Archive for ‘Stepfather’

January 4, 2010

She defends their actions and yells at me…..

by Rod Smith

“It’s the sugar, hunger, or being tired that causes the my girlfriend’s children’s outbursts. It is never that ‘mom’ argues with her children and any threat of punishment never ever happens. My daughter is now refusing to be around us, wondering how and why she has to behave while my girlfriend’s children are allowed to be monsters. It’s about to end our relationship. I have sat in public too many times embarrassed by their behavior. It is sad but I am being asked to help her in controlling her children but when I do she defends their actions and then yells at me! I tell her if she’d treat her children the way she treats me her problems would be solved!” (Minimal edits)

Get out of the middle...

I have seen this all too often – and, I have seen myself do the same thing. It is illogical and unreasonable, but children often wield disproportionate power with parents and it seems more often so with single parents. The parent is often blind to unhelpful parenting behaviors while the “errors” are glaring for all who look on. Yet it remains a road to ruin when an “outsider” (even if you are the significant other) becomes involved in correcting another’s children – even, believe it or not, when such help is requested.

November 16, 2009

“Un-spoiling” a child is not easy….

by Rod Smith

Size matters...

Size is all-important in a family. I’ve seen many families where the children are “bigger” than the parents. The children’s needs, wants, and desires appear to determine almost everything. The parents’ needs are continually ignored while every desire the children become the parents’ marching orders.

Of course parents willingly sacrifice for their children, but in families with “super-sized” children, the imbalance becomes burdensome.

I have seen children pitch a fit, stamp and storm – when a parent makes a legitimate request of the child, or has to alter a minor plan, or must pursue a detour, which the child perceives as hindering his or her freedom, creativity, rights, or friendships.

Such toxic parent/child binds can drain all the enjoyment out of family life.

When a mother or a father sees the light (acknowledges his or her indulgence of the child, can see the child is unpleasant) and tries to bring the child down to an appropriate size, the child will understandably resist. Resistance can become ugly.

“Un-spoiling” a child is no easy task: it is better not to worship children in the first place.

October 26, 2009

My children manipulate their stepmother….

by Rod Smith

“My son (12) and my daughter (14) don’t like their stepmother but when they play their cards right for her she buys them stuff. I don’t like to see my children manipulating to get things from her. Should I step in and say something? We are not really on good terms with each other.”

Let then be...

Let then be...

I’ll be the first to admit that the challenges I will place before you are most difficult to achieve – but I repeat: parenting is for grown ups; successful co-parenting is for saints. So…

Do all you can to get on good terms with the other woman who is co-parenting your children. I am not suggesting you become bosom pals but “cordial adults” would be a helpful arrangement for all concerned.

Avoid stepping into the mix with your children and their stepmother. All three have a lot to teach each other. Approaches from you will hinder the process. While no parent wants to see his or her children develop manipulative habits, this is a matter for you to directly address with your children. Your children will manipulate if it works, and will not, if it doesn’t. Take care of how they treat you, and allow their stepmother to discover her own unique relationship with her stepchildren.

July 15, 2009

Yes. It is all connected…

by Rod Smith

It all connected...

It all connected...

I have met parents concerned about the degree of conflict experienced with their children, who then, during the conversation, will openly confess they have no time for a mother or father-in-law, their own parent, or are out of sorts with an adult sibling. When I gently point out that these conflicts are possibly connected, fueling each other, I am met with disbelief.

“You’re saying that my fights with my son over his homework (or irresponsibility, or drinking) is connected to the fact that my father-in-law is an impossible man whom I have refused to talk to for the past five years?”

Indeed.

“You’re saying that my ridiculously controlling mother who walks in here like a movie director telling us all where to stand and what to say is connected to my 12-year-old daughter mouthing off to me however she likes.”

Indeed.

When the adult takes the challenge of embracing the “impossible” father-in-law, or standing up to the “controlling” mother, the adult is taking personal responsibility for his or her pivotal relationships. A parent who takes full responsibility for himself or herself when it comes to relating to members of their preceding generation, will see less anxious, less reactive, less rebellious behavior in the generation that follows. Yes. It is all indeed connected.

July 13, 2009

Ex and new husband turn my children against me….

by Rod Smith

“My ex-wife and her new husband misrepresent me to my three children (8, 10, and 12). When I see my children on weekends they are guarded and anxious. Where do I start to get my children to see they are being turned against me?”

ACT, Australia

ACT, Australia

It would be a good idea to sit down and talk with your ex-wife about how this situation is impacting you. The most important thing is that the adults work at the best solution for this transition for the children. Separation and divorce hits kids deeply. Remarriage on both parents’ parts must be as difficult, or even more so. It’s important for the children to talk about how they feel and what they think about what’s happening in their lives. Knowing that both sets of parents are working together will be helpful to the adjustments that are needed.

USA

USA

Avoid recruiting the children into the inevitable crossfire. This issue, real or perceived on your part, is an adult matter, and it is to be addressed by the adults. It requires an on-going conversation among all the adults. I do not mean dialogue through Email or phone calls. I mean regular, scheduled, face-to-face discussions; meetings where all the adults (parents and step-parents) sit together around a table and give focused time to discuss how each adult will play his or her part in appropriately providing and caring for the children. Is this difficult? Of course it is. Parenting is for adults. Step-parenting and co-parenting is for super-adults! The more the children see all the adults working together, talking together, and providing each other with appropriate support, the more likely the children are to turn difficult circumstances into personal strengths and assets – and the more likely they are not to “side” with one parent over another.

Scotland

Scotland

It is sad when children are asked to split their loyalties between parents. I wonder how they really feel about it? I can hear your fears that they are being turned against you… The best thing you can do is to continue being the best father you can be for them; no bribes, no turning them against their mother and new step-father, no spoiling them. Trust them. Children have an uncanny way of sensing when they are with people who are genuine. Take them to the park, have fun with them, respect them, and teach them to respect you, and their mother, and stepfather. They will then have no reason to feel guarded and anxious around you, and you will have no reason to feel anxious and defensive around them.

Midwest, USA

Midwest, USA

Your ex-wife and you are the parents, hopefully the adults in this equation. Therefore, it is your responsibility to find time and maturity to be able to talk about what is bothering you or what you suspect to be happening. The children have gone through a lot with your divorce and what they need is parents who can communicate with each other as their care givers. Talking to your kids will only serve to pull them further into the circle of anxiety, and doesn’t give them a chance to get out of the middle of your dance with your ex-wife. Talking about a person when he or she is not present is gossip, and is an attempt to gain emotional closeness. Don’t do as your ex has apparently done. Sort the matter out with her and her new husband, and leave your kids out of it. They will be very grateful to you for it.

July 2, 2009

I refuse to compete with a child…..

by Rod Smith

“My three children live with my partner of 9 months and me. His children visit regularly. His son (12) pushes the boundaries and my partner allows him get away with a lot more than the other kids, including his daughter. My partner, who is brilliant with my children, will comment on bad behavior from my children, yet will not judge his son for the same behavior. His son lies to get the other kids into trouble and when I am near his father he makes sure that I cannot get too near. I refuse to compete with a 12-year-old for the affections of his father. My issue is the unfairness. It drives me up the wall. His father feels his son is sensitive and because he sees him so little that he will be less harsh with him. I understand this and am not sure if I am being unfair. I am starting to dislike the boy more and more. Please help.”

Get out of the middle...

Get out of the middle...

Rod: You are already competing and the boy is winning! Get off the “life is fair” gig and out of the middle. Leave EVERYTHING about his children UP TO HIM. While you are 12-year-old-focused, dad doesn’t have to be, – and you will always, always, end up looking like the enemy!

Kathryn

Kathryn

Kathryn: Ignoring the behavior is not loving to anyone. The boy’s “sensitivity” is never a good reason for parents not to discipline a child. Consistently setting good boundaries with children is very loving. Spend intentional time together and perhaps your partner’s own guilt may dissipate bringing change into the dynamic. Be honest.

June 25, 2009

Before marrying with children….!

by Rod Smith

Rod@TakeUpYourLife.com

Rod@TakeUpYourLife.com

1. Plan several sessions of “hard” talking with your potential spouse. It is essential that you temporarily forget the romantic elements of your relationship (I know this is next to impossible) to talk business. Blending families is one of life’s most difficult challenges, which is further compounded when both parties have children.
2. Don’t try to be the stepparent before you legally occupy the role. Prematurely playing a role will create problems once you legitimately occupy it. It is essential you do not assume roles you don’t occupy. If a child (or future spouse) treats you as a parent, it doesn’t mean you are one. Troubles brew when people push themselves, or are pushed by others, into roles they do not occupy. (This is true even beyond families!)
3. Bridges are best built before they are needed. It is essential that you insist on multiple meetings with both parents of ALL the children before you consider marriage (yes, you did indeed read what you just read). These meetings will focus on methods of co-parenting in order to secure everyone’s best advantage. If implementing such meetings seems overwhelming to you, you are probably heading for a minefield of countless unexpected, unwelcome complications – that will seem (believe it or not) even too large for love to overcome! What is avoided (denied, glossed over, minimized) pre-wedding will rise like a rabid monster quite soon (a month, a year, or even ten years!) after the wedding.
4. Financial integrity is as important as sexual fidelity! It is essential that you look into every detail of all financial records of your spouse-to-be and offer your own finances for similar scrutiny — before you plan a wedding. Persons who cannot responsibly handle money are unlikely to be able to handle the pressures of thriving within a blended family. If a would-be spouse suggests information of his or her finances are off-limits to you, wipe the dust off your feet and depart, no matter how much love you may feel. Authentic love, apart from having many other facets, is also measured in the degree of financial partnering established between lovers. Resilient love seeks the wise, open use of combined resources. Because blending families also often involves complex financial arrangements (child support and so forth, divorce costs, education bills for children of a former marriage) hiding the details from a would-be spouse is exceedingly unfair to all involved. I DID NOT say you have to SHARE all the money — I said you have to KNOW about it and plan about it.
5. Flee blamers. An adult who blames his/her former spouse (or parents, or childhood, the new political order) for everything will also, before long, blame you for everything.
6. Avoid people who cannot engage in civil conversations with an ex, with their parents, or their children.
7. Getting Johnny (or Mary) a stepparent will not ease his dissatisfaction with the divorce, school, or his craving for a “real family.” It is essential to understand that getting married will not solve any but the most superficial current family issues. Blending families is likely to unveil and exacerbate more problems than it solves.

All this said, and so much of it sounds negative, blended families hold the potential to enrich and empower all the people involved. Some of the healthiest, happiest families I have met in many years of meeting with families (in all manner of circumstances) have been blended families! Go for it, work through all 7 points above, and you will be all set to go!

June 8, 2009

“Under functioning” will get you every time…

by Rod Smith

“I’ve been a stepmother for 7 years. It’s misery. I would never do this again. I have no one to blame. I saw perfectly well that my husband’s ex was a ‘basket case’ for the three years we dated. I saw that my stepdaughter was truly a spoiled brat. Lots of ‘divorce guilt’ led her to getting whatever she wanted. I saw that my husband was not cut out for serious parenting and yet I married him. He’s got many other great qualities including being a good stepfather to my son! Our marriage is solid but the amount of turmoil his daughter stirs

Take up your life

Take up your life

up is more than tiring. His ex hates him so much that she has literally ruined any chance of us having a sincere relationship with my stepdaughter. I have a great relationship with my ex, and his wife, and so does my son does with his stepmother, but my husband and stepdaughter’s is deeply flawed.” (Edited)

Your observation that your husband is not cut out for “serious parenting” is pivotal. Under functioning is more dangerous than a “basket-case” ex. Things will change if he notches up his functioning to fully fulfill his role. You’re protecting him. Your mutual relationship with the daughter is not primarily in the mother’s hands. In a day or two I will write more about ‘under-functioning’ – it is pernicious and has far reaching consequences. Its effects can impact a family for generations.

January 1, 2008

Single-, or solo-parenting will probably improve if…

by Rod Smith

1. Your courage, determination and your willingness to fully live; your ability and willingness to employ all of your skills and expedite your wildest ambitions – will go a long way toward compensating for the absence of the other parent.

2. Being debilitated by the absence of a partner and living as if a successful life is impossible to lead without a partner will stand to hinder your child and your relationship with your child almost as significantly the absence of the other parent.

3. Having your own life, pursuing interests and dreams that do not involve your child, is good for you and for your child. The laser focus that often comes with solo parenting is hardly helpful to the parent or child.

4. Try to get the focus off your child and how your child is doing in the wake of finding yourself single. Single parents have reared many very successful persons and, believing your child will be successful, despite the absence of the other parent, will set a healthy tone for your family. Besides, as stated by family expert, Rabbi Edwin Friedman, when studied under a microscope even an ant (a small issue) can look like a monster (a significant problem).

October 29, 2007

Stepmother reduces her success to 8 principles…

by Rod Smith

I took on two stepchildren twelve years ago who have become wonderful adults who love all their parents. Here are some things I did to make life easier:

  • I didn’t take the place of anyone. I took my place.
  • I didn’t get in the way of their affections for their parents, but expected them to be well mannered and enjoyed their affection when offered.
  • I got out of the way when there was conflict and let the people who had known the children the longest sort it out. If I was a source of the conflict I admitted it, stood my ground, or apologized.
  • I found being rigid doesn’t work too well with any kind of family.
  • I did not get caught up in trying to make everything fair. I realized this was a trap and I wasn’t going to spend my life measuring everything.
  • I got out of the way when the children had conflict with each other and I encouraged their father to do the same.
  • When I did not have full cooperation from my husband I let him know immediately.
  • I was friendly with the children’s mother so we could cooperate regarding the children.

(Synthesized from a conversation)