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To be really upset that DPs children don't want to spend time with us anymore

(63 Posts)
PerditaMcLeod Thu 27-Sep-12 09:48:54

I must be feeling very brave this morning? a step parenting thread in AIBU. Either brave or stupid but I could really do with the wise words of MNetters.

A bit of background? DP and I have been together for around 18 months. He has four children from his previous marriage and we all had a good relationship (or so I thought). I love them all and have invested a huge amount of effort in my relationship with them.

They have now announced they don?t want to come here anymore as they get told off all the time. sad

A slight exaggeration, but with 4 of them in a small house we do have to have some kind of discipline. We don?t expect them to spend the weekend in silence, but the basic rules are

1. You make a mess, you clear it up before tea/Xbox/TV etc.
2.Good manners- standing up and eating at the dinner table for example is not acceptable. Neither is ignoring people who are talking to you if you don?t like what they are saying to you.
3.Any fights over Xbox etc. means they go off and stay off for the rest of the day.

I don?t think that is excessive and DP and I were both really pleased about how much their behaviour has improved in the last year. I have a DD of my own, so it?s not like I don?t know what it?s like living with children. Her relationship with DPs children is excellent.

There is a massive gulf in the way they are treated at the mum?s place and the way they are here (just to be clear, I am not in any way slagging her off) and I understand the difference between what is acceptable in each house can be confusing, particularly for the younger ones.

With this latest announcement, he is understandably devastated. I don?t hold with letting your kids blackmail you, but a compromise is needed to ensure he still gets contact, and by compromise I don?t mean let them come and trash the house every weekend as we used to!

I have suggested that we all sit down and try to get to the bottom of why it is they feel their treatment has been unfair. Both DP and I have demanding jobs and by the weekends are pretty knackered and on a short fuse and I get we do overreact sometimes. If they want to be treated in a more adult fashion (this won?t work for all of them as the youngest is 5) they need to be able to discuss this with us. They also need to understand why things like good manners are so important (God, I have turned into my mother?.) and also that that certain privileges have to be earned and equally they will be withdrawn in response to bad behaviour.

I was awake most of the night thinking about this. There are small practical things we can do like get a cleaner in on Monday to muck the house out and move the Xbox to another room so if they insist on fighting over it, they can do it in their own space.

Will stop rambling now? I just feel awful for DP who is an excellent dad and always has been, often not under the easiest of circumstances and I will do anything I can to make sure they want to come here and spend time with us.

If any of you wise women have any suggestions as to what we can do to compromise I would really appreciate it. I guess I am probably a bit more of a hardliner than DP and am of the view that as a parent ultimately they do what the are told but we don't want to be in the position where they won't want to come here at all.

I guess what I am asking is am I being unreasonable to not want DP to be held to ransom by his DCs and am I being unreasonable to expect a certain standard of behaviour?

WilsonFrickett Thu 27-Sep-12 09:57:24

Are you sure this is coming from the children and not the XP would be my first question? Are their any issues between her and DP, eg maintenance, access, etc. Has she got a new P recently?

Or, how old is the eldest SDC? Is it possible they want to scale back their time - that happens when they hit teen years and want to spend the weekends with their friends from school, etc. While that's totally acceptable, what could have happened is that the younger SDCs have sort of 'joined in' on this and the XP hasn't been as firm as she could be about saying 'no'.

squeakytoy Thu 27-Sep-12 09:59:46

do they get to spend any time just with their Dad, without you there?

IneedAsockamnesty Thu 27-Sep-12 10:02:11

is it possible that you have approched the matter with a little to much zeal?

its quite hard for children to come into houses that arnt there homes and feel like guests but ones that get jumped on for every minor slight. its all to easy to do that with out realising that you are.

PerditaMcLeod Thu 27-Sep-12 10:06:28

Wilson, 6 months ago I would have put money on the XP having some input on this, but DP is sure she isn't. The eldest is 12 and we live about 10 miles from where he is at school. DP has said if he wants to make arrangements to see friends he will happily drive him over and equally he is welcome to invite friends here for the afternoon or sleepovers etc. You make a very good point and it is something I hadn't considered. His XP doesn't really seem to say no to the children much. Her house is pretty much run to the children's agenda.

Squeaky- yes, they do. I also try and make sure he gets quality time with the older ones by taking the younger ones out or baking with them etc.

maybenow Thu 27-Sep-12 10:09:13

How often did they used to come to yours? How much did yours feel like another 'home' to them?

Which children/child do you think is saying this (i doubt it's the 5yr old)? Does that child have a valid point about not having enough space and 'their own life' at your house? (are all their friends at their mum's?)

There are other options outside of all four coming to stay in your house - it would be great for them if each could get some 1:1 with their dad.. not suggesting a 'disney dad' set up but maybe he could do some regular activities with each of them? (footie, bike riding, cinema, hobbies)?

IneedAsockamnesty Thu 27-Sep-12 10:09:17

well thats a very good starting point if you know the ex hasnt manipulated the suituation.

CremeEggThief Thu 27-Sep-12 10:11:02

I don't think it's unreasonable to feel upset, but I don't know if there's anything you can do to stop it.

Also, have you been a bit 'hands on' in your approach? It does sound a bit of an "our house, our rules" situation from your OP.

Keep talking and try to work things out is all I can suggest.

fluffyraggies Thu 27-Sep-12 10:11:08

Hi Perdita.
How often do (did) they come to stay? And how old is your DD?

maybenow Thu 27-Sep-12 10:11:48

sorry x-post with your further details.

I just think that at 12 the eldest probably just wants to hang in his own room at the weekend and not 'visit' anybody - it's probably nothing to do with you or their dad... just impending teenager-hood.

fluffyraggies Thu 27-Sep-12 10:13:49

I was thinking the same about the 12 year old.

I was wondering too - must they all come at once? Maybe for a while it would be a good idea to split them and take them out for age related things rather than having them at home so much.

Replicating a home life is going to be tricky with kids if they're not there that often.

gordyslovesheep Thu 27-Sep-12 10:14:30

put the 'manipulative ex' to one side for a moment ...

How lone ago did their parents separate - how old are the kids - do they stay over night - could you take them out rather than have them at your house?

It is difficult for kids BUT don;t forget they also test boundaries all the time - especially after separation and divorce when they feel vulnerable

Your rules sound fine to me - my kids understand that different homes have different rules - at dads they follow his rules and at mine they do as I say - no amount of whining 'but daddy lets me do X,Y Z' works on me and vice versa

I wouldn't compromise on rules but I would talk to the children and ask them what the issues actually is

gordyslovesheep Thu 27-Sep-12 10:16:22

cross posted

at 12 I understand - my eldest is 10 and is beginning to ask if she can stay with me rather than go to her dads - older kids like doing their own thing

headinhands Thu 27-Sep-12 10:17:50

Can you give an example of the bad manners op. Sometime one family's bad manners is another's normal style of communication. For example my kids will say if they don't like the taste of something. I know other families see that as bad manners and that's fine but mine just say what they think at meal times.

olgaga Thu 27-Sep-12 10:19:45

I will do anything I can to make sure they want to come here and spend time with us.

Well I think you've just got to back off! There are four of them - the eldest is old enough to choose, and if the younger siblings don't want to be split I think you need to respect their choices.

not want DP to be held to ransom by his DCs

I think this is a little harsh - they are children. Why do you think they are manipulating their dad? Why not just assume they prefer weekends at home? As you yourself say - 4 of them, plus yours, seven of you in a small house which is not their own home...

Her house is pretty much run to the children's agenda.

You say "it's not like I don't know what it's like living with children" but that's not strictly correct. You know what it's like having one child - not five!

I don't like the implied criticism of the ex - you have to accept differences in parenting style as a starting point.

But back off for now - there's no point pushing it or you run the risk of further alienating them.

WilsonFrickett Thu 27-Sep-12 10:20:19

At 12, driving friends back and forwards for sleep overs isn't really going to cut it I think. Sounds like the 12 yo is looking for more independence and I think that's fine - time to re-negotiate.

The younger kids is a different story though. Could they just be backing the 12 yo up (all for one!)?

LittleFrieda Thu 27-Sep-12 10:21:01

Why do you live in such a small house, if between you, you have five children?

WorraLiberty Thu 27-Sep-12 10:21:30

How long have you and their Dad been living together?

Dahlen Thu 27-Sep-12 10:26:23

I think your family conference suggestion is the best way of handling it (preferably with the XW involved too). Everyone can get their say and you can come to an agreement with no confusion.

Your rules are more than reasonable and if you let them be undermined you are heading for a major headache in the future. However, it's possible that you are approaching the whole thing too negatively (don't do this, rather than please can you...). Try replacing criticism with rewards, etc

PerditaMcLeod Thu 27-Sep-12 10:27:33

Fluffy, we have them 3 out of 4 weekends and my DD is 9.

Maybe, I would have thought the eldest, but DP thinks it might be the younger ones. We try and give them as much space as possible, but with 5 kids it is going to be a challenge. The eldest has his own room and is in total preteen mode and pending most of his time up there, which is fine.

They very much come as a package and I don't think they would be receptive to not all coming at once, but I will definitely discuss with DP.

Creme egg, I was very much hands off for the first 6 months or so but I just found the weekends too much. I get 5 kids make a lot of mess, but DP's DCs are very very messy and seemed to just lose and break loads of their possesions. I spoke to DP earlier in the year and said that I didn't think it was unreasonble to expect them to pick up after themselves. He agreed and we have been pretty consistant about this. I want them to enjoy themselves when they come to us, but there are boundaries, and not unreasonable ones at that.

Gordy, DP and his XW split well over 2 years ago and his DCs have know me since last spring. They stay with us Friday and Saturday nights. I want them to feel a home here- we have been very clear that this is their home too and they have loads of their things here. I think chucking the rule book out sets a very dangerous precedent, but I need to rethink how those rules are implemented.

Thanks for all your comments- I think we need to rethink how we approach the weekends.

MuddlingMackem Thu 27-Sep-12 10:29:32

LittleFrieda Thu 27-Sep-12 10:21:01

>>>> Why do you live in such a small house, if between you, you have five children? <<<<

Money no object in your world LittleFrieda?

Presumably because that's all they can afford.

PerditaMcLeod Thu 27-Sep-12 10:35:27

Mudding, you are absolutely right. Its all we can afford.

WorraLiberty Thu 27-Sep-12 10:38:26

Do you mean last Spring as in about 5 months ago or Spring last year?

Davsmum Thu 27-Sep-12 10:49:05

First of all, there is nothing wrong with your rules,... but, could it be the WAY you correct them?
Also, Perhaps your DP should do the 'correcting' rather than you?
They have not known you very long and I should think it is normal that they may have some resentment even if they do otherwise get on with you ok.

My partner is quite strong on 'rules' and good behaviour, but he never dealt with my two childrens ( from my first marriage) discipline because he felt it was not his place. He may have said things to me about their behaviour but he left the correcting to me. Children from broken relationships have enough to deal with without having to cope with a new partner etc.

ByTheWay1 Thu 27-Sep-12 11:00:18

They all live in their home with their mum (lone parent?) - parenting is going to be done differently - she has to do all the crappy day to day stuff, so will let the small stuff go - for the sake of her own sanity... so they will get away with a lot, feel loved, feel like it is home and will love to be there...

You live with your little house with your only child as a couple - they visit for the weekend, live under a new set of rules - they do not feel like it is home - however much you call it so, does not make it so and will not want to be there.
5 kids and an x-box will be noisy, argumentative and they will fight - it is called family life! - join in and have fun instead of taking it away...

Your seem to tolerate them being there and want it to be "as long as they do what they are told" , "understand why good manners are important", and "privileges have to be earned and can be withdrawn" - sounds much more like school than home.... and is probably why the younger ones want to stay home....

and though you say you don't want to sound critical of their mum - I'm afraid you do....

For info - I was a child in this situation - the eldest of 4 - I hated going to dad's and quit as soon as I could - (s)he had all sorts of rules, wouldn't play
with us like mum did, no pets, no mess, no noise, no fun, - just "being" with dad (and stepmum) whilst they seemed to begrudge the time spent and got all snippy...

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