...with ideas for how to improve dd's relationship with dp (her stepdad)!!!
Here's the thing: she is nearly four and dp has been in her life for a little over a year now. Things between he and I progressed more quickly than they would have otherwise because I got pregnant; dp and I have a son together who is 6mos.
Things are not terrible. Sometimes she is very affectionate with dp. She especially loves to play with him and he is great at teasing her and chasing her around and stuff like that, which she loves.
But there are some real concerns I have and I feel TOTALLY stuck as to how to address them:
- dp does not discipline dd. Initially he didn't because it just clearly wasn't his place. Now it's complicated. We live together, and he is the father of her brother so obviously he's going to be able to discipline *him* eventually, etc. The other thing is that since he doesn't discipline her, a) she tries to take advantage of him by asking him for things when I'm not there that she knows I won't let her do (movies, candy) and, more troubling, b) I DON'T WANT to constantly feel like I'm in the middle. For instance, sometimes dp HAS to be in the study working (he's finishing his dissertation right now, so he needs to be able to work quietly alone) and sometimes dd really wants to go in there with him and he'll say yes. But then she'll try bugging him and I feel like I'm constantly on edge trying to mediate things because I know he needs to work and yet he won't tell her she has to be quiet or she has to leave or whatever. So I do. And I KNOW she senses that I'm always, I don't know, hovering over the two of them and trying to mediate their relationship. And I don't think that's healthy. But I don't know how he can be more assertive with her, if it's appropriate, and how he can back up his authority if she questions it which I suspect she will!
- sometimes dd gets really testy with him for no apparent reason. Or I should say, there are a lot of apparent reasons, I suppose: he is not her father, he's still a relatively new figure in her life who's never had authority over her, she gets jealous when he pays attention to other people, etc. The problem is that she is sometimes quite rude or hostile to him. Tonight, we were skyping with my sister and her children, my dd's cousins. When we were all signing off, dp stepped over to say goodbye to them, too. Dd started shoving him away and pushing his face and telling him to go away! I know it really gets to him (especially when she's going through a phase where she does stuff like that more often, as she sometimes does) but I really truly don't know what to do. Of course I told her to stop in that moment, I admonished her and I told her she needed to say sorry, but she refused, and then I said no bedtime story so she said she would say sorry, so she mumbled "I'm sorry J" really insincerely under her breath. I was instantly aware of how ineffective that was as a punishment. But what should I have done in that situation? On the one hand, I feel like she needs to learn we DON'T treat each other like that in this house. On the other hand, I worry that if she is constantly being punished for treating dp badly, that that is only going to make her resent him more.
I'm really worried that if we don't all get this situation under control, that they are going to have a very antagonistic relationship forever.
-What should dp's role be in discipling dd--especially as far as his own interactions with her are concerned? (ie, when I'm not there, or she has done something to HIM, etc.)
-How to get her to treat him respectfully? Some sort of systematic punishment? Like what? How to avoid making it into a big Thing?
Thank you so much in advance, this situation can be really stressful for me, I often feel like I'm in the middle of the two and I love them both! Help me find some harmony!