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DSD1 (the eldest of 2 DSDs) refuses to see her biological dad

(36 Posts)
stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 10:42:47

I have two DSDs; the eldest is currently 9, the youngest is 8. Both DSDs live with me and my OH (their biological mother (BM)). The formal arrangement, which has been in place for a few years, is that they see their Biological Dad (BD) every other weekend, every Friday, and either every Tuesday or Thursday - basically they see him a lot and if ever they want to see him or speak to him outside of this they are free to do so - something we encourage and something he wants. So far so good.

About 18 months ago the kid's BD moved into a new house with his new OH; about 12 months ago he and she had a new baby. Good for them.

Over the course of the last year our eldest DSD has been wanting to see her BD less and less; she has stopped wanting to sleep at his house all together and is now starting to refuse to see him at all. Not good for anyone (I think?)

There is some obvious stuff in here in that the eldest DSD (DSD1) had undivided attention for 18 months from both biological parents (BPs) before DSD2 came long, at which point DSD1 had to share the BPs with DSD2. Then when the kid's BD lived on his own both DSDs had him to themselves when they saw him, then when he moved in with his new OH they had to share him with her. And then when the new baby came along both DSDs had to share their BD with his new OH and his new baby. So it's been diminishing time alone for DSD1 with her BD from when she was 18 months old.

There is some less obvious stuff in here in that both DSDs tell us that their BD's new OH has had words with the DSDs along the lines of "don't wreck my house in the same way you wreck your own house" (I can't blame her for that) which has made DSD1 not like her much, or to be more accruate not like going round their BD's new house where DSD1 feels she is not in control (DSD2 is 'totally' fine wth all of this and appears to love the new baby). Also, both DSDs had their own bedrooms at their BD's new house and where DSD1 has been refusing to go round to the BD's new house the BD decided to give one of the two bedrooms to his new mother in law when she stays and consequently make both DSDs share a bedroom. This makes sense on paper as DSD1 had pretty much stopped sleeping there when this happened, although (understandably) in the eyes of DSD1 this is another reduction in how much she feels her BD is focusing on her. Finally, DSD1 can be a selfish little cow whereas DSD2 is a bit more balanced.

My problem now is that DSD1 is refusing to even see her BD at all, this has been happening for a couple of weeks after consistently deteriorating over the past year. I can hear the screaming in the background as I'm typing this as her BD is coming round in 5 minutes to take them out for a mince pie (this year he is having them boxing day and we are having them Christmas day, it alternates each year).

I strongly believe both DSDs should see their BD regularly and as agreed. My OH, the kid's BM, believes that forcing DSD1 to see her BD will end up in DSD1 hating her BD, which no one wants to happen.

What should I do when DSD1 refuses to go out the front door with her BD when he calls for a planned meeting? DSD1 is admirably strong willed and sees this as another control issue.

Short of physically dragging DSD1 out of the house, something I'm not allowed to do, I don't know what to do with this. DSD1 is not materialistic in the slightest and can't be persuaded by such things as having her Christmas presents taken away. In general she can be a little selfish cow when she isn't getting what she wants; when I was her age I'd have received a few smacked bums and that would have been that, these days though that isn't an option.

From my own selfish perspective with DSD1 refusing to see her dad, and my OH refusing to use baby sitters, we don't get any time to ourselves anymore, but I don't want that to be the focus of this thread.

What d'ya reckon? Should DSD1 be forced to see he BD? If so, how?

HKnight Mon 24-Dec-12 10:56:46

Im not an expert but do you think this, 'i dont want to see my dad anymore,' behaviour is attention seeking? Maybe she has realised this is getting her more attention than she has had from all the adults in her life?

Why not call her bluff, do boring house chores when DSD2 goes to dads and she stays with you.

I think her nose has been put out a bit.

stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 11:42:06

Could well be attention seeking in there. For instance,the only thing we have found that works when we need to set out punishments is disengaging from her; and when she's in full 'throwing a paddy mode' walking away from the argument seems to bring it to a close the quickest.

When she sees her BD he always does fun things with her (and DSD2) so when DSD2 is out with her BD we try and make it boring at our house so you would think she would want to go and do the fun things with her BD. The problem we have found with that is that she can make the most boring of things into fun (this has its upsides too though).

Another for instance: let's say that one of the boring chores is going out to do some shopping - she'll come along (as she has to), but she'll create such a stink if she can't get what she wants when we're out that it turns the chore into a nightmare for us so it gets cut short and we end up going home, chore half done. Even something like going out to get her Christmas presents will get stopped half way through but she would rather that than endure a second longer of not getting her way. I think what I'm saying here is that we haven't found a way of getting her to do what she should do, and the worst outcome of one of those things is that she won't see her BD. My OH sdays he he's a great BD so I can't see that its in DSD1's best interests to not see him, even if she doesn't want to.

I didn't want this thread to turn into a "what's an effective punishment for not doing what you're told" but that might be the/a solution to this problem.

Back onto what happens when she stays with us when she should be out with her BD, telling her to stay in her room doesn't work because she just comes out of the room as the only punishment that has any effect is disengaging from her, and she knows she can re-engage by coming downstairs again. Locks on rooms aren't an option, not least as she may need to get out if there's a fire etc.

Her stamina and determination are excellent skills, but a real bugger when she turns them on us. She totally knows how to play us: introducing the naughty step was scrapped on day 1 as she refused to come off of it when the punishment was over.

I think a lot of this is about her wanting to control situations. Maybe I can focus on that area?

beckyboo232 Mon 24-Dec-12 11:49:24

I would (and I have a incredibly strong willed son smile) is to say ok if she doesn't want to go and let her stay behind and continue as normal, literally do not debate/persuade/engage at all. You wold need her bio dad on side though. Let her come to the conclusion that she wants to see him in her own time.

stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 11:52:50

That would be a great outcome Beckyboo. I'm not sure she would ever come round of her own free will though - I thin in her eyes when DSD2 is out with her BD then DSD1 gets undivided mummy time, so it puts her back into the place she was for the first 18 months of her life.

Do kids think that way?

Pantomimedam Mon 24-Dec-12 11:56:30

As you say, you can hardly drag her by main force. Her Dad needs to sit down with her and have a talk about why she's feeling like this, what the problem is. Has anyone actually asked her yet - you don't mention this?

I know you are doing it for clarity, but saying bio dad and bio mum doesn't sit right with me and can offend a lot of people. They are her Mum and Dad. You are her Stepdad - a very important role in its own right. Bio dad and bio mum is terminology that comes from adoption, when the original parental role has been severed for good.

beckyboo232 Mon 24-Dec-12 12:03:59

I would still let her eventually it will grow old hopefully and if not wells she will live with the consequences either way. She is old enough to understand consequences. What does she say if you ask her why? Or about how it must make her bio dad feel? Maybe her mum could go out when she stays behind? A least at first remove that attraction?

stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 12:10:59

He had always told my OH that he had been speaking to DSD1 about this, but he and my OH sat down with DSD1 as a threesome for the first time to discuss it the other week. DSD1 responded to the questions about wether she wanted to see him and why that was in the same way we are used to hearing, and apparently he was taken aback by it so I guess he may have been asking the questions and not listening to the answers or she was giving different answers.

Like most blokes, myself included, he's not going to come across as a nice-softy-mummy so he'll be listening primarily with his emotions as opposed to his head, so he may have been feeling bruised that she didn't want to see him and could have focused on that instead of what she was actually saying. But after when they all sat down there can't be a suggestion of it not being clear.

Obviously no offense meant to anyone but if anyone gets offended by me trying to make this clear then I've joined the wrong forum.

stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 12:13:35

Beckbyboo - good idea about mum going out. We'll try that. Just need to convince mum now...

NotaDisneyMum Mon 24-Dec-12 12:16:08

OP - how would your DP, and her ex, deal with their DD1 if she refused to go to school?

I've never understood the acceptance by some (usually resident ) parents when their DCs refuse to see their other parent (excluding abusive situations of course).

Refusal to see a parent should be considered as significant as school refusal IMO. No, you can't physically force her to go, but your DP can make it clear that she expects her to go, and refusal will result in significant consequences. Your DP can seek professional support (via school, or the family Dr) to help her DD deal with whatever emotions are leading to this decision.

As for what those consequences are appropriate for your DSD refusal, it depends on what your DSD values most. If confiscation of gadgets doesn't work, then find something that does. The most effective 'punishment' I discovered for my DD at that age was to take away her leisure time - I ensured that all her time was occupied with menial tasks; tidying cupboards, weeding, folding laundry etc. I didn't give her my attention, other than to supervise, but she had no time to read, doodle, game or watch TV for a whole day. She HATED it and the lesson sunk in.

I think you need to be honest with your DP about how her choices make you feel. It sounds like she is supporting her DDs refusal to see her Dad, and that you disagree. Is it something you can agree to disagree on? Some people have a strong emotional need for shared parenting values - I know I would lose respect for a partner who didn't share my values about this, so it's worth being open with your DP to prevent resentment building up.

Smudging Mon 24-Dec-12 12:17:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mercibucket Mon 24-Dec-12 12:25:07

No experience of step-families, but lots of experience of strong willed children!
Part of this sounds like bad behaviour with an emotional effect but really just bad behaviour, and maybe you as a family would benefit from some ideas from a programme like triple p? They're really good. Eg you gave up on naughty step cos she wouldn't come off it, but that's fine, she can sit on it all day should she choose to, once the 'punishment' part is over.

mercibucket Mon 24-Dec-12 12:25:09

No experience of step-families, but lots of experience of strong willed children!
Part of this sounds like bad behaviour with an emotional effect but really just bad behaviour, and maybe you as a family would benefit from some ideas from a programme like triple p? They're really good. Eg you gave up on naughty step cos she wouldn't come off it, but that's fine, she can sit on it all day should she choose to, once the 'punishment' part is over.

stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 12:26:35

NotaDisneyMum - sage words. She loves school (!) so is only off when she is genuinely ill. Is DP Dear Partner? If so then I agree that DP's views on this differ to mine in that I would do all I could to get DSD1 to go. We make sure that DSD2 comes back laden with fun stories of all the things she got up to with their dad.

Sadly I get the marching orders whenever I dig my heels in on this along with "you're not their real parent so you don't know what you're talking about" so I have some work to do myself there.

I think that their dad's OH has said a few disparaging things about my OH and their dad isn't beyond it - this being the case that would really turn the girls off their dad's OH.

What did you do if/when your DD refused to do the chores?

stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 12:33:22

Smudging - sorry, I answered a bit of your question in my last post. The kids say they like her, and every now and then we'll be talking about whatever and they'll interrupt with "xxx says this about that" which is all very positive.

stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 12:36:29

Mercibucket - yep, the behaviour is the same with all things she wants/doesn't want; I'll look at that. If there's a special website etc I need please let me know. Thanks

NotaDisneyMum Mon 24-Dec-12 12:53:32

you're not their real parent so you don't know what you're talking about

That is a clear indication from your partner that she does not welcome or need your input regarding her DCs.
Therefore, your options are limited.

You could detach, leave her to parent her DCs alone with no input at all, which may well lead to conflict if she currently expects/relies on you to support her with some practical aspects - do you drive the DCs places? Cook for them? Clear up after them? Detaching means you only do those things if you want to, not because it is expected. Emotionally, you will be better off if you no longer care about the welfare of your DSD's - it is emotionally draining to continually worry about something you have absolutely no influence over.

The alternative is to assess whether this is the type of relationship you actually want. Many people would struggle to accept your DPs lack of respect for you when she dismisses your opinion in that way. Does she respect you in relation to other aspects of your life together, or do you often defer to her because she knows best? Parenting her DCs is her responsibility , but you had an equal partnership then she would actively seek your views and opinions before making decisions. She is doing the exact opposite - dismissing you as irrelevant in that part of her life.

Pantomimedam Mon 24-Dec-12 13:08:14

NotaDisney, I think you are applying the wrong analogy when you suggest not wanting to see a non-resident parent should be treated as severely as school refusal. This is about complicated human relationships and emotions - punishing a child for expressing their feelings about the break up of their parents' relationship in the only way they can is wrong and cruel. (Apart from anything else, school refusal isn't necessarily just about bad children either - it's usually to do with something deeper.)

Parents splitting up is clearly extremely disruptive for a child and, especially when a parent forms a new relationship, can cause real distress - however inevitable the split or new relationship is, however much it is, in the end, for the best. I don't mean to guilt trip anyone, but look at it from the child's point of view - they are the ones done to in this situation, who didn't choose it, didn't want it and have to live with the results. Punishing them for expressing their feelings about this is cruel, even if as adults we know the ending of a relationship is ultimately for the best.

I know damn well, and did realise at the time, I think, that my parents' divorce was for the best - as a child, at least it stopped all the hideous arguments. It was still extremely painful. Staying together for the sake of the children isn't necessarily a great idea, and I'm not suggesting anyone should, but as adults we have to acknowledge that children suffer the results of our decisions, even if we know those decisions are ultimately right.

If you were to ask a good psychologist, such as Tanya Byron, I bet they would say we do need to acknowledge children's pain, not treat them as bad or naughty for expressing that pain.

None of that means you just shrug your shoulders and accept refusal to see the other parent, of course. It means working through the problem with kindness and humanity.

NotaDisneyMum Mon 24-Dec-12 14:27:06

That's exactly my point - both school refusal and parental rejection are the result of a range of complex emotions ; which most DCs need help to deal with. Society has decided that attending school is important so a child's refusal results in professional intervention and consequences for the parents if they fail to engage with the support offered.

Why is it that a child's relationship with a parent is considered any less important? How come there is no social expectation/penalties if one parent encourages rejection of the other?

ivykaty44 Mon 24-Dec-12 14:57:33

your dsd is gaining so much attention from refusing to see her bio father.

Take away the attention

you may find in her teen years she is the sort of teen that has a drama and is naughty to gain valued attention as this type of dc teen doesn't care whether the attnetion is positive or negative - it is just attention and much needed by her.

better for all of you to make sure both dc get positive attnetion and ignore the negative - as you haven't ignored the negative your dsd has pushed her bio father further and further away to see what happens and how much attnetion she can get out of the situation

ivykaty44 Mon 24-Dec-12 15:06:04

sorry - just to add, this is how I see your Op and what you have described of her behaviour. I have had strong willed and attention seeking dd and what you wrote in your op struck home with me.

Now at twenty she has changed somewhat, but ignoring her and effectively calling her bluff (though it took many weeks) she eventually came round to know that the adults (who all meet without her) wouldn't do what she wanted

stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 16:07:29

Thanks everyone. Its really useful to get views from outside the relationship, sometimes those involved are too involved to see the truth of things.

I'll post up how we get on when there is a change in (all of our) behaviours, or if there isn't.

Hope everyone has a cracking Christmas.

Pantomimedam Mon 24-Dec-12 16:22:48

OK Notadisney, I see we are actually thinking along the same lines. But I dispute your assumption that it is always a problem of resident parents manipulating children into refusing to see the non-resident - it can come from the child, esp. where the non-resident is entering into a new relationship or having more children. I can remember being really scared when my Dad remarried that he'd lose interest in us, that we would be less important to him, and when my half-sister was born even more so.

Both my other sister and I adored our baby sister from the off, btw, we were delighted to have her, but desperately worried about our place in the family. It really hurt when we saw a wedding invite on the mantelpiece from an old friend of my father's that said 'edam'sdadandfamily' and our stepmother said that didn't mean us. Or when we went to my Gran's and our photo had been taken down in favour of one of my Dad, stepmum and new baby. Adults can really hurt children without even being deliberately nasty.

NotaDisneyMum Mon 24-Dec-12 17:18:19

But I dispute your assumption that it is always a problem of resident parents manipulating children into refusing to see the non-resident - it can come from the child

I agree, and didn't meant to give the impression otherwise - many DC's refuse to see a parent (or refuse go to school) because of their own emotional conflict and/or reasoning.

But, if one parent refuses to challenge the DC's rejection of the other parent - if a parent accepts and facilitates the rejection, telling them they don't have to if they don't want to, then imo, that is no different to a parent refusing to help a child get over their fear/rejection of school.

Society punishes parents who fail to see the value of their childs education, and yet generally turns a blind eye to those parents who fail to see the value of their DC's relationship with their other parent. If a DC becomes a school refuser, and a parent tells the DC that they don't have to go to school if they don't want to, that parent is held accountable. Why is it different when a DC refuses to spend time with a parent?

In my DSD case, her rejection of DP was actively facilitated by her Mum who allowed her to make that choice, but refused to allow her to opt out of other care arrangements. She didn't give DSD a choice when she had to spend the night at their grandmothers while Mum worked, and they had blazing arguments about it - but Mum would call in sick to work if DSD refused to see her Dad as arranged.

The OP's DP is similar -she has allowed her DD to opt out of that relationship, rather than give the impression that it is as non-negotiable as getting up, putting on her uniform and attending school every morning.

It bothers me immensely that socially, a DC's relationship with their parents is given less priority than their education.

stairdad Mon 24-Dec-12 17:18:55

That is something my OH has mentioned; both kids are very expressive and articulate but it's the things they aren't saying that scare us most, whether it's things they're just not saying or feelings they themselves don't understand yet.

On the plus side they both seem really happy outside of DSD1's feelings around this issue.

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