Blended family: different sets of rules, lots of acting out, feel lost

Nancy - posted on 09/20/2016 ( 3 moms have responded )

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Hi - My fiancé and I have been dating several year, just recently engaged. I've been an active part of his son's life, now 7, for two years. We have a great relationship with his son's mother, and we are all grateful for the mutual support and appreciation.

However - Jack, we'll call him, my fiancé's 7 year old, has a completely different set of rules at his mom's house - meaning, none. He goes to bed whenever he wants to, eats donuts and cookies all day, no "real" food if he doesn't want to...he can be disrespectful, and he basically comes home from school and sits on his tablet, until he goes to bed. We've talked to his mom about values, and discipline; she's said that Jack threatens to run away when she disciplines him, so she doesn't. We really think she just doesn't want to put in the effort. On our end, we've been working with him, to sit with us at the table during meal times, he gets time out if he's disrespectful or intentionally disobeys...we've been limiting screen time and enforcing bedtime and homework, of course.

Well, now he's gotten to where he says he "hates it over here". That there's "nothing to do" and he "just wants the TV and tablet". He won't talk to us or eat with us. It's very difficult, and of course my fiancé is in pain about it. Are we doing the right thing? We don't think it's acceptable for him to be disrespectful, or throw things, and we get down on the floor and play with him instead of screen time, we think that's important for him - but he's so angry. My fiancé is afraid that he's confused - he experiences none of this at his mom's house. Whatever our intentions, are we just teaching him that he deserves to be punished no matter what?

We're struggling! Any advice or lessons learned out there?

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Jodi - posted on 09/21/2016

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You can't control the rules or boundaries in the mother's home. Ultimately, though, you can control the ones in your home. He's 7. He is not confused, he is spoiled and he is acting like a brat.

He won't talk to you or eat with you? So where exactly does he eat? And if he is eating elsewhere, stop enabling it. He can either eat with you or go hungry.

Get some board games, find some other activities (eg. lego, model making, you know, the stuff kids should be doing) and work with him on engaging in those things. If he is disrespectful and throws things, ask him to remove himself to his room....where it will be even more boring.....until he can be respectful. Reward positive behaviour with his screen time, or even taking him to the movies or something.

Do NOT give in just because of how mum's house is. He is absolutely old enough to know that there are rules in each house and those rules are different and he needs to be respectful of those rules.

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Michelle - posted on 09/21/2016

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I agree with Jodi.
I went through this exact same thing with my ex.
I always had the rules and their Father hasn't.
My now 15yo once packed his bag, wrote a not with his Dad's phone number on it and stood outside. The only reason he didn't really go anywhere was because he wasn't allowed to cross the road on his own and didn't know what way his Dad's house was. He came inside after about 10 mins.
You can't control what rules are in the other house but you can for sure have rules and consequences in your house.
Of course he is going to say he doesn't like it at your place, you don't let him get away with whatever he wants to do.
You and your Fiance has to stay strong and stick to your house rules. Like Jodi said, reward the good behaviour. If he can go xxx amount of days eating at the table as a family without complaining then he gets xxx amount of screen time.
He's old enough to know about consequences and to make good choices, you just have to guide him.
BTW: That grumpy child I had is now a well mannered, considerate and well liked young man. I still kept rules in my house and his Father still doesn't but both my boys are well behaved.

KC - posted on 09/20/2016

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Reading your post makes me breathe a little easier! I'm not alone!!! WOW!!
I have a step son and two sons of my own... 3 total... we are CONSTANTLY battling parenting styles (from their other 'homes).' The most recent thing: my step son starts singing a rap song talking about killing yourself... come to find out it's a song from the suicide squad movie that his mom let him watch... so many thoughts and emotions going through my mind, things i want to say, let's just say my "bitch-mom" mode was in full effect. I said nothing. Spoke to my husband about it and about teaching him a different 'way.' I say that to say this- i think the other side wants to 'win,' they want to be the cool parent, let them do whatever they want, the kids to favor them (which may do damage to them later on in life and may even lead to resentment- seen it 1st hand ;) )... play on tablets all day- exact same thing with my step son, i worry about his social skills, mind craft videos all day long...it's sad really. his interests have changed and i feel his childhood and child play has been taken away. kids crave boundaries though, and at the end of the day, i have to remind myself to be the best i can be and teach them values, and make an impression on them in that way... same here with the "your house is boring," (bc we don't give them everything they want)... "do i get a surprise for being good?" (no, that's how your supposed to act).... it is exhausting, i know. you can't talk to the other parent, they won't change or see your point of view, the courts won't take a kid away from the mom because of what she's 'exposed' him to- she's not on the streets.... so no point in spending money in court.... so i've finally accepted the fact that this is how it is, can't do anything about it, all i can do is be the best me. listen to him, this takes some skill, find out his interests (when he speaks between games :) ) and capitalize on it and run with it. spend time talking to him about that interest or the hobby he enjoys. let him show you his video games and try to beat him at them, get some 'cred,' soon enough he'll start listening and reacting to what YOU want him to do... good luck!

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