Teaching morals and life lesssons without insulting the biological parent? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 03-11-2006, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Anyone else have this issue? Dss is 10 and lives with us primarily. He is at the age where I feel like we should be talking about relationships, resposiblilty, drugs, alcohol, sexual responsiblitly.

Dss's mom has many traits I like, but her lifestyle and values are very different from ours. I find it hard to have certain conversations with dss without stepping into an "off limits" territory. I see that dh has the same hesitation. We don't want to criticize dss's mom, or seem to be even if we are not. Dss is extremely sensitve to ANYTHING that might be seen as insulting his mom (and she says he is the same way about us at her house).

The sad thing is there are moments with dss when I feel like when my ds is older, I will stop right here and have this conversation. But I have to stop myself. If dh feels this way too, who will share the life lessons and morals that dh and I share and want to be a part of our family?

It seems like these topics are off limits: the value of work, recreational alcohol and drug use, marriage (in regards to having children), fidelity, monogamy, value of a college education, budgeting/living within means, and on and on.
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#2 of 24 Old 03-12-2006, 04:54 AM
 
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To be honest, it doesn't sound like it's a step-parent issue. It sounds like it's a pre-teen boy trying to avoid having a potentially embarrassing conversation and using his blended family as a convenient get-out-of-blushes-free card.
He KNOWS the value of marriage- he's seen his parents break up and his dad get happily married again- and fidelity. You don't need to talk about it, he's already had an object lesson. Same with budgeting, and college.You share these lessons just by living them.
Drugs, otoh, you do need to step up to the plate on; my kids are a lot younger than your dss, but we started by talking about addiction (the previous tenants here were heroin addicts and dealers) and how horrible it must be, and took it from there. They understand that their grandmother can't stop smoking because she's addicted: one day, they're going to understand that their grandmother is an alcoholic because she's addicted. I can't do the heavy-handed "all drugs are bad" routine as a former user, but I can warn them of the consequences. The same with safe sex: my boys have been to the family planning clinic with me to pick up condoms, and they do understand what they're for...

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#3 of 24 Old 03-12-2006, 06:50 PM
 
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I think you can still have them so long as you arn't attacking mom.

So for example

"people who stay home and don't work like your mom are loosers!" would be bad.

"It is really important to work hard so you can earn money for the things you want. Do you enjoy these things we have? We have them becuase *whoever* works hard every day to earn them. Someday you will have a chance to earn your own things too" Good

"people who do drugs (like your mom) are loosers" BAD

"Drugs are illigal and they really limit your oportunities, people who do drugs often find it hard to focus and they miss out on things becuase the drugs cloud their mind" GOOD

"sleeping around makes you trash" BAD

"being monogomous is a really important way that your father shows me that he loves me." Good.

Just make it about general things and not her - in fact when you can make it about YOU.
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#4 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 01:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't feel he's trying to get out of things. Sometimes it is his hesitation that stops the conversation, sometimes mine. For example, we were watching a show and the dad made a comment like, "Well, I HAD to marry her," wink wink. Dss was totally confused. Why would someone have to get married? We don't believe everyone has to get married, but had this been my bio son, I would have talked about our relationship, why we believe in marriage, monogamy, commitment,etc. but his mom's lifestyle isn't like that and obviously she doesn't believe that. So, I just stopped. I'm not sure how far about our family to go. I just said, "some people think you should get married if you get pregnant," and he kinda laughed, and said, "You don't HAVE to."

Another one: we were talking about jobs/his future, he says, "Well, I might not want to work," "How will you support yourself?" "Well, you can get food stamps and stuff." His mom is on public assistance until her trust fund kicks in (seriously.) and hasn't worked in years.

He has made comments about cheating, about "you can just get divorced," I don't know. I feel like we are failing in our duty here, but at the same time, I at times feel like my conversations make him feel alienated. I truly hope we are "teaching by living" but I think his mom's life seems more fun than ours a lot of the time. I'm sure eventually he'll see it, it's in the mean time that I worry about.
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#5 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 02:17 AM
 
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I don't understand why you didn't talk to him like he was your bio son. Sorry. *confused*
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#6 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 02:46 AM
 
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Because she is not his mother, and she is quite reasonably deciding not to insult his mother's lifestyle and/or beliefs. I guess I do wonder why his father is not able to discuss his personal beliefs with his son openly, however. In a non-judgmental way, along the lines of "while some people don't believe its important to get married if they are pregnant, I have a different opinion, because, etc., etc., and I have tried to live that by...etc., etc.
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#7 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 02:52 AM
 
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I agree with the idea of using "I" statements... "I believe..." and "We believe..." and explaining why.

I totally disagree with your values btw, but that is not the point.
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#8 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 04:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by bczmama
Because she is not his mother, and she is quite reasonably deciding not to insult his mother's lifestyle and/or beliefs. I guess I do wonder why his father is not able to discuss his personal beliefs with his son openly, however. In a non-judgmental way, along the lines of "while some people don't believe its important to get married if they are pregnant, I have a different opinion, because, etc., etc., and I have tried to live that by...etc., etc.
I think his dad just feels the same way, we start a converstation and dss just gets this look on his face and you know his thoughts are going right to his mom. Dh doesn't want to insult her either. Inspite of differences, we actually all get a long fine these days so we don't have any need to do anything to their relationship.

Here's another one. Dss says, "If I were a girl, I wouldn't breastfeed," so as I start telling him why I do, I stop myself a bit because I know his mom formula feeds her baby, so I don't need to freak him out with statistics and my strong probreastfeeding opinions.

Does anyone else feel this or do you just talk freely about it all even when it applies to the bioparent.
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#9 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 04:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by thismama
I totally disagree with your values btw, but that is not the point.
I'm not sure why you had to include that. It's not like I'm giving you the full spectrum of my beliefs and experiences, I'm just trying to share some pieces of conversation to show what I mean.
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#10 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 06:48 AM
 
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To me, that sounds like he's testing the waters: will you still love him if he falls off the rails? The teenage years can be really really scary, and he may be looking for some reassurance that you're there for him unconditionally.
Don't forget to use humour as well- after all, it's a good thing he doesn't have boobs if he'd let them go to waste Or, did he know that it's actually possible for men to breastfeed? Something cool and quirky...

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#11 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 10:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flor

Here's another one. Dss says, "If I were a girl, I wouldn't breastfeed," so as I start telling him why I do, I stop myself a bit because I know his mom formula feeds her baby, so I don't need to freak him out with statistics and my strong probreastfeeding opinions.
I think you can explain to him why you do, without going into statistics or overwhelming him with your opinions. Think of it as the begining of a conversation on the topic, the rest of the conversation might come later, but that way you won't feel that you have to explain everything about it at once. Maybe think of it the way you'd explain something to a new acquaintence, just sort of gradually. That way he'll just see it as part of a conversation and not a big lecture or put down of his mom.
Explaining your beliefs is not insulting to his mom, it's just being who you are. You aren't asking him to adopt those beliefs as his own, but by living as an example to him, maybe he will.
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#12 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 01:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by fek&fuzz
Explaining your beliefs is not insulting to his mom, it's just being who you are. You aren't asking him to adopt those beliefs as his own, but by living as an example to him, maybe he will.
Yeah, I think it's weird that I can be my lactivist self with any stranger on the street, but with dss, I'm afraid he'll worry about his other little brother. I think he has this thing in his head where he is always comparing our two households. He really sees himself as belonging to two families but I'm sure that gets confusing as you get older and start thinking about life more. When he was younger, it wasn't such a problems since we didn't find ourselves talking about touchy issues so often.
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#13 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 01:20 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Flor
I'm not sure why you had to include that. It's not like I'm giving you the full spectrum of my beliefs and experiences, I'm just trying to share some pieces of conversation to show what I mean.
I wasn't sure why I had to include it either, but thinking more, I guess because I can relate to what it seems the bio-mama's values and way of living might be, I feel like it is easy for those with a more conservative lifestyle to feel superior. And I think it is important you not communicate that feeling to your stepson (which I know you are working hard not to do).

I would use "I" statements for your beliefs, as I said before. And if you feel like it is sounding judgmental, you could explain the other side, what somebody else (like his bio-mama) might believe. I think it's just important not to communicate the idea that your beliefs are the only right way to approach a particular subject.

Unlike your bio-son, your stepson will have different influences, and may grow up with different values, because his bio-mama is in his life. You can put in your input IMO, and remember that he is meant to also get other input.
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#14 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 02:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by thismama
I wasn't sure why I had to include it either, but thinking more, I guess because I can relate to what it seems the bio-mama's values and way of living might be, I feel like it is easy for those with a more conservative lifestyle to feel superior. And I think it is important you not communicate that feeling to your stepson (which I know you are working hard not to do).

I would use "I" statements for your beliefs, as I said before. And if you feel like it is sounding judgmental, you could explain the other side, what somebody else (like his bio-mama) might believe. I think it's just important not to communicate the idea that your beliefs are the only right way to approach a particular subject.

Unlike your bio-son, your stepson will have different influences, and may grow up with different values, because his bio-mama is in his life. You can put in your input IMO, and remember that he is meant to also get other input.
I agree with everything you've said. It's funny to think of myself as conservative, but it's all relative!

He does live with us 5 days a week, so it's hard for me to give up part of his growing up to someone else.
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#15 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 03:15 PM
 
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I think it's important to hear your view on life, like other people said, using "I" statements, etc. He's at an age to understand that not everyone makes the same decisions, and even though two people may choose to do something a little different, that doesn't necessarily mean that someone is doing it wrong. This can be a great tool for learning tolerance for him.

With my stepson, when he asks me why I do something, I tell him openly and honestly. When he says, "Well, my mama doesn't do it this way..." I emphasize that while doing it this way is best for me, his mama is a different person, and sometimes needs to do things differently.
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#16 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 03:26 PM
 
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I guess I think that we all get to have different opinions so I share mine. His job as an adult will be to sort out all the different perspectives of his life and come to his own thoughts.

I don't need to say that her views are bad to share my views.

I would tell why I bf. I did in fact when it was asked and my skid's mom didn't.

I didn't make a big deal about it but I answered the question
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#17 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 03:30 PM
 
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I would use the "bad choices" not "bad people" way to bring it up.

I think it is important the you instill a moral compass in your son, regardless of his mothers bad choices.

I understand that this is a difficult situation.

Mama to 9 so far:Mother of Joey (20), Dominick (13), Abigail (11), Angelo (8), Mylee (6), Delainey (3), Colton (2) and Baby 8 and Baby 9 coming sometime in July 2013.   If evolution were true, mothers would have three arms!

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#18 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 03:31 PM
 
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I understand what you mean on the breastfeeding situation. When their mom had a baby, she bf at first then quickly switched to formula. The kids were very excited about her bf'ing, would come home from visits bragging about it then stopped. Since we are a "lactivist" family, I think they were ambarrased that she stopped. I brought it up one day, by giving them some coupons to take to her, saying things like, having a baby is tough and expensive, lets give your mom all the help she can get! It seemed to help, they started talking about the baby again.
I found I really had to change my thinking (and speaking) about certain subjects. I did use more "I" or "We" statements regarding things that were important to us. So, that helped.

Its such a tough balance, isnt it?

Good Luck!
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#19 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 04:33 PM
 
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When he stated he wouldn't breastfeed, did you ask him why? That can sometimes lead to intellectual and debateable topics that are good for kids. He's getting to an age where I'd be asking a lot more questions like "well, what do you think?" He obviously knows there is a difference between mom's values and your values, so maybe it's time to start figuring out where he's at. These kinds of questions usually have a way of allowing you to express your own opinion to, as giving more information while not denying him or anyone else.

My ex and I have opposite values. I speak my mind with my kids all the time because I figure it's good for them to have two different points of view. I think that gives them more perspective as they get older and better informed to make choices that are good for him.

You could even tell him, I'd like to talk to you about things I believe in and while it works for me, I don't want you to feel like I judge your mom for her decisions. Everyone has the right to make decisions for themselves. If you acknowlege that his mom makes choices that feel best for her and you make choices that feel best for you, no one has to be 'wrong' and he can see more than one way of looking at things.

I would also stay away from "bad choices" too. It's a really loaded value statement. Personally, I'd stick to, "well, this works for me because....." No one can argue with your own feelings or point of view.

I think it's important to make sure you and especially your dh have real life discussions with him.
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#20 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 05:19 PM
 
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I just want to pop in to say that I am lurking. We are having problems with ds1 biodad's lifestyle. Dh and I don't know how to address different issues without insulting (is that the right word) biodad. Is hard sometimes.
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#21 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 06:31 PM
 
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I statemenst are safe. Also, maybe don't think of it as "morals" but as "learned lessons." 1) "There are people who don't work but who still live fullfilling lives - but the majority of people do need work to feel fullfilled. I certainly . . ."
2) "There are people who have significant fullfilling, sexual relastionships with more than one person at the same time, but conventional wisdom in our society says it is hard, and indeed, I couldn't imagine . . . ." 3) We all know people (I know a whiskey drinking, pot-smking poet/academic etc) who use drugs/alcholol and who produce great work and are happy, but I've seen more lives derailed than not by overindulegence. I feel silly using . ."

Breastfeeding is a bit different because it isn't really relative. There is a best and a second best. But you can say, "well, breastmilk is best for the baby, though lots of people choose not to breastfeed. I loved breastfeeding . . ."

Good luck. My best friend is a pot smoking, one-night-a-week partying, non-monogomous WONDERFUL mother with the best little boy you can imagine. He will grow up believing that recreational drug and alcoholol use is OK and that sex as connection/affection with others is OK. He, like his mother who lives a really happy and fullfilling life, will do fine.
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#22 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 08:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by MsChatsAlot
When he stated he wouldn't breastfeed, did you ask him why? .
Because it's "gross" . He's at an age where it's gross, but he sure likes to see pictures of girls in bikinis! I'd think it was a "gross, partially naked stepmom" thing rather than health or emotion.
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#23 of 24 Old 03-13-2006, 08:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by mamawanabe
Good luck. My best friend is a pot smoking, one-night-a-week partying, non-monogomous WONDERFUL mother with the best little boy you can imagine. He will grow up believing that recreational drug and alcoholol use is OK and that sex as connection/affection with others is OK. He, like his mother who lives a really happy and fullfilling life, will do fine.
That is a possible outcome, of course, but in dss's life, the drinking and drugs and cheating have lead to a lot of pain, disease, and rehab. Of course, the hardest parts were back before he can remember, so I hope he still sees the possible harm in some choices.

The situation you describe sounds like a balanced, mature individual. Dss's mother moved 600 miles away for 2 years to get her drinking under control. I'm not saying that's not "mature," but that the effects of alcohol and drug abuse in his life have been extreme.


It has been great for me to hear from other's about their expereinces. Do you think it is different being the stepmom trying not to insult the biomom rather than the other biological parent. I wonder if one bioparent would feel more at ease to share their beliefs inspite of the other bioparent. I always feel that the stepparent has to watch what they say a bit more.
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#24 of 24 Old 03-14-2006, 12:37 PM
 
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I'm not quite sure where I sit on this. With my stepson, I generally adopt the methods others have described. If he asks why I do things a certain way / believe in certain things, I describe to him why. (and DH and I are very open about our political / social beliefs-- I think it's good SS is exposed to them) When he asks why I plan on breastfeeding for so long, I do not hesitate to explain to him that breastmilk is best, though his mother used mostly formula at 6 wks +. I also haven't hesitated to say I don't want to use a crib because I think they look like baby jails! These are just my personal opinions, and he is old enough to understand that.
Plus, his father and I have lived very different lives with regards to sex, drugs, etc, so I feel that messages on those topics are mostly dictated by DH because he's the biological parent. This doesn't mean I won't make my feelings known if necessary-- then we can discuss it.
However, there are some things that DH has not hesitated to instill in my stepson. His mother smokes, and DH used to smoke, but since he was very young DH has told him smoking is a very bad habit. So he made a distinction between the gross habit, and people who do it-- thus, his mother had a bad habit, but that didn't make her a bad person. I think the same is true of his lessons on drinking. These are choices DH made, and I think they make sense. Because at a certain point, a kid should be aware of / taught the morals of their parents, and if those morals differ, then that stepchild will get to wrestle with them and figure out what works for them-- as long as everyone is clear that disagreeing with someone else's beliefs or opinions does not mean that person is a "bad" person.
So sometimes I think being a stepparent is about yielding to the bio parent you're married to, when the stepkid is old enough you can be clear about your opinions and explain why you have them, and then you can realize that your way of life is, in and of itself, an example to the kid.
I apologize for rambling....
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