Children used as pawns...

(34 Posts)
notafraid Tue 30-Apr-13 17:25:46

Does anyone have any advice for me? My stepdaughter is 3 and she frequently tells me that "My mummy doesn't like you".I just say oh, that's ok I don't mind or something like that but it upsets me that this child is being used as a pawn in her mother's petty fight. I've never met her mother. When does this cross the line into child abuse?

Attackofthefiftyfootwoman Tue 30-Apr-13 17:28:41

i am in the same situation its really annoying buut all you can do let it go over your head. (easier said than done)

dotcomlovenest Tue 30-Apr-13 19:33:27

It doesn't cross the line unfortunately. If so then the two social work reports we have had done recently would state that their mother does this to them all the time.
Wrong, yes.
Potentially damaging, yes.
Child abuse, nope.
I can not understand people that treat their children like this and try to use the it is for their own good.

mumandboys123 Tue 30-Apr-13 20:24:06

Mummy may not like you - I certainly don't 'like' any of my ex's girlfriends because they stand by a man who behaves in the most appalling manner towards his children but they only see his side of it so would never 'get' where I might be coming from. It doesn't necessarily mean that mummy is saying that she doesn't like you directly to the child. Children pick up on all sorts - a conversation with a friend, a phone call, general gritting of teeth when your name is mentioned. Mum doesn't have to be saying 'notafraid' is a horrible person' for her to understand that mum doesn't like you.

If it's a huge issue and continues, it would be worth your partner asking to speak with her in mediation and discuss any concerns she may have and have someone neutral explain that her behaviour - intentional or unintentional - is likely having a negative impact on her daughter. In the end, you can't make mum like you so focusing on being a positive influence in her life would likely counteract much of the negativity - she's very young and therefore you have a good chance that she's able to form her own opinions in the way an older child might struggle to be less than loyal to mum.

NotaDisneyMum Tue 30-Apr-13 20:43:05

This kind of badmouthing is considered to be emotional abuse by professionals - and has been labelled as such by a SW and Family Support Worker involved with my DSC's, who have been subject to their Mums negative attitude, badmouthing and manipulation for over four years.

But, it is not considered to place the DC's at risk of immediate significant harm which is the threshold for intervention by Childrens Services. So, it can continue unchallenged until the badmouthing parent eventually realises for themselves the damage it is doing.

There is some brilliant work around this being done by The Centre for Separated Families, KW Blog and The Family Separation Clinic

The USA and Canada are far more advanced in their acceptance of the damage that even indirect negative behaviour (rolling eyes, tone or voice etc) can have on DC's - Warshak has produced some very useful and informative books and DVD's for parents and DC's.

allnewtaketwo Tue 30-Apr-13 20:46:16

I would be 99.9% sure that a 3 year old will have heard his directly, as opposed to having unwittingly picked up on complex adult behavioural clues.

It's very sad to watch OP, who could press such complex adult issues upon such a young child, it's so cruel. Sadly it probably won't stop though, and you wont be able to influence it. All ou can do is to influence what goes n n our own home and make sure she's relaxed and happy there.

purpleroses Tue 30-Apr-13 21:10:49

Come on - there's no way that simply stating you don't like your ex's new DP is "child abuse"!

As long as her mum's not stopping contact, or trying to make her DD dislike her dad, or you, then she's entitled to a point of view (even if she's never met you).

I think you're doing the right thing in simply saying that you don't mind. As she gets a little older you can explain that adults sometimes feel jealous of other adults, and that two people who you like might not like each other. She'll learn.

I don't like my ex's DW a great deal. I don't think my DCs give it much though tbh - I hardly ever see her, so why would it matter?

VBisme Tue 30-Apr-13 21:14:33

Yep, I got this, I just replied "how odd, your mummy has never even met me".

Kid looked thoughtful, nodded and never mentioned it again.

VBisme Tue 30-Apr-13 21:17:43

Purple roses you clearly have no idea the emotional turmoil a child would go through wanting to like someone that they know their DM hates.

My Stepkids are now old enough to discuss it with their dad, mum has not come out of the situation well (and no, I was nothing to do with the split, she left for another bloke, but it didn't work out).

purpleroses Tue 30-Apr-13 21:30:31

The OP hasn't said that the DM hates her, just that she doesn't like her. There's a bit of a difference. She's not suggested that the DSD is being put under any pressure not to like her or her dad either. So I don't really see what "emotional trauma" must necessarily be involved.

VBisme Tue 30-Apr-13 21:33:09

No, I didn't expect you would.

purpleroses Tue 30-Apr-13 22:04:29

vbisme - you just stated that your DSC "looked thoughtful and never mentioned it again" - which doesn't really sound like a symptom of "emotional trauma" does it?

elliebellys Tue 30-Apr-13 22:08:25

I agree with you purple.kids should grow 2 understand that just bcos their parent doesnt like someone ,doesnt mean that they can,t like them.aslong as the child isnt specifically told not 2 like the op i cant see how shes using her as a pawn or abusing her.

VBisme Tue 30-Apr-13 22:10:51

Sorry, I should have added "to me".

They've spoken at length with DH (now they're older), how difficult they found it that they liked me, and had fun spending time with us, but because they knew that mum didn't like me, or me being in their life, they felt they shouldn't either.

It has now backfired on her, the kids understand now that she was wrong (all by themselves), and appreciate that I stayed consistent and never bad mouthed their mum.

NotaDisneyMum Tue 30-Apr-13 22:36:18

They've spoken at length with DH (now they're older), how difficult they found it that they liked me, and had fun spending time with us, but because they knew that mum didn't like me, or me being in their life, they felt they shouldn't either.

Yup - my DSD has also said this to me and DP; in her case, she refused to have anything to do with her Dad or me for over two years, because he refused to choose between me and her when she gave him an ultimatum.

Her Mums open dislike of me caused her a great deal of emotional conflict - she knew (in her mind, whether it was true or not) that she would upset her Mum by spending time with me (because she knew that her Mum didn't like me), and yet, she wanted to spend time with her Dad, so her "solution" was to tell Dad to get rid of me!

With younger children, it also has an impact on their feelings of security - they have to try and work out why their Mum repeatedly places them in the presence & care of someone that they say that they don't like. In my DSS case, that has led to a situation where he feels insecure when he is in my sole care, and isn't comfortable when I drive, rather than DP, for instance.

Negative language, alienation, badmouthing and discouragement can all be prevented by Court Order in some States in the USA; because the courts have accepted the research and evidence that reveals just how emotionally harmful it can be. There is now a great deal of work being done in the UK as well - hopefully, this type of behaviour will begin to be acknowledged by CAFCASS and in Court to avoid DC's being put through it.

allnewtaketwo Wed 01-May-13 06:05:41

A 3 year old does not have the emotional maturity to realise they can like someone who their mother has openly said she does not like . FFS. Even an older child will struggle with the emotional conflict.

Moomoomee Wed 01-May-13 06:41:27

I think if OP had been the mum and it was the the new partner saying 'I don't like your mummy' then everyone would have attacked the new partner.

A three year old doesnt even need to know that her mum doesn't like the OP, it's just confusing for the LO.

elliebellys Wed 01-May-13 09:37:28

Its how its dealt with that really counts.when the child goes 2 nursery im sure she,d come saying she doesnt like hervteacher,or another child there,or she might not like mummys friends.the op just needs 2 say its ok,mayb your mummy might like me given time nd that its ok for dsd to still like her.op how does dsd interact with you otherwise?

allnewtaketwo Wed 01-May-13 09:45:28

I think a 3 year old not liking another nursery school child is VERY different from the child's main carer saying category stating that she, as an adult, does not like another key adult figure in the child's life, one whose home and life she will share for a significant part of her life.

But agree the only thing the OP can influence is how she deals with it. But make no bones about it, this young child WILL be emotionally torn upon hearing that stuff and dealing with it.

Theydeserve Thu 02-May-13 21:22:29

Undoubtedly there are two sides to this. Some mothers will slag off the step mum and I completely agree this is wrong.

My situation is the reverse and it is extremely difficult to deal with. My 2 DCs knew the OW as she was a family friend.

I now have eldest DC coming home saying " Mummy, aunty ****, says she is not going to be horrible to you any more and we can all be friends"

Aunty *** says you are the only stopping everyone being happy.

Aunty *** says you are a sad cow and need to get a life.

If you start being nice to aunty**** we could all go on holiday together"

With the best imagination in the world DC6 did not make this up out of nothing.
My response is the best I can give, which is neutral expression and say, that is not nice and not true, but as long as she is nice to you, that is what matters.

Eldest DC finally said to me a few weeks ago - you do not like Aunty *** do you?

Do I lie to my child - something I have said I would not do?

I would be interested to see what the opinions are?

allnewtaketwo Thu 02-May-13 22:13:02

They deserve, with all fur respect, I'm sure your situation is very difficult, However that does not mean there is any relevance to the OP

In order to address your question, the ages of your DC are very relevant, which you have omitted

Theydeserve Thu 02-May-13 22:41:45

"This kind of badmouthing is considered to be emotional abuse by professionals - and has been labelled as such by a SW and Family Support Worker involved with my DSC's, who have been subject to their Mums negative attitude, badmouthing and manipulation for over four years."

It is relevant- it goes both ways. Either person on the receiving end is in an impossible situation be they step or actual mother.

It is easy to slag both off, but genuinely how do you deal with it. Do you lie to yourself and to the children?

My DCs are 6 and 3

Stepmooster Thu 02-May-13 22:52:17

Hi Theydeserve, that sounds like a very difficult situation for you.

I know that DH has also vowed not to lie to DS. Ia m 2 minds as to whether I agree with this. When DSS asked recently why DH and his mum split up, DH told him the truth. That his mum didn't love DH anymore and loved the OM and DH had to leave. The other man has been SF of DSS for 5 years. DH's opinion is that now DSS is older and asking questions he won't lie or dodge the question.

In the past before I came along and put a stop to it, DH would be less than complimentary about the OM. DH has mellowed now and recently told DSS that he knows and is ok with DSS loving the OM.

I don't condone what DH said about the OM, but I can see why he did it. He was hurting terribly and he was in the unfortunate situation of having to see the OM live 12 days out of 14 with his child. He had to listen to him call him son, watch him live in his house and drive his car etc.

I do think if you're the OM/OW and you're dealing with a bitter ex, then you can't suddenly expect to be immediately treated with the respect you deserve as a step parent by the ex. After all you can hardly claim the moral high ground. You should really bite your tongue and be respectful and patient for wounds to heal. I think you also have to be prepared to handle the truth properly when the children are old enough to understand and are starting to ask questions.

NotaDisneyMum Thu 02-May-13 22:52:59

Either person on the receiving end is in an impossible situation be they step or actual mother.

Actually, it's the DCs who are in an impossible situation.

I've never considered myself to be a victim of the DSC mums behaviour - I couldn't give a flying fig what she thinks or believes - it is the impact on the DCs that is the issue for me.

NotaDisneyMum Thu 02-May-13 22:57:57

I do think if you're the OM/OW and you're dealing with a bitter ex, then you can't suddenly expect to be immediately treated with the respect you deserve as a step parent by the ex

Where does the OP say that she was the OW?

I certainly wasn't, although given her behaviour, it's easy to assume I was - DPs ex had an affair, which was grounds for the divorce, although she didn't want it, hence her bitterness when DP left the marriage. Our subsequent relationship gave her the opportunity to rewrite history.

Stepmooster Fri 03-May-13 03:49:17

Hi NADM, my comment was in relation to Theydeserve who asked about whether she should lie to her DC's who are being told one thing or another from the OW/aunty. I don't mean to insult OP and call her OW.

And I agree if you are not the OW or OM then being nasty and manipulative about them to the children is damaging and IMO completely unjustified.

It is the kids that suffer that's why I told DH to pack it in. All parents should put their differences to one side for sake of kids, but when the ex is dealing with OM/OW as a step parent I can sympathise not everyone is going to get to that point straight away.

I know step parents need to grow thick skins to put up with some of the comments we get from ex partners, but it can get to us sometimes. Plus we get to see the damage it causes the children first hand. I can't be the first SM whose laid awake at night thinking how they wished things were better for their step children but being in the awful position of not being able to do anything at all except watch as a bystander.

notafraid Fri 03-May-13 13:12:05

Thank you all for contributing. It's sad to see that this is so common. I am in no doubt that the child's mother is doing this specifically and deliberately to the child. The child has stated that "Mummy says so" and her older brother (7) has said that his mummy says I call her names and offered an example that has never crossed my lips. My partner has sent a solicitors letter on several occasions to raise his concerns about her behaviour which includes refusing to speak to her children when they are on holiday with us which results in tears at bedtime. We both feel so helpless and don't know what to do next to prevent these children being upset further.

notafraid Fri 03-May-13 13:18:33

Just for clarification, my partner's ex had an affair and left him for another man. So I'm not the person who broke up her marriage.

And by the way, as I'm quite new please could someone point me to a glossary of meanings for OW, OP, OW, OM, SM, DC, DH.

Thanks smile

purpleroses Fri 03-May-13 13:22:01

Here you are:
http://www.mumsnet.com/info/acronyms

WMDinthekitchen Fri 03-May-13 13:28:31

Grit your teeth and say, 'I bet your Mum is lovely ' (has to be done without a trace of irony in your voice). Or, do not respond directly to that remark, but say, 'But I like you a lot.' Her Mum is probably trying to provoke you - don't give her any ammo. It's hard, though.

notafraid Fri 03-May-13 13:55:07

Thank you very much purpleroses

Theydeserve Fri 03-May-13 14:17:45

I agree the DCs are in an impossible situation and so is the person being slagged off.

That was my question - shall In tell a 6 yr old the truth or lie to make life easier for them. Something I tell them not to do and if someone is upsets them to tell the other person.

fllowtheyellowbrickroad Mon 06-May-13 08:34:41

Refuses to speak to the children when in holiday with you!?!! That's appalling! It's a direct message to them that they shouldn't go. You couldn't make this stuff up could you. How selfish some people are

Stepmooster Mon 06-May-13 10:04:44

Hi Notafraid you and I are in a similar boat. My DH ex also left him for another man. For the life of me I can't work out why she can't be happy that DH is happy in a new relationship? Unless she is having major regrets and realising the grass isn't greener and she now has to share her children with someone else?? Who knows?

Theydeserve - DSS was a lot happier with the whole situation of his parents split etc once DH got his head around it all and stops asking/talking about OM/SF. He will never like him but if his name is mentioned by DSS DH has learnt to be polite. You have to try your best and hide it. Easier said than done.

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