend" is obviously being challenged by your 18 year-old son and he needs to be supported, not challenged by you. If you truly believe that your "boyfriend" is wrong then you need to work that out with him. It sounds to me like your using your son's disapproval as a weapon.

    Posted by Bill Hardy February 26, 11 08:40 PM
 
19 comments so far...
  1. I have to say I disagree with Barbara that the step-parent shouldn't discipline the child, though my situation is a little different than the LW. I am a full-time step-mom to a bright 7yo girl. She visits her mother every other weekend (when she's around). I get her on the school bus in the morning, off the bus in the afternoon, I feed her, tuck her in a bedtime and bring her to her various activities. If she acts inappropriately, how is she going to learn that such behavior is not ok if the primary female in her life let's it pass? As with the BF of the LW, if he is the primary male in the family, I think he has a duty to teach those boys right from wrong and to be a positive male role model. Children thrive on structure and as long as this man isn't discipling the children in a way that is harmful, either emotionally or physically, I see no problem. I agree that the situation is a little different with the oldest son, but then again, most 18 year olds test their bounds and want to establish themselves as mature adults, not children.

    Posted by Christine February 24, 11 10:34 AM
  1. While I agree that step-parents (and certainly relatively new boyfriends) can't discipline, it is a little crazy to think that they can't enforce rules that were communicated to the kids by the parent. The boyfriend has to live in the house, and it is his house too. Sometimes, on a purely practical level, he won't be able to just sit back and not enforce or discipline. I understand the theory of saying he shouldn't, but in day-to-day living? The theory is of limited use.

    But the boyfriend must understamd, and if he doesn't, the mom here must communicate firmly, that the 18 year old lived most of his life without this random guy. Random guy can't jump in and act as if he is a parent and think everyone should and will toe his line. Doesn't work that way. Kids are people with emotions, not robots. Who cares if boyfriend pays the bills and helps with chores? That doesn't bestow on him the authority and experience of a parent.

    So yes, he can enforce rules set down by mom. But mom and boyfriend need to seriously rethink things if they assume that the 18-year-old should and will just accept this brand-new, out-of-nowhere guy as his "boss." 3 years is not a lot of time in the years of a blended family.

    (And fyi, that your son notes the difference between marriage and just shacking up is awesome. You might want to give a little thought to that there. He doesn't see a reason to consider this random guy as a father-authority figure because there is no commitment between the two of you. Why should he be expected to jump in and embrace this new dad-type then?) Not that getting married would solve it all, but it seems you are on even shakier ground when you two haven't taken that step -- and yet you expect this young adult son to treat him as a virtual parent?)

    Posted by jjlen February 24, 11 10:48 AM
  1. Ugh. Sorry, I can't get past the fact that this woman has a live-in boyfriend with multiple children in the house. That's the first problem. I completely agree with jjlen - why should the oldest son regard this boyfriend as a parental figure when he's not even married to the mom? I sense a whole lot of dysfunction in this house.

    Posted by JKR February 24, 11 11:22 AM
  1. jjlen's last thought is spot on. Your boyfriend and you haven't made a real committment in your son's eyes and he is most definitely not the father.

    Enforcing pre-existing household rules may be one thing - depending on his tack - but to think that your kids should just accept this new authority figure (3 years is not a long time) because you've hooked up with him and share household responsibilities is rather ludicrous.

    As for "rights"? He has the right to do what you allow him to do with or to your kids. YOU are their mother. They should come before anyone - and that includes boyfriends.

    Posted by phe February 24, 11 11:45 AM
  1. Substitute "my sister who lives with us" or "grandma who is staying for the summer" for the boyfriend and think about it then.

    If another adult, whoever that person is, has been left in charge of the kids in Mom's absence, that adult should be in charge. The supervising adult should do things more or less the same as Mom--not necessarily every dotted i and crossed t, but not wildly different. It's not the 18 year old's job to discipline the siblings unless he has been specifically left in charge as a kid-sitter, or it's a matter of life or limb, or the supervising adult has asked for input or assistance. He may be a young adult but he is not a parent and it is unwise to allow an older sibling to take a parental role. If Mom and the other adult are both present, it makes sense for Mom to be the point person with the other as backup as needed.

    The 18-year old should be allowed more freedom from adult supervision that the younger ones, so unless the 18 year old is doing something obnoxious or dangerous, he should not be "disciplined" as if he is much younger.

    Having said that, the wisdom of having this particular fellow in the house, and having him as a long-time boyfriend but not husband, is another matter.

    Posted by di February 24, 11 01:14 PM
  1. New adults in a household do not have the deep-seated goodwill and respect of children that are essential to effective discipline. Therefore they should not discipline the children no matter how convenient it might be for the primary parent or the step or pseudo-step.

    There are more important issues at stake than a parent's convenience in the situation. Parental discipline from a person who is not identified as a parent is potentially toxic over the long run.

    And becoming knows as a parent to a child takes more than a conversation, so mommy can't just declare a man to be a father figure just because she prefers it that way. The process of becoming a parental figure takes years and is all but hopeless if it begins after a certain age, probably age ten.

    This is especially true if the other bio or original parent is it still n the picture. Two parents is plenty

    Posted by neilpaul February 24, 11 01:59 PM
  1. What does "discipline" mean? Grounding? No allowance? Or a sound whupping with a belt? That question ought to be answered first.

    Posted by just-askin February 24, 11 02:54 PM
  1. di -- I agree, but I think what you are describing is not really what is happening. The BF has to be able to enforce rules. Otherwise, what happens whenever mom leaves the house? You'd let any random babysitter do the same thing, so *certainly* someone who lives in the house needs to be able to enforce rules. But the LW said the BF *sets* the rules of the house. And that does not sit well with me; it would be one thing for mom and BF to decide together behind the scenes what the house rules are, have mom communicate them, and then have both mom and BF enforce them. That makes sense. It is necessary (not merely "convenient"). The consequences to things can be laid out by mom, so if a rule needs enforcing, BF is disciplining according to what mom has said.

    Doesn't sound like that is happening. Really sounds as if mom has decided that since she is living with the guy and they share bills, he gets to be instant-dad.

    Posted by jjlen February 24, 11 03:03 PM
  1. Your 18 year old is telling you that since you do not (in his eyes) value the relationship enough to marry the boyfriend, he does not view boyfriend as a father figure/man of the house, therefore, your son's role as man of the house is still in effect. You need to clarify this with your son.

    Posted by ghr February 24, 11 03:11 PM
  1. I couldn't agree more with jjlen.

    For what it's worth, my husband and I were both single parents and we met when our respective children were 2 and 3 years old, 10 years ago. We have been married since the kids were 5 and have we have two younger children together, so our commitment to each other and to our children as a single family unit could not be more clear. My son has no other father figure, my step-daughter has an involved mother. With all of that, my husband and I do not discipline our step children. We have family rules that the kids have agreed to and my husband and I will handle things in the absence of the bio parent the same way that we would expect a baby-sitter or other care giver to do. If there is something that needs further discipline (removal of a privilege or other consequence) then we consult with each other and have the bio parent deliver the message. Yes this means that sometimes things are dragged out and we have to be in constant communication, but it is the right way to handle these situations given the roles we play in our children's and step-children's lives. Three years of involvement from a guy who is a live-in boyfriend and not a husband (nice example of how to live, btw) does not make a parent, especially to a child who has managed just fine for most of his life.

    Posted by Jen February 24, 11 04:03 PM
  1. I grew up with this type of situation, I saw more than one long time boyfriend of my mother's living with us. I also saw a few other boyfriends that she dated that never lived with us. Some tried to be my buddy, some tried to be a father figure, some simply let my mother handle me.

    The answer is no, your boyfriend has no right to discipline your kids. That is your job! You are the mother.

    jjlen is right, your kids fully understand that you are not committed to this man. If you were, he would not be a boyfriend he would be a husband. Your kids don't need a father figure that may or may not be around in a few years. The fact that you have brought him into your home without getting married shows your kids that they are less important to you than your boyfriend is. If there is a reason that you are not married to your boyfriend (legal, allimony, etc.) tell your kids that.

    From the tone of your letter, you are ont comfortable with your boyfriend's discipline. Therefore, how can you expect your kids to be comfortable with it. You need to assert yourself here. He will never be a father to your kids. They are too old for that. Whatever you decide, you need to fix this issue now; it is not going to fix itself.

    To play with the title of the movie, The Kids Are NOT Going To Be All Right. This type of thing seriously messes with kids minds, much more than a parent thinks it does. Take it from someone who has been through it.

    Posted by JCON February 24, 11 04:07 PM
  1. I wouldn't call a man who has lived in the home for 3 years, and I assume been dating the mother for longer, some random guy. So has this problem been going on for 3+ years, or has it surfaced now that the oldest son is 18 and an adult? I think that the son is looking for more responsibility and a lessening of the rules in the household.

    I also don't think it is a big deal that the couple isn't married (maybe because I don't care that my stepdad and mom never married). An 18 year old is old enough to have a discussion about different types of relationships, so LW should discuss it with him.

    Posted by mk February 24, 11 05:17 PM
  1. There are two parental figures here--the mother, and her partner. They are making as much of a commitment as is necessary to send the message that they share the responsibilities of bringing up the woman's children. Having a marriage certificate is no guarantee that parents will fulfill their obligations.

    I think this is the point that the mother needs to make to her 18 year old son--that he is her son, NOT her partner. The mother made the decision about living with a new partner when the oldest child was less than 15. Did his biological dad give him the idea that becoming a parent to his siblings means dishing discipline but not paying the bills?

    There is a basic trust and respect that the younger kids are giving to the new partner. I think this is a good sign of a healthy relationship.
    I think this mother has to tell the oldest son that he is required to respect HER partner, HER house rules as any adult would be expected.

    It's unrealistic for Barbara to say that this specific partner should not make rules. He's not some transient visitor. I would be far more concerned about whoever is promoting the parentified child attitude that is obviously unhealthy.

    Posted by Irene February 24, 11 07:24 PM
  1. BEHOLD!!
    If your sons NEED discipline, than YOU are the one who's not doing YOUR job. They shouldn't need discipline from anyone EXCEPT you, if at all. Kudos to your boyfriend for bringing this to YOUR attention.

    Posted by Muddy M. February 25, 11 02:21 AM
  1. Ack. This reminds me of the set-up of many a Disney movie in the 90s (Rookie of the Year, for one): nice single mom shacks up with creeper who tries to boss around the kids and replace their dad. Your boyfriend might be a nice man, but I can't get past that he lives with you and your family and there's no long-term commitment. Kids need stability - even kids who are 18.

    Posted by megs283 February 25, 11 08:17 AM
  1. Some commenters make it sound like the boyfriend is a one-night stand. They have been living together for three years, and presumably dating for a while before he moved in. We don't know why they choose not to get married at this time, but it's obviously a committed relationship.

    The situation would be the same if he was an "official" stepfather.

    I think Barbara's advice is right on!

    Posted by cause-and-effect February 25, 11 11:47 AM
  1. One more question:

    Would this boyfriend be willing to adopt these children and be their father even if he breaks up with their mother? Because that is the kind of commitment that a father makes to his children.

    The fact that the man has a commitment to the mother, even if true, does not privilege him to act as their father. The children have their own separate dignity. The mother has no right to just toss them in as part of the deal.

    Posted by neilpaul February 25, 11 05:59 PM
  1. "We don't know why they choose not to get married at this time, but it's obviously a committed relationship."

    I don't think the son thinks this is the case.

    Posted by neenee February 26, 11 07:03 PM
  1. Hi Theresa,
    Your last question, "Am I wrong for having my boyfriend set rules in our home and does he have the right to discipline the younger and older child?" and your whole query begs the question, "Why are you two even together?". I have been in exactly the same situation you are in and my opinion is that your 3-year long relationship has given your "boyfriend" implicit and explicit rights to disciplining your children. Your "boyfriend" is obviously being challenged by your 18 year-old son and he needs to be supported, not challenged by you. If you truly believe that your "boyfriend" is wrong then you need to work that out with him. It sounds to me like your using your son's disapproval as a weapon.

    Posted by Bill Hardy February 26, 11 08:40 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

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High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

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