60 answers

Help! His Kids Are Driving Me Crazy...

I'm treading on unfamiliar territory and am in need of some advice or some encouragement! I've been dating a wonderful man for almost 8 months. He and I have so much in commom except our parenting styles. I have two daughters, 12 and 8. He has one daughter 12 and a son 8. Its like having two sets of twins, except for the fact that his children are demanding, ungrateful and totally indulged by him and his ex wife. The daughter is sneaky and the son is rude. He yells and calls his dad names, ie. idiot. Their mother in the past hasn't allowed him to be the parent he has desired be. The kids are so conditioned to this way of "running" their parents that I'm afraid that its going to be a constant conflict between their dad and me. I'm also concerned that my own children will become impatient and resentful of their behavior. They get irritated with them already and don't understand why they act like they do. I operate in a very proactive way of parenting where he manages in a more reactive manner which isn't consistent by any means. I try to talk to him about the situation and he desires to have different results from his children but just doesn't know how to attain it. How do we come to mutual ground on our parenting styles? It would break my heart if this issue destroyed our relationship. I notice that he is nervous when his kids are around. He seems worried about what I am thinking in regards to their behavior and his lack of parenting. I think there is a big difference b/w being a good dad and being a good parent. He seems a little more focused on showing them fun times. I hear lots of comments like; "they'll grow out of it, or "That's just boys." I'm interested in knowing about any recommended books to read on blending families together and keeping them together. I want to spend my life with him and be good parents to all four of the children. Please help.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

This is not going to change. You have to decide if you can live with it or not. It's a hard thing to do either way but that's really what you have to do.

I suggest you go to counseling and go to someone really experienced in family issues. Ask around - lots of people will be able to recommend someone from experience.

I would suggest blended family therapy with a professional. Book's will not be enough with children that have all ready started displaying behavior that may be reflective from the parents tension and stress of a bad marriage.

More Answers

C. - I am all too familiar with this scenario and from my experience, if your partner does not make serious changes, it will not be the relationship you want nor your girls need. Your girls will take a back seat because the focus will never be on them, it will be on the other two children.

I was one of those women, like your partners' ex. I would never let my husband come down on my boys and it was more because of my own issues with men, not to mention the whole "80's psychology" thing about feelings over authoritarianism.

I had many friends who also ran their parenting in the same direction. The dads would be the kids' friends more than taking responsibility as the real parent role re discipline, demanding respect, and not tolerating inappropriate behavior.

I can tell you and your partner that all of us paid a huge price with our kids by the time they hit age 13/14 and even worse when they were 16 and over. These kids pretty much thought they were invincible and began more and more not to respect any authority - all because their parents thought it would be better if the father role was that of friend, partner, buddy, listener, etc... and all of our kids got into trouble.

Now, these were all kids who began being very intelligent, academically and otherwise, many of them excelled in sports, etc... ALL the kids got into drugs, they lied, they began having problems in school with their teachers and coaches because "they" were always right and all authority was not to be respected or appreciated - they learned much of this at home, as we cushioned our kids far too much.

ALL of our kids raised like this gave us heartache, constant problems, disrupted our family and their siblings completely, and ended up costing huge amounts of money - many of them, when they got their driver's lic. - drove recklessly, irresponsibly or under the influence; some went on to college but partied and continued to be irresponsible, etc... dropping out because they had to.

These kids are all from 18 yrs - 23 years now and are all paying huge prices to re-learn what we as parents did not "get". We all let these kids down, thinking that we would love them easily and gently. This is not the love that children need. I know now that kids need serious parenting and that takes total commitment and responsibility. The boys need a very strong father to keep them in line - the kids these days are very challenging and questioning and they need stronger parenting for these needs. When I say "strong fathering" I mean strong mentally - not to let the kids get away with inappropriate behavior, not to be afraid of the kids - in a parents' needing approval, not wanting to be the "bad guy" or wanting to just be their friend - that will never work and it lets the kids down in a horrid way.

Whether kids admit it or not, they want their parents in control at all times. They need to count on them to be firm and unyielding in boundaries and show the kids that kind of respect. All of the kids I saw parented in this way ended up doing extremely well in their young adult lives.

I hope you can share this story with your partner. We would have given anything for someone to tell us this information. If your partner truly does love his children then he needs to make changes - not easy, but crucial to their stability for the rest of their life. It will bring up much/issues with his ex. However, if he truly loves his kids, he must step up to the plate and take his role more seriously and know the power and the love he can give as a father, in the way he must so that his kids can depend on him.

I don't know if Family First- Dr. Phil, is a good book but think it may help, as I have not read much on this issue, unfortunately, but rather talked a lot with many people.

Also their are local agencies (Child Guidance ###-###-####, although they have a waiting list you/your partner can talk with Sherri and see what she may have to add to help your partner.) and therapists that can deal well with these issues - two I would recommend - Lynn Henton, PhD, (works very well with teens/pre-teens) ###-###-####; and Annie Drake (who wrote a book recently about teen parenting) ###-###-####. I believe they both take insurance. I would recommend that he just go and see one of these women once or twice to re-set and get information, unless he is willing to take the kids in and get therapy which also wouldn't be a bad idea as much has been already set with his kids. He can do it - it may take a few months or even up to a year to straighten everything out but he MUST be dedicated to his kids to make such changes. He is the one who has to change, as I am sure you are aware that you cannot do this for him. But you can surely support him through it and it will change his life and the lives of his children for the better. They will all feel a new and different kind of love that is life-bonding and not short term.

If he does not take this seriously, C., you will suffer as will your girls, not to mention his children, and I am sure you already know this. I hope for your sake and all your childrens' sakes that he can have the strength in him to look at this realistically. He will need much support as his ex will probably fight him on this immensely. Good luck to you and all concerned.


2 moms found this helpful

I think this is a very true concern and one that you should be very proactive in, but those are not your children, they are his.
It sounds as though he's conflicted on how to parent, be a parent, an ex-husband, and now a boyfriend. He has to choose what is the most important of these, but so do you.
If he is nervous and avoidant of his children's behaviors, this is only going to get worse as the children get older and it will eventually cause a rift between you and him.
My 2 cents is step back from the relationship and give him the room he needs to become the parent he wants to be.
Right now, he's spreading himself too thin with trying to be good to you and them, but he's still trying to figure out what kind of parent he says he would like to be. PRoblem is, he isn't doing them any favors by giving excuses, avoiding their bad issues, or trying to be only the fun parent.
You've got your grounding, great kids, a solid head on your shoulders, he doesn't. It sounds like not only do his kids need to be disciplined, but so does he. He's being avoidant and immature about being a parent.
YOu're right, there is a difference between being a dad and a parent, some people never accept those, but there are very deep reasons he's divorced and if his wife treated him and probably still does treat him as his kids do, this situation is going to get worse before it gets better, if it does at all.
You should step back from the situation, tell him you want to give him room to breathe and get thorugh this difficult time with him, his kids, and his ex-wife. Don't be accusitory, say it's more for him than you and put a positive spin on it. See how he reacts. If he's truly wanting to make them better, make the relationship better between he and his kids and any future female, he'll accept the breakup as a good thing, but still heartbreaking. If he pitches a big fit, makes excuses, acts like a child, we you know you've chosen the right avenue for this one. YOu're not his mother, his mentor, his teacher, you're wanting to be his equal and you have to decide if you want to be equal to someone who makes excuses for bad behavior.
He, his kids, and ex-wife may need family councilling (I know I spelled that wrong) and you don't need to be there to be the "she said we should get help" or "she said if I didn't do this, she'd leave me" person. If his wife is treating him like a child, she's not going to be receptive at all to get help for all of them.
Give him no reason, other than his own desire to improve his relationship with his kids and his own self to want to make this a better situation. When he gets a grasp on this situation, then you can talk about getting back into the relationship. YOu can decide what period of time that is or you can simply say we'll see how this all works out.
Or you may find this relationship is far too complicated and toxic for you and your kids. YOu do have to consider the long-term because his and your kids are entering into their "rebellious" years and if this is how his kids act now, it's only going to get worse, especially if he does nothing but react to his kids bad behavior instead of cut it off before it gets bad.
You sound like a great, confident, solid woman, don't take on the role of mother, mentor, and fixer-upper with this. It isn't a situation you can fix or treat. It's all up to him and you need to keep only great, productive, lovely things in your life and the lives of your children.
Don't get me wrong, companionship is a wonderful thing, but only when it's enjoyed and cherished from both parties or in this case, all parties involved.
Take care of yourself and your kids first, let him do the same. If he's happier with his family, he'll be overjoyed with yours.
Many blessings and keep us posted!

1 mom found this helpful

What you're seeing isn't a phase, its the direct result of how they've been raised and it won't change until the dad starts acting like a father and forces the change in his house. Let their mother do as she pleases, let them disrespect her, but the rules in Dad's house need to change if the kids are ever going to change. I know you love this guy, but if he doesn't do something about this, you will be dealing with two bratty kids the rest of your life.

My brother in law has the same EXACT situation. He just remarried and his new wife is trying to put a few simple rules down... like you take your own clothes to the laundry and your own plate to the kitchen... not very much to ask of 12 and 8 year olds (his kids are that age too, 12 yr old girl, 8yo boy). The kids have never been made to do anything and never been disciplined. Needless to say she has her work cut out for her and the entire situation is a horribly messy because these kids are so spoiled rotten. I feel sorry for her, maybe i am not that strong, but if i were in her shoes, i would have walked away after getting one dose of those kids.

I think it is a tendency of divorced parents to indulge their children out of some sense of guilt over the divorce. What they don't get is that they aren't doing the kids any favors when they do this...

1 mom found this helpful

Well, I happen to not have much advice...because I am in a very similar situation myself! Except I within the last month married the man I have dated for four years, me having a 5yr daughter, and he having a 5yr old son. So I can relate to the twin situation! His son has not been fortunate to have a good mother, so he also is rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful, and can completely disrupt our entire household each time we have him. Of course, this eventually causes problems between my husband and I. I know I knew what I was getting into as we dated for so long, but I always thought things would get better with his son, that us showing him our love and giving him a routine at our home would help, but I hate to say in our situation it has gotten worse. I feel so sorry for my husband because he happens to be a great father, and I couldn't ask for my daughter to have a better step father. The truth is there is nothing we can do about their children, especially about the way the other mothers have raised them and formed their personality. The best we can do is continue to give them the love, routine and discipline when you have the other children. Trust me, it is not easy and not sure if it will ever be! But when you love someone you tend to put up with or accept special circumstances! I wish you the best and let me know if you come across some great advice that works for you!!


C., I don't want to sound insensitive but perhaps for your sanity and that of your children you need to leave this situation. Take some time away from "The Guy", consider all of the reasons you want to stay with him and raise your kids together. Consider also what it could mean for your children. How do the four children interact with each other? From experience I know that your children will continue to need you to be available to them through high school and into college. If the his kids are going to put a hard edge to home life then your children need the opportunity to tell you what they think. So, after you've given it much thought and prayer sit down with them and ask what they think; about the guy, his kids, maybe becoming a family some day, etc.
Hope this helps. Mary

I've heard that Love and Logic is really good. Have you considered family counseling? I think that would be your best bet since men aren't always that interested in reading about how to become a better parent. You can't fix this for him, he has to be ready to do the hard work too.

I suggest you go to counseling and go to someone really experienced in family issues. Ask around - lots of people will be able to recommend someone from experience.

Sweetheart, you need to turn and run for the hills. This is coming from a 63 yr. old mother of 3 grandmother of 4 boys.

You don't stand a chance with these kids. Not only will these spoiled children resent you but he will start to as well. It is not worth putting yourself or your children thru.
I am speaking from experience. I married a man with a 9 yr old daug. that ruled his housewhole in every way. Right down to the kind of TP he bought. I thought I could love her and change her. She nearly drove me crazy. I have a daug. who was 18 mos. younger than her and she was constantly doing things to my daug. because my daug. was smarter in school and more popular than her. One day she put dog shampoo and bleach in my daugs. shampoo bottle. That was the final straw.
I loved this man with all my heart but him and her had to go for the protection of my daug. and me. PLEASE, trust me on this.

No matter how much you love him you will never be a winner in this situation.

J. Ratley === ____@____.com

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