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#1 of 9 Old 05-30-2010, 10:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The cast of characters is as such: Me and DP. My daughter (age 5) lives with us full time and his two kids (age 5 and 8) live with us about 50% of the time. We also have an eight month old dd. We've been together with this arrangement for about two years.

Here's the thing - I'm really struggling with his kids. They are sweet kids and I do love them and I think that my issues with them are largely due to my feelings about their mother and about her rules (or lack thereof) at her house, but it's really been a challenge and I'm not sure how to resolve it.

I am raising my kid to be pretty open-minded (hopefully) and I work very hard to send her to a Montessori school because I like the values and person-driven education provided. We are socially conscious and try to talk about ideas and observe our world around us. I think sleep and good food are underrated for kids and I try to make sure she doesn't lack for either. I also think boundaries and responsibilities (within their capabilities) are important. I certainly don't think I'm perfect or that the parenting I'm providing is perfect, but I'm aware and I try.

Problem is that their mother doesn't think much about most things. She follows the norm - the kids don't really have a bedtime and they go to a pretty rough public school. They eat convenience food at her house and don't have chores and aren't kept to real boundaries. When they come to our house, it's chaos and confusion and there are different standards for my kid as opposed to the others. They won't eat the food we provide and while my daughter has a chore chart for the week, they have a hard time even putting their shoes away when they come in the house.

There's so much more, but I don't want it to turn into a bitchfest. I guess my question/concern/challenge is how to figure all this out. How to get along and be peaceful and not turn into a bitchy monster when they come over because I feel so infringed upon by things that aren't congruous with what I feel is "right" or calm.

Any tricks?

Mama to Maia (12/04), Nora (9/09), Sam (8/12) and Step-mama to Aidan (3/02) and Luci (10/04).

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#2 of 9 Old 05-31-2010, 07:38 AM
 
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What does their father think should be done?
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#3 of 9 Old 05-31-2010, 11:27 AM
 
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Your problem is that you have a double standard for the two sets of kids. That is never going to work.

What goes on at her house is outside your control, but what goes on at your house IS. If your husband can't work with you to establish and enforce standards you can be at peace with, then you can't coparent his children from the first marriage 50% of the time. This is not an EOW situation. This is your LIFE.

So talk to him. Tell him you want peace and a united front and you are willing to make compromises, and then make some. Pick a diet and a bedtime and a set of chores that can work for everybody, and stick to it. With your husband getting so much parenting time, switching back and forth with groceries and chore schedules is just not going to work.

If he won't work with you to make the household peaceful and happy when they are there, then what he's telling you is that he actually doesn't want 50% parenting time. But I wouldn't assume that - it may just be that he is feeling helpless to go against their mother's (lack of) expectations. He probably never had occasion to do that when they were together. But if he's going to have 50% physical custody, then he's going to need to be setting the standard 50% of the time.
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#4 of 9 Old 06-01-2010, 01:25 PM
 
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I agree that you should be able to set up expectations in your house with your partner for all the kids when they are there. I think kids can adjust to these different standards.

That being said, I'd be very careful not to be judgmental about the mom and her choices. I'd try to reframe and see things from her side. She probably loves her kids very much. She may have decided that certain other values are more important that chore charts and set bedtimes - and she might have good reasons. Let go of the value judgments (which will come across and alienate the kids) and just focus on what works for you and your family and why that's important to you.
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#5 of 9 Old 06-01-2010, 05:55 PM
 
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I struggled with the same type of issues regarding behaviour. Our kids are reallly sweet, lovely children with great hearts, but the boundaries and expectations in each house were getting extreme in the differences for them.

We sat down with the oldest child (other child is too young) and made up a set of rules with her and taped it onto the fridge. Now every time she breaks those rules, we send her to read the fridge with the rules she agreed to. No yelling, monstrous behaviour because she is responsible for them too.
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#6 of 9 Old 06-01-2010, 09:23 PM
 
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I agree that your step-children need to have the same rules and expectations as your daughter. It will probably (eventually) be comforting to them to have routine and structure and boundaries and guidance.

As you make the change, I would recognize that your daughter has grown up with these expectations and your stepchildren are learning something new starting now. So for the moment their chores might be along the lines of putting their shoes away and clearing their own dishes after dinner... eventually they might work their way up to folding laundry or emptying the dishwasher. Set them up for success, then gently increase your expectations. Know that they will need a lot of loving support.

Your daughter's teachers at the Montessori school might have some insight into how they help children new to their community learn to take responsibility for their own daily routines and what kinds of things the teachers need to do/have in place to support them.

Parenting four little monkeys (11, 8, 6, and 4) with the love of my life. Making it up as I go.
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#7 of 9 Old 06-02-2010, 11:13 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aricha View Post
I agree that your step-children need to have the same rules and expectations as your daughter. It will probably (eventually) be comforting to them to have routine and structure and boundaries and guidance.
Speaking as a step child here, but tread this line carefully. My stepmother gets to run her house pretty much as she sees fit (as opposed to how my father lived before he married her), and my sister hated it. I was in college when she moved in, so I wasn't there so much. My stepmother is very, very different than my mother. Values are different. Views on how people, especially women, should behave are different.

Personally, I am of the opinion that (at least one of) the step kids were there "first" and it doesn't make much sense to have them conform to expectations that were formulated for kids that are younger than they are. If you want to have the same rules and expectations for the two groups of kids, then that set of rules should be a compromise between the two ways...not just insisting that the step kids do it the way the OP wants if she could have everything her way.

Dad to DD 9/2008
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#8 of 9 Old 06-14-2010, 07:51 PM
 
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I'm a step-child, too, and I am dealing with my DB's child, too. We have had our problems off and on. Sometimes the child is disrespectful to me, but ultimately he knows I love him just like he were my own. When we were going through problems, I thought back to my experiences. I didn't enjoy how my step-mother never had anything to do with me as a child. She never parented me, she would always back off and let my dad handle everything. Sometimes she didn't even speak to me. I wish things had been different, but I didn't know how to express that when I was younger.

I'm sure your step-children will greatly benefit from the stability you are offering them. It may not seem like it now, but I would keep trying and I am sure you will see things pay off. Just start small and work your way up. I totally feel for you, though. DB's child's mom does tons of things that both him and I don't agree with. You just have to forget about that. You rule your house and no one else.

Christie, DP to Kevin, mama to DD Morgen (12/07) & DSS Matthew (7/03)
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#9 of 9 Old 06-14-2010, 09:12 PM
 
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Sorry, I don't have a trick to fix it. But maybe you can adjust your attitude. (I mean that in a very literal, helpful sense - NOT a scolding one, as in "Young lady, you'd better adjust your attitude"! ) Even in easier situations, parents cannot always make things fair between their children.

Our cast-of-characters includes my husband and me; my almost-15-year-old twin sons (whose Dad lives in town, so although they spend a lot of time with him, it's for a day or two at a time - they're never gone for long); my husband's 11-year-old son (whose Mom lives across the country, so except in the summer he's basically with us 24-7); and our 2-year-old.

The twins are mildly Autistic/developmentally delayed. They still struggle to follow multi-step directions, so they tend to need a lot of reminders/guidance with chores. Even though he's younger, my step-son has gotten to the point that it's important to my husband that he be expected to complete tasks without someone standing over him - because he's capable of that. So he has begun mowing our lawn and that of the elderly woman next door - a chore you'd typically expect the older boys to do. Their chores are mostly inside the house, so I can keep an eye on them and keep them on-task. The 11-year-old's work takes longer, which I'm sure seems unfair to him. Yet, his work is harder than what the twins do, so he gets paid for it and they don't.

Also, step-son is "gifted" and we're sending him to our parish school, which is academically top-notch. But it doesn't have the resources to deal with the twins' special needs, so they go to public school. The twins like their school, but they do have a sense that their little brother is being sent somewhere special they don't get to go. At the same time, the 11-year-old is jealous because he has to wear a Catholic school uniform and the twins get to wear whatever they want and ride a bus with their friends.

And at some point the 2-year-old is going to figure out that his older brothers all have different families that he's not part of. The twins have a wealthy Dad who takes them all kinds of cool places. The middle brother has a Mom who lives on the coast. And all he's going to have is his own two boring parents in the same boring house, who are together all the time! When will HE get HIS weekend visitation with somebody more exciting?

Bottom line: Sometimes we all must tell our kids, "I know this doesn't seem fair on the surface. But each person -even in our family - is an individual and has different circumstances and needs. Your Dad (or Step-Dad) and I are doing the best we can to meet everybody's needs and take into account everybody's different circumstances. As long as you're a child in our home, you're just going to have to trust us, even though everything won't always be identical." You have to get yourself to the place where you can say that and not feel guilty about it, because you shouldn't. It's true. Your daughter gets to be with you full-time. Her step-sibs don't. But she's also expected to follow your rules full-time. They must be extended a little bit of grace, because they have to adjust to different expectations at the different houses. Getting them to pick up their shoes may be an accomplishment, for them. It's not an accomplishment for your daughter. In parenting her, you must expect the best she can do, in spite of her step-siblings. It's not equal, but it IS fair, in the global sense.

One woman in a house full of men:  my soul mate:  partners.gif  orfencing.gif... twin sons:lurk.giflurk.gif(HS juniors) ... step-son: guitar.gif (a freshman) ... our little man: kid.gif  (a kindergartener) ... and there is another female in the house, after all:  ourdog2.gif. 
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