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Need good resources/advice to intergrate the family a little

(7 Posts)
Paintinmyhair Fri 08-Jul-11 12:16:22

Started a thread on this yesterday, but didn't think to put it in Step-parenting and it went wrong! Basically, dp and I are getting married this summer. Dd and dp have always got on well, but he is over disciplining at the moment, and dd is worrying about the wedding, and then getting excited, and then worrying etc. Dd (7) has had my full attention since birth, so is feeling a little resentful when dp gets my attention, and dp is becoming resentful when I take dd's side in disciplining situations (he has higher expectations of her than I do, and has no dc's, so parenting is new to him). I am worried about getting married with the friction in the house, as there are points in each day where no one is particularly happy.

Are there any good resources on harmonising the family a little more? There are times when I just want to take dd and walk out. But the majority of the time it is so nice to have someone to help, back me up and make the home happier and calmer than it ever was before.

alikat724 Fri 08-Jul-11 14:26:59

Hi - I am a stepmum without any children of my own, with DH who has been completely focussed on his son since birth (now 13), so probably in a similar situation to your DP; I also tend to over-discipline, with higher expectations than my DH on everything from grammar to table manners to tidiness, so perhaps it's common for new stepparents who just aren't used to having children in their normally adult and ordered world? I read "How to be a Happy Stepmum" by Lisa Doodson pretty early on, not sure if there is something similar for stepdads but you could possibly translate to the male perspective for him, I found it really helpful. We had some really tense times early on and it is still very much a daily negotiation to prevent resentment on my own or DSS's behalf, with DH feeling incredibly torn sometimes. Time is the only thing that is going to help here I think - as you and your partner are making the commitment of marriage he clearly loves you, and that love will extend to your daughter, but he may have to consciously work at it if he doesn't feel (as I do not) a natural affinity with kids. Good luck!

glasscompletelybroken Fri 08-Jul-11 15:20:02

Hi, I'm a step-mum with (grown-up) kids of my own and I am much stricter and have much higher expectations of behaviour than my DH does with his 2 DD's.

This has caused, and continues to cause, issues for us. I think we should have thought about it more at the start and established some ground rules and you have an opportunity to do this now because you have had the sense to recognise the problem early on which I didn't!

In your shoes now I would do this:
1. Establish a FEW basic rules which you both agree to be firm about. For me it would be sitting at the table without keep getting down during the meal and not having pudding if they haven't eaten their tea, and putting things away when they have finished playing with them.

2. Agree that your DP can ask/tell your DD not to do something she is doing if it is plainly wrong - such as being rude.

3. Agree that if other things come up you will deal with the discipline your way, but that if your DP doesn't agree with the way you have dealt with it you will talk about it later when your DD is not around/in bed so that she is not aware of the conflict. This also means they have a better chance of developing a good relationship as she is not always feeling like he is on her case. He will have to be prepared to bite his tongue a bit for this to work but he will find this easier if he knows you will discuss it later and his views will be heard.

4. Make sure you do listen to his views as, although she is your daughter, it is also his home and it will cause lasting problems for you as a family if he doesn't feel respected in it. You don't have to change your whole parenting style but a few concessions won't hurt.

5. If he over-steps the mark on rare occassions NEVER pull him up in front of her. (Obviously I'm not talking about actual cruelty but if he has told her off a bit harshly then let it go and discuss it later - it won't hurt her if it's rare and it will hurt your relationship more to undermine him in front of her).

6. Congratulate yourself for having the good sense to see this as a problem now and try and resolve it. Keep talking to each other about it.

Good luck!

brdgrl Fri 08-Jul-11 18:31:38

Hi, when I met my now-DH, he had two kids and I had none; he was a widower and had basically been letting his kids rule the house with no rules and no boundaries. We have a daughter together now, but did not move in together or marry until she was six months old, mostly because I was insistent that things needed to change before we'd have a shot at living happily as a family.

We found two books quite useful (Stepcoupling by Susan Wisdom and The Idiot's Guide to Stepparenting); we also started seeing a counselour through Relate. On our own, we made a list together of our 'principles', the way we believed a family OUGHT to operate, which was quite good as became a good thing to think back on when we disagreed about something. Then we came up with some rules; first some basic rules that he put into effect at their own house - they started eating meals at the table together instead of in front of the tv; the kids had assigned chores; that sort of thing.

Then once we moved in together, we had to come up with a new set of rules that compromised on what I and my baby needed, and what they were used to.

The main things I would emphasize is that the couple's relationship has to be solid first, and that you both need to start making decisions based on what is best for the family instead of for one member of the family. My husband and I would have very different styles of parenting ANYWAY, and the whole 'blended family' thing just makes that more difficult. But we talk about it a lot - probably more than either of us would like to - but if we don;t keep checking in with each other and coming up with strategies, things start to go wrong pretty quickly.

NanaNina Fri 08-Jul-11 20:57:51

Paintinmyhair - I am a step mother (kids all grown) and a mother (again kids all grown) one of my sons was step parented by my partner and when my son gotg to about 11 or 12 my dp was often picking on him for stupid things that he never did with his own kids or with the child we had together.

I used to intervene and take my son's side and there were many arguments.

I don't like the sound of a stepfather "over disciplining" a 7 yr old little girl. What exactly is he doing. Your daughter is obviously tense and distressed by her stepfather, as you mention her changing moods.

I think you should take dd and walk out - put her first. Time enough for you to have a relationship when she has grown up. Sorry but it could save you, your DP and your DD a great deal of stress and tension over the coming years. How much discipline does a 7 year old need FGS. I was a step mother to a little girl, though she didn't live with us. I can't pretend I felt the same way about her as my own kids, but that's just natural I reckon.

There is friction in the house every day - call that wedding off.

chelen Mon 11-Jul-11 12:13:42

Hi, I think this is a really tough area, you're not alone in having to try hard to reach agreement.

Me and my OH had some probs - he could be stricter than me in many areas e.g table manners, clothing (this was with his son/my SS). On the other hand I have 'higher' (OH would say pointlessly so!) standards on house organisation/tidiness). We had to take a similar approach to brdgrl - we had to draw up an agreement. Its been excellent to have something to refer to. As well as agreeing what we did care about we wrote a long list of things that we each had to let go - one of mine was telling people off for whistling - basically I had to accept I was just being grumpy!

I guess this gave me a real chance to input - I moved in with my partner and tried to back him up at first and then 18 months later got really cross because the whole house was stuck with his pre-existing rules. So we started from scratch. Things like shoes on or off indoors, taking dirty dishes to worktop vs leaving on table, they seem small but its ANNOYING when these things are not agreed.

PlinkertyPlonk Sun 17-Jul-11 13:39:08

Oh chelen, my DSD has just started doing that whistling thing and it is SO ANNOYING!!!!

<takes deep breath, relaxes shoulders, breathes out slowly>

But I am not going to say anything or let it show, because this weekend I'm focused on getting her to stop leaving her nail varnish splattered all over the house. One thing at a time, we will get there (and hopefully, in the meantime, her friends will have told her how annoying her whistling is and she will stop by herself).

OP, I can only offer my experience from being a SM with no children of my own.

I confess to the over-disciplining thing (although in my mind, I'm being soft, compared to the up-bringing I had). It's early days for me and my DP, but so far so good. I also read Lisa Dobsons book and found it very helpful. And here's what I found worked:

1. Approaching DP by saying I wasn't clear what the house rules were, that I wanted us to present a united front, which enabled us to discuss what the rules should be

2. Introducing and focusing only 1 or 2 rules at a time. Eg no wellies in the house, bedtime at whatever o'clock, always ask before taking fruit, food etc

3. Remembering that the SCs aren't misbehaving to deliberately wind me up (yet!), they are just being children. And children can be annoying.

4. Remembering that gentle 'guidance' is often more productive than continual nagging and shouting. Although I do find the occasional rant does remind them that I'm being serious.

5. Expect to mess up. You can't get it right everytime. DP and I usually end up discussing any particularly irksome behaviour after the kids have gone to bed, to see what went wrong and to agree how we will tackle it next time.

6. Talk, talk, talk.

7. When I've had a gutful of (in my mind) unacceptable behaviour, I go out and leave them to it, and do something that just calms me down. DP supports this as then he only has crabby children to deal with and not a crabby partner too grin. Is this an option for your DH?

As a SP, I think it's difficult to know when to discipline and when to not. You're not their mother/father (as they kindly remind me when they don't get their way), but you're not a friend either. I've taken the line that I reserve the right to discipline if the SCs trash my personal possessions/help themselves to anything in our bedroom or office, or if they are rude/disrespectful to me (although this is a minefield as DSD1 hits teenagedom).

Friction happens in all families at some point but it's how you all deal with it that's important. I hope you find a way to open up that conversation because you both need to support each other if it's going to work.

(sorry, that was a bit long!)

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