Kids need boundaries…


Question: Hello,

I have fairly good relationwhips with my two step kids, both teenagers boy and girl. The boys’ behaviour varies from one visit to the other, one day to the other. Sometimes he is polite and helps out (grudgingly) in tiny household chores like cleaning the table or dish drying. Sometimes he ignores me completely and downright rude, like dumping cutlery at the table in front of me instead of laying it, like for others.
His fahter also has varying degree of strictness and leaniency. For example once father got strict with him for not obeying a simple order (to get the bread out of shelf), the son went away sulking, the father felt bad and followed him, they both ended up mending it. But then father was over-compensating by giving them more sweets than needed and sucking up to the boy so that he will get out of his mood. Sorry to use that word, but it looks like that.) This kind of scene repeats very often.
Other example is, we agree everyone cleans shower after using it. But son does not, and father sometimes cleans it for him, sometimes asks son to do it. It is not consistent how he nehaves when kids are here. And father cannot take any suggestions from his own parents or from me, which I rarely give. But this situation bothers me.
I want to focus my attention on my man and myself. But the irregularity of step-children make me upset.

Stepson is nice when he wants something like when he asks our (my) permission to come more often than the custody allows, bunking up extra vacation days in our house (and not with his mother who is quite inactive). And also when he wants pocket money from me. Other times he is mainly giving me ‘looks’ when I am with father or ignoring our talk, or interrupting when my and his father talk about something. He is not considerate, and my man’s parents say this character is like his mother.

Somehow I want to have peaceful life and not worry about petty things. How do I handle disciplining the boy? If he contradicts the house rules, should I just repeat what we agree – like being polite and following requests and being useful around the house. Or should I just tell his father the mistake his son did, and let him handle it? Then do I become backbone-less? Please tell me how the situation can improve.

It is a dilemma. I read what you answer to similar situations, but your answers contradict itself in places. So what should I do?

My man and I live together for two years. Kids visit twice a month weekends.

Should I just tell ‘no’ if the son asks to visit extra weekend, after him being nasty once? Just to punish him for not keeping his end? My man thinks this is unfair because son needsd him. I know this, but if we continue this way, the son will never learn because he gets away with bad behaviour??

Thank you

Janice
 

Answer: Janice,
Unfortunately this is what you signed up for, yet you may not have known it at the time. Actually these kids have it worse than you because they don’t experience any consistent boundaries. What you describe with dad is related to guilt. You describes it perfectly. Dad provides boundaries, but won’t follow through because he feels guilty for the divorce and the pain he has caused them. This inconsistency is the real problem here and it is dad who needs to shape up. The kids only do what they are allowed to do by dad not doing anything. You need to focus on getting dad to be consistent. It doesn’t do the kids any favors by making life easy for them when they disobey. Any extra sleepovers should be combined with your husband being more consistent. If he is unwilling then the boy should not come to the home.

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