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Old 12-26-2018, 01:54 PM #1
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Default dating a single dad with a difficult son

I started dating a single dad about a year ago and I was immediately drawn to his warmth and ability to communicate. It was both of our first serious relationship post divorce and we're both fairly amicable with our exes. He and his ex-wife have a son, 9, and a daughter, 6. My ex-husband and I don't have any kids but share our ten year old dog (not in any sort of legal arrangement but just because we each both want to get to spend time with him!).

Early on in our relationship, my boyfriend conveyed that his son can be difficult. He insisted that his son is "just wired that way" and that he's a very intense kid and there's nothing to do to change that. His son craves constant attention, whines when he doesn't get it, and is frequently disrespectful. He'll run and jump around on the couch, and when my boyfriend calmly tells him to stop he'll sometimes just do it even more. If my boyfriend tells him to go to his room, he'll sometimes just follow him around instead of do as he's told. When he tells him he's had enough treats, he'll take the bag away and his son will grab it back. My boyfriend considers these behaviors as small and not affecting the broader picture of his children living full, happy lives. Is he right? Is this just a phase or do you all see it worsening as he becomes a teenager? I've witnessed his son acting like this in front of his ex-wife as well so it's not just something my boyfriend deals with. He claims his son is very immature for his age, yet he's frequently allowed to sleep in his bed (and his ex allows this as well) and even helps him bathe himself because he claims he can't do it properly on his own. How will his son mature if he's not allowed to make mistakes on his own and be independent?

Other things have come up that have been really shocking to me. In addition to essentially letting the kids dictate their diets most of the time, his son refuses to take vitamins or eat vegetables and my boyfriend doesn't make him. The worst for me was discovering that his son "might" have a nut allergy but explained to me that his son doesn't like needles and doesn't want to get the allergy test done. Why would be put his son's preference over his safety and health? This just seemed really dysfunctional to me.

When I recently learned that his son's behavior is only an issue at home and never at school, I started to question how my boyfriend can really consider this behavior to be "wired." His teachers love him! I know my boyfriend has sought help through family therapists in the past, but nothing has been addressed post divorce aside from his son seeing a school counselor. Since his son is so well behaved in school, it's hard for the school counselor to address any issues.

Is this common for a kid to take advantage of the parents this way? I never would have talked back or disrespected my parents like this and it's something none of my friends or coworkers who are parents experience on this level. They didn't need to be strict with me and my sister; we just understood that we needed to listen to them. How much of this is truly "wired" versus being related to the parenting? His daughter is well behaved although lately has been picking up on some of her brother's bad behavior (probably because she knows she can get away with it).

The realities of my boyfriend's relationship with his son have made me question several times whether this is just not the right relationship for me. He's a wonderful man in so many ways, but I don't know how to build a future with his family. I'm not one to sit in silence while his son misbehaves, and my boyfriend is fine with me telling his son if I don't agree with his behavior and even went as far as saying "he'll probably listen to you more than he listens to me." I told him that's not okay with me and that his son needs to learn to listen to him and his ex first.

His son, thankfully, is an affectionate and creative kid, and strangely very much a rule follower outside of the home. Those qualities don't diminish his bad behavior enough for me to stay. He says he's accepted his son's behavior "as his reality," but I recently told him I do not accept it as mine. I also understand that the past two years have been hard for him and the kids with him moving out and sharing custody. I've encouraged him to seek therapy or talk to a parenting coach, but he insists it won't help. We both feel we are at a crossroads because I don't think he's willing to make changes in how he parents. Are we doomed unless he makes changes, or am I being overly critical? In my experience, his son's behavior is totally unacceptable and not something any one I know deals with regularly, so I don't have anyone to ask about this.
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Old 12-26-2018, 04:29 PM #2
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Smile Re: dating a single dad with a difficult son

Here are links to 9 articles, from PsychCentral's archives, that hopefully may be of some help in gaining perspective with regard to the situation you describe:

The Reason Children Misbehave

Understanding and Managing Children's Misbehavior

What To Do About Attention-Seeking Kids

https://psychcentral.com/lib/changin...-part-i/?all=1

https://psychcentral.com/lib/changin...part-ii/?all=1

https://psychcentral.com/lib/changin...art-iii/?all=1

https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-c...dium=popular17

https://psychcentral.com/lib/kids-an...-tough-issues/

https://psychcentral.com/lib/helping...dium=popular17

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Old 12-27-2018, 01:16 AM #3
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Default Re: dating a single dad with a difficult son

Something I thought of...Do you want children some day? If you do then this should be a lesson on how he might raise kids, should the two of you ever have any together.
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Old 12-27-2018, 08:31 AM #4
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Default Re: dating a single dad with a difficult son

The fact that the child only acts this way at home says to me it is a learned behavior, not "wired" into him.

It sounds like neither parent is willing to enforce consequences for his behavior. If they don't start teaching the kids that there are consequences for their actions it's only going to get worse. Eventually the world will teach them the lesson.

IMHO, you are not being overly critical. It is wise that you are wondering if this is the right relationship for you. If the father is unwilling to change how he parents the child's behavior is not going to change. Why should it? He gets what he wants now, why change? There's a good chance his behavior will escalate as he gets older. If you don't think you can live with the behavior it might be time to bail out. The man may be wonderful in other ways, but his kids are always going to come first.
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Old 12-27-2018, 08:33 AM #5
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Default Re: dating a single dad with a difficult son

Sounds like a tough decision. I believe there's truth to the notion of having hands full where raising sons is concerned. And it's true that counselors cannot do much if the behavior does not go further than the home. It will probably get worse up to and into puberty before it gets better. Then...whoosh...a calm.
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Old 12-28-2018, 01:00 PM #6
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Default Re: dating a single dad with a difficult son

I wanted to revisit this thread as it is clearly driving a wedge between you and frankly what decisions come next have the ability to leave shambles of not one, not two but four lives-the daughter included.

Why is your bf so adamant that nothing could be learned from a parenting coach or his own therapist? Certainly 9 year old boys will push boundaries like noones business plus unfortunately, in this day and age they have enormous exposure to medias that just didn't exist even ten years ago. So their soundbyte exposure goes well beyond the home or school yard. And what's funny to them just isn't.

I agree...why should it rest on your shoulders to tell him no jumping on furniture? Furniture can and will break and it's not a drop in the bucket to replace. Why shouldn't your bf speak up if being snarked at? Or if he is so desensitized to it, all the more reason to speak with his own therapist. Kids can wear a parent down and if a parent is struggling with grief, depression or anything else all the more reason to just bounce things off of a more neutral third party. Even if to vent about the struggles of parenting.

Some behaviors aren't just boys being boys. Some are development aspects and some are personality traits. But boundaries matter.
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Old 12-30-2018, 07:31 AM #7
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Default Re: dating a single dad with a difficult son

I read your other thread and posted some of my feelings there. I am getting a clearer picture here though of the situation.

It seems to me you are standing by the sidelines and watching this happen. I really think you ought to be involved in the parenting of this child - and that includes setting expectations, discipline, and holding the child(ren) accountable. After all, you are an adult present in the situation. It is your right - some would say responsibility - to get involved.

You can not ignore this. You and your boyfriend must reach an agreement about parenting this boy. Otherwise a wedge is going to develop which will only get worse and drive deeper. You already are resentful of this all. How is this going to be if this continues? How is this going to be for you when it gets worse?

I speak from experience here. As a full-time stepmom I desperately watched from the sidelines my stepson's poor upbringing. His misbehavior in my book was actually encouraged by the fact his father failed to take action, set expectations, and ultimately not hold the boy accountable. It became extreme to the point the final hurrah was my calling the police to take the 16 year old into custody and out of my home. I refused to allow the boy to return to my household. Naturally it killed the relationship as even then my then husband refused to acknowledge something was wrong and inappropriate. I only wish that I had had the courage to speak up when I first realised something was wrong both with the boy and how his father parented him. I only wish that I had had the courage to make my own demands regarding expectations of my own role. I am convinced that if I had been allowed to parent this child as my own that he would have grown up at least better behaved and better balanced.

In my belief the key thing to parenting is accountability. If a child cannot be held accountable for their behaviour there is only trouble in the making.


As I mentioned on your other thread, if you are to be in these children's lives you have got to be a FULL participant.
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Old 12-30-2018, 07:37 AM #8
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Default dating a single dad with a difficult son

I love my hubby... but... knowing what I know now... I would not get involved with someone with kids if I could avoid it. That’s always my advice to people now. It was a hellish nightmare for years. I was very involved and really had my heart into doing the right thing. Read the book on step-mothers called Stepmonster. Also, I recommend that you find a support group online for step-parenting. Things will be very different after marriage versus while you are dating.
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Old 12-31-2018, 09:58 AM #9
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Default Re: dating a single dad with a difficult son

Quote:
Originally Posted by WishfulThinker66 View Post
I read your other thread and posted some of my feelings there. I am getting a clearer picture here though of the situation.

It seems to me you are standing by the sidelines and watching this happen. I really think you ought to be involved in the parenting of this child - and that includes setting expectations, discipline, and holding the child(ren) accountable. After all, you are an adult present in the situation. It is your right - some would say responsibility - to get involved.

You can not ignore this. You and your boyfriend must reach an agreement about parenting this boy. Otherwise a wedge is going to develop which will only get worse and drive deeper. You already are resentful of this all. How is this going to be if this continues? How is this going to be for you when it gets worse?

I speak from experience here. As a full-time stepmom I desperately watched from the sidelines my stepson's poor upbringing. His misbehavior in my book was actually encouraged by the fact his father failed to take action, set expectations, and ultimately not hold the boy accountable. It became extreme to the point the final hurrah was my calling the police to take the 16 year old into custody and out of my home. I refused to allow the boy to return to my household. Naturally it killed the relationship as even then my then husband refused to acknowledge something was wrong and inappropriate. I only wish that I had had the courage to speak up when I first realised something was wrong both with the boy and how his father parented him. I only wish that I had had the courage to make my own demands regarding expectations of my own role. I am convinced that if I had been allowed to parent this child as my own that he would have grown up at least better behaved and better balanced.

In my belief the key thing to parenting is accountability. If a child cannot be held accountable for their behaviour there is only trouble in the making.


As I mentioned on your other thread, if you are to be in these children's lives you have got to be a FULL participant.
Respectfully I disagree.

No way no how men i dated were expected or had to be full participants in my child’s life, certainly no parenting would be involved as she has mom and dad and no way no how I’d consider them “family” with my child.

I was single for quite awhile so I dated at least few men. So should everyone of them be allowed to discipline or play a parent to my kid? Heck no. Dating someone for a year at no point qualifies people to be parents, family or full participant.

Why should a girlfriend of a year be involved in parenting. No way no how. Totally disagree, respectfully of course
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Old 03-25-2019, 02:38 PM #10
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Default Re: dating a single dad with a difficult son

I just wanted to say a belated thank you to all of you for your responses—this situation was a real struggle for me. I thought I'd share an update.

My boyfriend provided so much to me as a partner, and I wrestled with whether that outweighed the challenges we faced with him and his kids. In the end, I knew that I couldn't ignore the parenting choices he was making and couldn't find a path forward with him. It has been very sad for both of us, particularly him, but it needed to happen. I just don't think he sees just how challenging his situation is and how passive he comes across as a father at times. He is wonderful at showing affection and being goofy with his kids, but to me guidance and discipline are equally important, especially when the kids are misbehaving.

As much as he says he welcomes a new perspective, I didn't feel like he fully acknowledges how much change needs to come from from him and his parenting. While his son (almost 10) tends to be the biggest struggle, his daughter (almost 7) is now picking up on his son's behavior. They talk back to my boyfriend, disobey him, and ignore him, all of which are generally met with him laughing it off and no punishment. I struggled with how I would deal with this, especially as they become teenagers. That kind of behavior is not something that I tolerate and I don't see as being small—only building and getting worse. If they don't listen to him, why would they listen to his girlfriend?

Right before we finally ended things, my boyfriend told me he and his ex had put his son on medication. If his son behaves fine in school and not at home, shouldn't this indicate to them that it's the parenting that's the real problem? He and his ex lacked the ability to see that they dug themselves into this hole, or either that they didn't want to admit it.

I also worried about the kids developmentally, especially the son, as the mother lets him sleep in her bed "because he has trouble sleeping alone" (because he was never made to!) and I found out both kids still wear pull ups to bed... something that was really shocking to me given their ages. When my boyfriend brought that up, it was part of an unrelated conversation and he very casually said "I wonder when my kids will be out of pull ups." I was shocked, and his response was "they make them in their size, so it's normal." I don't have to be a parent to know that it's not normal. Who knew a conversation about diapers would basically be the deal breaker...

And yet, he is the most caring, thoughtful, and romantic boyfriend. I don't get it. It's a huge disappointment, and I wish I could say if things improved down the road that I'd consider getting back together with him, but I just can't see that happening right now if he's so reluctant to change.
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