Different ideas about discipline could sabotage this would-be marriage

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  January 25, 2012 06:00 AM

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[This letter has been condensed and edited. BFM.] I'm in a challenging relationship with my girlfriend or hope to- be- future wife. We are separated right now with some conflicting issues and, well, one of the questions is that she doesn't think it's important that her son have household chore, and that it's also ok for him to smoke pot in the house or in the basement.

[Her children] ...also have to be told what to do [for every] task like little kids and also they, or at least one of them, are gone for days or sometimes week's on end he pops in when he wants to or when he needs something from his mom. She has three son, two are twins.... They also won't listen to rules too well....There's other things going on with us but those are some of the things that are affecting our relationship. I'm at my wit's end. Can you tell me what to do or how to deal with this or these things? Thank you so much.

From: Vic, Alton, IL

Dear Vic,

My first thought was, why aren't you writing to the Love Letters blog? But I think I know the answer: you care about the kids (thank goodness!). You know that a conflictual adult relationship, especially around parenting issues, is not a healthy role model for the kids, especially since it's in addition to whatever role model mom and her previous relationship(s) offered. What's more -- bottom line for you -- this does not sound like a healthy relationship for you. At some point (and maybe you're there already), you won't be able to stand watching them treat their mom badly, which could lead to all sorts of negative outcomes. Unless.....

Can you and this woman agree to go to some parenting workshops or to a parenting consultant?

Even in a step-parent situation, it is never a good idea for the non-biological parent to get involved in discipline, at least not for a long time. If you move into their home as the mom's husband, conflict is likely to increase, not decrease. Because her sons are teens, if you and their mom are not even vaguely on the same page, they will simply ignore and/or berate and abuse you and continue to manipulate mom. What's more, none of this can feel good to them. Despite protestations to the contrary, teens who have too much control and/or freedom in the parent-child relationship tend not to be happy or secure. I know, I know. B-I-G statement. I'll stand by it.

If she's willing to go this route, I would take that as a hopeful sign.

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2 comments so far...
  1. Barbara gave the "Child Caring" advice, so I'm going to give the "Love Letters" advice. Dump this woman. The character flaws you describe are definite deal killers. Maybe you can get her to change, with or without the kids blaming you, but if you can't you have to get out.

    Posted by geocool January 25, 12 10:06 AM
  1. Are you planning to have children with this woman? I ask because if you are, you really need to consider whether the lady in question's parenting style is the way you want your children to be raised.

    Posted by Meri January 25, 12 11:42 AM
 
2 comments so far...
  1. Barbara gave the "Child Caring" advice, so I'm going to give the "Love Letters" advice. Dump this woman. The character flaws you describe are definite deal killers. Maybe you can get her to change, with or without the kids blaming you, but if you can't you have to get out.

    Posted by geocool January 25, 12 10:06 AM
  1. Are you planning to have children with this woman? I ask because if you are, you really need to consider whether the lady in question's parenting style is the way you want your children to be raised.

    Posted by Meri January 25, 12 11:42 AM
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About the author

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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