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Is it right to treat your children and step children the same in every way?

(22 Posts)
PatoBanton Tue 08-Oct-13 13:46:29

Actually more like 15 times as a rough estimate. He didn't come for 6 months once after turning up completely off his head.

PatoBanton Tue 08-Oct-13 13:45:01

Thanks - I have told him to tell daddy if he feels ill, in fact that's the first thing I said when he called me. I presume he was too shy to say anything as he was kind of in a situation for the first time - at a grandparent's house he'd never visited before, he's only met her once briefly before, it was sort of a formal occasion and it was in the middle of dinner.
He didn't want to ruin things and cause a big fuss, I think.

He couldn't confide in his dad as he has seen him only, what 20 times for a few hours since he was 7 and before that not at all since he was 1. They have a 'good times only' relationship. His dad has zero contact with him at all other times (his dad's choice, I have offered many times - he doesn't even take phone calls from ds) and is never there when ds has a problem or is ill etc. Ever.

So I think it was natural to want to ring me in the circs.

His dad insists his wife is 'indifferent' and quite happy to leave them to it when ds visits. Yet somehow she finds the opportunity every visit to say something that could feasilbly be taken quite badly.

Anyway I am grateful for the support especially from those of you who know what it is like to be a stepparent.

I've also been advising ds to mention it AT THE TIME when she says something that makes him feel bad. I can't get the context later on, and it's hard to explain to his dad if he has been upset about something without having been there.

Oh btw I didn't expect her to coach him for the 11+. Not at all. His dad brought the issue up several times, telling the story about how well her dd got on, and how great she was at coaching, and each time I said 'Oh maybe she could give ds a few pointers? I'd be happy to pay' and he said no. Both times.

So in the light of that I do think she was quite wrong to pass judgment on his abilities.

Maybe the problem isn't her not being a proper stepmum to him - maybe it's more about his dad not being a proper dad sad

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Tue 08-Oct-13 12:13:04

For a start, no, you can't 'cut contact' due to this - that's a massive over reaction.

I think your DS is of an age where he needs to tell his Dad what she is saying to him and how it makes him feel.

She isn't a 'proper' step-mum if she has only seen him a handful of times and it is most certainly not her place to 'quiz' him on his 11+ (if she hasn't asked him if he wants some help) and it is not her place to tell him that she will give his sweets to someone else.

I think you need to empower your DS a bit more (without allowing him to be rude), tell him he needs to talk to his Dad about how he feels and then not worry too much - it's not as if he's stuck there every weekend with her is it.

[I say all of that from a position of heavily defending step parents most of the time.]

... and yes, why on earth couldn't he tell his Dad he felt sick?

Dumpylump Tue 08-Oct-13 12:00:08

Why on earth would your ds be embarrassed to tell his own dad he wasn't feeling well?

TheMumsRush Tue 08-Oct-13 11:59:54

I think sometimes kids can interpret things differently. I know I've said stuff messing around to my own dsc that, if they were that way, could make an innocent comment sound terrible to the rp. Thankfully my dsc know me well enough to know what is in jest. For that very reason, I don't think stopping contact will help. And I find a lot of sm's dp/dh do avoided confrontation with the rp for the very fact that they fear it will be used to stop contact.

TheMumsRush Tue 08-Oct-13 11:50:56

he was embarrassed to tell the adults as he didn't know them very well

Was one not his dad? Sorry if I've missed something

allnewtaketwo Tue 08-Oct-13 11:50:34

"And not allowing sweets before finishing dinner is one thing, but threatening to give them to someone else is horrible."

Hmm, I refequently threaten to give DS's sweete/toys away, I'm not sure it's such a frightful thing to do tbh.

I think what she allegedly said about him not passing his 11 plus was very unnecessary and mean.

But this " she is a teacher and had worked with her own kids to get them through it but the idea of working with ds had been thoroughly quashed, apparently it would be too 'awkward'... so in fact she isn't treating him the same at all."

Did you expect her to coach your child for the 11 plus?

PatoBanton Tue 08-Oct-13 11:18:20

Am I missing something - are people only allowed to post in support of step parents, whatever they do, on this board?

PatoBanton Tue 08-Oct-13 11:17:29

Noo, I posted on the board to ask what other people thought about it.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Tue 08-Oct-13 10:11:58

So you posted on the SParenting board to say that your DS stepmum is wrong?

PatoBanton Tue 08-Oct-13 08:01:35

And he called me from the toilet as he was alone., very nervous indeed and felt poorly (he spent the evening throwing up fwiw) and he was embarrassed to tell the adults because he didn't know them very well. He has only met her about 6, maybe 8 times in the year he's been going there, and only briefly.

To me the harsh to nice ratio is a bit off. To say these things to a child you barely know just gives the impression of massive negativity towards them without any positive background to work against.

I try and stay balanced about it and his dad has argued that he will step in and defend ds - but often the things are said in a separate room when his dad isn't present so he doesn't hear them.

PatoBanton Tue 08-Oct-13 07:56:08

Hi Wannabe, Thankyou for your reply...I'm not sure where to begin as you've got completely the wrong idea and it's perhaps my fault for not being concise enough in my own posts.

But I really want to explain so here goes.

First off, ds is really, really polite both to her and about her - it was me who asked him for an account of the visit and he mentioned that she had said this (11+ comment) and I dug for details as I wasn't sure how to take it either.
Apparently they had been talking about some maths, maybe she gave him an example question or something, and he tried to answer it, and she kind of sighed and shook her head and said 'you're not gonna pass'.

She tried to qualify it after by saying 'Oh I'm sure you will' but it was a bit late for that. He already thought he might not pass because we had discussed it a lot when I was doing practise with him. But that's from me, and I'm close enough to be frank with him and also I was helping him with it.
As I said earlier, she is a teacher and had worked with her own kids to get them through it but the idea of working with ds had been thoroughly quashed, apparently it would be too 'awkward'...hmm so in fact she isn't treating him the same at all.

This is what I mean I suppose. Giving out the harsh telling off but not giving him any actual positive intervention. One without the other doesn't work.

And not allowing sweets before finishing dinner is one thing, but threatening to give them to someone else is horrible.

I don't think ds needs to 'learn some respect' at all. He is perfectly respectful and a really, really appeasing child and never says anything rude to her or to anyone apart from me and his brother at times...his teachers find him very very polite and well mannered as does his dad, and he's only ever spoken about her to me.

Also I don't have a 'dp' so no, he won't be 'going after' anyone next.

wannaBe Mon 07-Oct-13 20:11:55

I think that tbh it's imperitive that they should be treated the same.

I also think though that you need to be careful not to become someone your ds can use to get at his stepmum because he doesn't like her, and that you shouldn't be pandering to his wish to not see her again.

I would want to know the context of the comment re his eleven plus, had he not put in the effort? was he stalling about doing prep etc perhaps? I've told my ds he won't pass his eleven plus but the context was that he needed to do some prep tests and every time I tried to get him to do it it was like pulling teeth. grin but it's possible your ds has just come home to you and said "wicked stepmum said I won't pass my eleven plus," and it's been taken out of context.

And not having sweets if he doesn't finish his dinner is fair enough IMO.

I think that if there are genuine issues of abuse then of course these need to be addressed, but I don't think a child should be enabled to play his parents off against one another, phoning you from the toilet? hmm or that his wish to not see the stepmum should be pandered to in the slightest.

So she maybe parents differently to you/your xh. but fact is that she's part of your ds' life now and his dad's partner and he should respect that.

And tbh I think that if your xh agrees to this demand he in himself is pretty bloody horrible and it says a lot about the lack of respect for his dw.

I think listen by all means but do also show a united front. He is ten, he doesn't get to call the shots just because he doesn't get his own way, and he needs to learn some respect. if my ds started slagging off my xh's new dp (he is also ten) to me, while I would listen I wouldn't collude in his discontent nor would I aim to try and find a way for the relationship to not exist. Children need to learn that not everyone in their lives will always act as they want them to, and that sometimes the discipline they receive might not be what they would want. But it's pretty disrespectful t be able to run to the other parent and the other parent always take their side even if it's just discipline and not that big a deal in the scheme of things.

Be careful, if you agree to this he may go afte your own dp next.

PatoBanton Mon 07-Oct-13 19:22:58

Yes, It can become pretty hard to untangle this whole set up, in terms of what to do and who should do it.

I don't think he is being abused. I think he feels sorry for her as she is pretty pathetic really and has had a hard life. He is also naturally terrified of confrontation and would rather fall off a cliff than have an argument.

I trust him in most ways if he is alone with ds but he won't say anything to her if he can help it. I would say something - I'd tell her that ds just doesn't feel comfortable around her and let her draw her own conclusions. But she seems to have poisoned ex against his other children to some extent - apparently it's their fault for being manipulative. (I have posted about her before sadly if anyone recognises this).

Anyway, no, he really isn't best placed to defend them, I have no idea how they sorted it out about dinner yesterday after it was all over. It was probably pretty hard for him to stand up for ds.

I am thinking of stopping contact for a while, there are certain other issues - ex would also rather lie about stuff or prevaricate and hold forth in a blustery manner than ever, ever give a straight answer. He led me to believe she wouldn't even be there yesterday but she was. It's like that.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Mon 07-Oct-13 19:16:26

I suppose in the scheme of things I don't wish to delegate any parenting to her at all, and never have wished to - Ex married her and so he wants to involve her in ds's life, which I am not comfortable with

Either you trust your ex to parent your shared DCs, even if that means him delegating to someone else, or you don't trust him, in which case you need to consider whether he is an appropriate person for them to be cared for by.

It's a worry that you think he is keeping the peace at the expense of his own parenting values - a definite red flag if he feels unable to discuss the issue with his DP. If he is being bullied/abused himself, he is not well placed to protect his DS.

PatoBanton Mon 07-Oct-13 19:09:53

I have crossed posts there China - thankyou for putting your perspective, it's an interesting one.

I suppose in the scheme of things I don't wish to delegate any parenting to her at all, and never have wished to - Ex married her and so he wants to involve her in ds's life, which I am not comfortable with especially as he has told me previously that she is jealous of his children (he has other older ones too, who no longer see her at all and barely see him) and that she has issues with them seeing him, and that she resents them. All because of her background.

I would really question whether it is right to tell a child who is not your own (for example) that he is lazy, or that he will fail an important exam, when you aren't actually compensating for this frankness in the opposite way, ie, loving him, and helping him study for the exam (she is a teacher, and ex likes to show off about how she tutored her own dd through this exam, and I've had to listen to the story twice now and both times asked if she could help ds a little, and this was refused).

I do think that loving a child and being there for him through thick and thin, rather than not really wanting him around and not wanting any part in his life, can better provide the context in which such bluntness can be tolerated or even beneficial.

Thus birth parents being perhaps harsher but with less of a negative impact.

That's my take on it anyway. If you are secure in your relationship with your mother or father and they lose it a bit with you, you know it is because they love you and want the best for you.

If someone unrelated and with whom you are not close or secure does the same, it cannot be taken in the same way because the underlying motives are not necessarily good.

PatoBanton Mon 07-Oct-13 19:01:47

Yes, I can see that being fair to them all (or none of them!) is perhaps important but I think in this instance, her method of discipline, if you can even call it that really, is kind of personal and very cutting.

I think when you are seeking to actually instill some kind of good behaviour expectation in children then of course you have to be seen to be doing it fairly, but when it is poorly handled in the first place and used in a way that threatens their sense of security in that setting then it cannot be handed out to a child whose position in the family is already so fragile.

Yes, Ex does agree with me on many aspects of parenting and he is kind of in a position between me and her, trying to keep the peace, and he has not spoken to her about this issue at all so far. He doesn't want to, and ds says he does not wish to see her again, so we're stuck on the thing of where and how ds and his dad can get together without her involvement.

I think he is trying to find ways to excuse her behaviour but the fact is, she has said similar unkind and pretty toxic things every time he has been there, and often when Ex is out of the room, and I really don't think that she is being like that to the others because they are often not there, and when they are, they are far older than ds anyway.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Mon 07-Oct-13 18:55:12

It depends on the context.

I'm sure it won't surprise anyone on MN to read that I am blunt in RL, too. I have, on more than one occasion, told my DSS that he is lazy, I have told him that life isn't fair and I have told him that if he wants age appropriate privileges in our home, then he is expected to take age-appropriate responsibilities.

I'm sure that were his mother/grandparents to know what I had said, they would be furious - despite the fact that his own mother is far harsher with him herself.

In my opinion, stepparenting is not a popularity contest. If my DP asks me to back him up in his role as parent I have two choices; I can disengage, or I can do the job to the best of my ability. There are numerous ways of parenting; I don't necessarily agree with the way in which the stepmum in the OP has gone about things, but there is nothing to suggest that it is cruel, abusive or malicious. She's doing her best. If the DCs Dad doesn't like it, he can ask her to disengage and not get involved - and take sole parenting responsibility for his DC in his home.

What is, IMO, very unreasonable is an expectation of any stepparent that they will parent their DSC in a way they disagree with. If a stepparent is delegated parenting responsibility, it can only work if the stepparent is trusted; telling them HOW to parent is a recipe for disaster.

mamaslatts Mon 07-Oct-13 18:18:18

I suppose if all the children are being treated fairly, then fine, but it doesn't sound like she is 'fair' whether that is to her step children or her own. However, she treats her own children is her affair but if someone was being unkind to mine, that's a different matter. It actually sounds like your husband agrees with you. Perhaps you could speak to him again and frame it under 'I don't want DS to refuse to stop seeing her altogether, I'd like them to get along.' or something similar. Your son will be coming to the age where soon he won't be able to be forced to go, should he refuse. Maybe remind your husband of that too?

Smartiepants79 Mon 07-Oct-13 18:17:41

No experience of step parenting but my instinct would be that all children should be treated the same. Much bigger issues arise when children are treated differently. When one is seen to be being favoured.
As long as they are all treated the same (and in all things, so good as well as bad) then your DS might just have to get used to his step mums manner and way of dealing with things.

Aroundtheworldandback Mon 07-Oct-13 18:11:36

I would say there is no other way but to discipline one's own and one's step children in the same way, age appropriate of course. It's hard enough trying to keep resentment between children at bay without treating them differently.

Your ds's stepmother's comment preceding his eleven plus though had me lost for words. How DARE she make a comment to someone else's child that could take away his confidence and affect his future directly by influencing the school he might eventually go to. That would have have me HOPPING MAD.

With regards to finishing his meal/sweets, I have to say my ds, if he knows sweets are on the horizon, will just claim he's not hungry to save room for his sweets. If I have cooked from scratch (or even if not) I will have none of it, though she could have chosen her words more carefully.

In answer to your question, I think if your ds actually sees her reacting in the same way towards her own children, he will just eventually see that as her way, but if he sees her children receiving different treatment, he will understandably be resentful.

PatoBanton Mon 07-Oct-13 15:42:49

I'm talking about discipline more than anything.

We're having some issues with ds's stepmum, whom he has only known for about a year and a bit, and he only sees them once a month.

She is very - well his dad calls it 'blunt', but actually I'm hearing what she has said second hand, through ds, and some of the comments seem really cruel.

I approached ex about it as ds didn't want to see her any more (he still wants to see his dad). Ex said she just treats them all the same way, he's sure I have a temper, she doesn't even think about it etc. But I feel that she has no place saying some of these things.

I suppose as his parent who has been there with him since day 1 (he is 10 now) I can say harsh things when I am pissed off with him, and he knows it is in a context of absolute love and care for him and therefore it does not grate so much as say, a teacher saying the same, or, in fact, his step mum.

Two examples - telling him he wouldn't pass his 11+ (said in quite a resigned, dismissive way apparently) two weeks before he took it - and then yesterday, saying (when he was full up at dinner time) that if he didn't finish his dinner, she would give his special sweets he had only just been bought as a treat, to someone else.

His dad noticed this comment and stepped in saying he didn't have to finish it. (neither of them knew that he was actually feeling sick, he had gone to the loo to call me and tell me but didn't feel able to tell them).

I think his dad was on the look out as we had discussed how ds feels about her so I am grateful to him for standing up for ds on that point. Not that I think children should be allowed sweets before they finish but to threaten to remove them entirely was horrible.

Anyway what are people's thoughts on this - should she act the same as she would for her other children (who are much older now) or should she moderate it a bit because he doesn't know she loves him, well, because she doesn't - I don't mean handle him with kid gloves, but I do expect a modicum of kindness and NOT to have some mean comment directed at him every single time.

Maybe if she treats them all like that it is more a matter of her general attitude, not the fact it's him or them. I don't know.

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