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What do you do when your parenting approach clashes with how DSCs are being brought up?

(28 Posts)
NorthernLassie724 Mon 24-Mar-14 20:26:33

I have a DD who is 1 and a DSS who is 8. DSS is with us every weekend. He is generally a nice lad, can be very kind and thoughtful but I am struggling with certain things and really don't know how to tackle it.

DD has a very strong personality and is already starting to imitate others, especially DSS, who she adores. This is great in a lot of ways but I am worried that DSS has been (and still is being) brought up in a totally different way to how I would like to do so for DD.

Basically I just feel that DSS is really immature for his age - certain examples being that he has to take a comfort cloth and 10 specific teddies to bed with him and everywhere we go. We literally have to take a holdall everywhere. He won't sleep unless all lights are left on, his door is wide open and there's music on. He won't sit on a chair to eat at the dinner table. He cries whenever he has a bath or shower, saying that he hates them and causes a huge fuss whenever he has his hair washed. Everywhere we go, he gets obsessed by modern technology such as mobile phones or games consoles and is extremely rude unless he's given permission to use them by whoever owns them. He makes huge amounts of mess and throws major tantrums when asked to clear anything up. He also goes home to his mum and basically says that we treat him like an unpaid babysitter/slave because we encourage him to play with his sister and sometimes ask him to help clear up a mess he's made.

I do feel that some of this behaviour is immaturity/comfort-seeking but I also think that some of this is bad behaviour. I've tried raising it with DH and he is supportive a lot of the time, we use the "in this house, we do xyz" and the consistent approach seems to work. We can also keep dd away from certain parts of his behaviour like bath and bedtimes.

It does worry me that his behaviour is getting worse and I think it will start to undermine my parenting approach/choices. Things like the issues around mealtimes can't be avoided and I don't want my dd to copy these behaviours. I realise that DSS must be confused as he's allowed to behave like that at home but not with us but it's really panicking me...it's like my worst parenting nightmare being played out in front of me and it feels like there's nothing I can do. Loads of friends have said that as there's such an age gap there won't be issues but I can't believe that at the moment...please help sad

BigPigLittlePig Mon 24-Mar-14 20:36:19

How often do you have your dss? I worry about this sort of thing with dd and dsd, but then figure that dd is here alone 5 days of the week, being taught our approach to life, and the actual influence is temporary and not that long lasting. Dsd has always thought of me as a bossy so and so, I'm sure, but is now starting to see that we have the same, equally dull and tedious, rules for dd as we have had for her.

I think what I'm saying is, continue being consistent, "our house, our rules" as your dh has said, and continue to point out to dss when his behaviour is unacceptable or rude.

brdgrl Mon 24-Mar-14 22:58:16

House rules.
I found that it was useful for me to separate out what had a direct impact on me and DD, and what did not.
I had (and have) similar issues but my DSCs and DD are farther apart - like 12 years! - but even so, believe it or not, some of the exact same concerns.
It sounds like you are doing the right things, and your DH is on the same page, so I would continue to work on reinforcing the idea of house rules and consequences. Maybe even written down rules, posted to help remind him nicely.
The mess, tantrums and rudeness are obviously unacceptable and subject to appropriate rules and consequences.
The comfort items and bedtime routine are something you might try to let go of. He sounds very needy, and yes immature, but for whatever reason, he needs that extra comfort and while I can see it would perhaps be annoying...it's direct impact on you and your DD can be minimised - sounds like if you work on the rest, it might improve anyway - the more he feels secure in the house, the easier it will be for him to let that stuff go, and actually boundaries and consistency will help him feel secure.

I'd also just work on saying "Stepbrother's mum allows him to do x, but I'm your mum, and you can't do it!" - just like you'd have to with friends at school, cousins, etc. The age gap will help, it really will, but I know it is still awful sometimes.

charliefoxtrot Mon 24-Mar-14 23:44:01

Unfortunately this is the underlying problem with step-parenting. I found that the best thing to do is to keep discussing things with DH and make sure that we're both clear on what we want and what we will enforce with DS and DSD. Consistency seemed to be the only way to tackle it for us. The only other thing I'd advise is don't compromise what you want for your child too much to accommodate DH's ex. Co-operation is one thing, but letting someone else make decisions about how you raise your child is something else.

NorthernLassie724 Mon 24-Mar-14 23:45:13

Thanks for the replies. I think something I didn't consider was that the rules we have are for the whole household, not just DSS so I think that as he grows older and sees that dd will be expected to do the same, he'll start to realise it's not just something targeted at him.

The thing about the immaturity probably worries me more now...for instance dd goes to bed awake, in silence, in a dark room with just a nightlight and the door shut. She's never needed to be trained to do that, she was the kind of baby who hated being cuddled to sleep etc, she just wants to go to bed when she's tired and that's that. DSS on the other hand has the whole rigmarole of taking the toys up, getting the comfort cloth arranged into the right place, arguing about cleaning teeth, loads of lights on, music playing, doors open, endless trips downstairs asking for drinks or telling us about the various reasons he's upset ("I only had 17 chocolate buttons in my packet and I think there's supposed to be 19"...i.e. he's not really upset but is inventing ridiculous things to moan about. I just don't want dd to be influenced by this at all and dread the time when she realises that DSS' behaviour is different to hers.

ElBumpo Tue 25-Mar-14 07:41:51

I have similar issues but between my own DC. My eldest is autistic so mealtimes and bedtimes can be a nightmare. It's been better since his diagnosis but before that he also wouldn't sit down for dinner, was repeatedly out of bed, wouldn't go to sleep or get dressed or do xyz unless everything was in the right order/particular size/colour etc etc

My youngest has never really copied his brother at all. He goes to bed properly, eats nicely, does as he's told without argument. He occasionally has the odd time where he tries out a tantrum but when I say "no", he hangs his head and says sorry!

I wouldn't worry too much about your DD.

It sounds like your DSS needs really good boundaries and consistency, so it's good that you do that. I read a book called The Explosive Child which really helped me to cope with my eldest. We also made sure he had some time where he got a LOT of attention because he was clearly struggling - I've heard it called love bombing.

Russianfudge Tue 25-Mar-14 07:43:09

Can you be sure that he is actually allowed to behave like that at home? I ask because I went through a stage with my dd where I would get really cross that her dad (ex) and his wife were allowing her to go to bed with the light on etc. and therefore she wanted to do it here. Turned out she was just trying it on and was telling Dad the same thing about me!

What's your relationship with mum like? Because there are two approaches... If the relationship is good then your DH and her can co-parent (roughly the same rules, discipline, consequences to behaviour etc.) and if it's bad you need to parallel parent (the "different house, different rules approach).

Both can work, but you need consistency. He does sounds pretty badly behaved... What does the school say about his development?

nkf Tue 25-Mar-14 07:46:30

I'd say the boy sounds unhappy and troubled and his father and mother should be concerned about that.

NorthernLassie724 Tue 25-Mar-14 08:00:51

Yes he definitely does that at home, but his behaviour is worse there. We have seen it ourselves and also been told about it by DSS' mum.

ElBumpo Tue 25-Mar-14 08:14:45

It definitely sounds like he needs some real support and I'm not sure it's entirely down to permissive parenting at home. Is it possible to get support from CAMHS perhaps? Family therapy can often help in these situations.

Russianfudge Tue 25-Mar-14 08:31:03

I'm no expert but there's nothing there that says anything to me other than bad behaviour. Could mum and dad co-parent OP?

I appreciate that for many, parallel parenting is the only option. But I do think that co parenting is better where possible for children who lack discipline.

mummytime Tue 25-Mar-14 08:57:19

To be honest from your description I would think that either:
a) your DSS has an underlying condition, which causes his needs and behaviour
or b) he has had a large emotional trauma and is extremely needy (and this is not just a normal marriage break up).

I would suggest contacting a GP and maybe CAMHS.

To Russianfudge - how the heck do you classify needing a comfort cloth, and 10 teddies in bed as being bad behaviour?

Xalla Tue 25-Mar-14 09:22:14

Agreed. I think this is bad behaviour that's been left unchecked by both parents.

I suspect I'm quite a tough parent but I'm fairly sure if your DSS's parents were determined enough, it could all be dealt pretty quickly. I'm sure there would be some initial squawking but if they were firm and consistent, they should be able to implement a more age-appropriate bedtime routine in a matter of days.

Could the parents co-parent? If not, it would still be worth your DH putting his foot down when your DSS is at your house. My DSD (also 8) moves between two totally different homes with different house rules and is for the most part, fine with it. She accepts the Dads House; Dads Rules mantra.

My DH and Mum don't / won't co-parent so DSD has to adapt. DH doesn't agree with the ex's way of doing things and the ex doesn't agree with ours. Whether it's good for DSD in the long run to be split between two such different environments is anyone's guess but like I say, she's lives by the same rulebook as our other kids when she's here.

crazykat Tue 25-Mar-14 09:45:28

It sounds like he's been let do as he pleases by his mum. We had similar with DSD where her mum let her play out on the street without asking, bought her whatever she wanted, sweets whenever, staying up late (1am or later), DSD was only 6 at the time. Then a couple of years later DSD mum was moaning to us that she wouldn't behave.

From when we moved in together we did the our house - our rules approach. We say down with DSD and told her how she was expected to behave - tidy her own toys up, eat nicely, ask for anything other than fruit, only allowed in the garden etc. it took a few weeks but it worked. She was still a nightmare at home but her mum let her do what she liked most of the time and wondered why DSD kicked off when she was told no.

She's 12 now so have the odd pre-teen moods but on the whole her behaviour is pretty good.

Some children do have comfort blankets until they're quite old, especially when they move between mums house and dads house. It does sound a bit extreme with all the teddies as well. Might a reward chart help? Have things like eat nicely at the table, tidy up, have hair washed without screaming, go to sleep with the lights off. Have maybe ten things on it and at first give him a reward for three stars at the end of the day, then slowly increase to four, five and so on until he's doing all of them every day.

It will take a while, especially since it sounds like his mum isn't going to help, but he will get there. At 8 years old he is more than capable of responding to a reward chart.

Lasvegas Tue 25-Mar-14 13:51:16

I stupidly tried to help with suggestions, but after a few years, realized that suggestions were taken as criticism. So now bite my tongue. It is sad as eldest has very few qualifications and I do really think that he may have done better if his parents had got involved with his schooling. ie awareness of the syllabubs or a tutor.

Russianfudge Tue 25-Mar-14 13:59:30

mummytime I use "Bad behaviour" because the behaviour is bad... I don't mean the child is naughty or that it is necessarily the case that it is the child's fault. It is bad because he has been allowed to take 10 teddies out with him in a holdall and now demands it. I can accept that it is a potential worry that it is the exact set of 10 teddies (possibly obsessive compulsive?) but as there is nothing other than that to indicate OCD I do think it's a case of the child being badly behaved.

The problem with different rules in different houses is that kids very quickly realise they can say "daddy lets me" and then when the kid demands that mummy does the same mum feels like "ffs my child is so badly behaved because his dad lets him x, y, z" and actually Dad doesn't let him either. They play the trick in both houses, become badly disciplined and badly behaved.

The comfort cloth I don't really see a problem with... I have friends who had comfort items in to their 20s.

PolyesterBride Tue 25-Mar-14 14:12:14

I don't think you should worry too much about your dd copying your stepson. As another poster said, my two children are very different - my oldest dd is very badly behaved and extreme in her reactions to things and my youngest does not copy these behaviours at all. If your dd does want certain things when she's older eg Big Brother's allowed music on at night, why can't i, it's fine to say something like, he is older or his mummy says it's ok but I'm your mummy and it's not ok for you.

I'm sure he must sit in a chair to eat at school? So that's perfectly reasonable to enforce that at home. No dinner unless sitting nicely. As for bedtimes, the teddies etc are to doing any harm so why not let that go for a while. But it's reasonable to insist on lights out in the room perhaps eith the landing light on and the door ajar.

It's definitely ok to say these are the rules in this house.

Partridge Tue 25-Mar-14 14:19:15

Let the poor boy have his teddies sad. He is only 8 ffs. For whatever reason, he finds them comforting and I can't believe that this is being classed as "bad behaviour". I really do wish some posters would research child development...

Some of the other behaviour sounds problematic, and I agree with those who say that consistent, clear boundaries from both households is the way forward. I would very slowly try to introduce maybe headphones so that the music isn't blaring, having a nightlight and slowly transitioning to darkness. Please do it kindly and with empathy. I seriously doubt his habits will have any impact on your 1 year old dd.

Russianfudge Tue 25-Mar-14 14:57:28

Try a meditation CD and a night light at bedtime if he likes some kind of noise.

We did this to transition my DD to quiet and darkness because her terrible father was allowing her to have music on and full light... apart from that he wasn't at all and she was lying to me to get me to do it here smile

Xalla Tue 25-Mar-14 16:06:16

I should say, I don't think the comfort blanket / teddy thing at bedtime is a biggy. Lots of kids have them (and a few adults). I do think at 8 they should be confined to the bed though and not carted around during the day.

Lights / music / open door not really appropriate for an 8 yr old imo.

Getting up several times after he's been put down definitely not on. Refusing to sit at the table / take a bath / clean up after himself / tantrumming also not on a that age.

mummytime Tue 25-Mar-14 17:01:26

Xalla - I agree the behaviour sounds unusual - but could it be a symptom not just "bad behaviour"?
I know this is step parenting, but to be honest if it was parenting or behaviour I would be even more strongly suggesting that the situation needs to be looked at.

Russianfudge Tue 25-Mar-14 17:32:52

I think the situation does need to be looked at for sure. The problem is when it's a step situation is that you usually can't do what together parents do and come up with a plan together and present a united "this is not acceptable" front to the child.

My suggestion would be for OP's husband to do what he can to create that between himself and his ex. If it isn't possible then the child needs to be taught somehow that there are different rules in different houses. He can;t be expected to go cold turkey on all of it but they need to start saying "no, it isn't acceptable for you to sleep with your light on in this house" if he tantrums over it then that is bad behaviour and there should be consequences.

It doesn't sound like the school is worried about him in any way... he's only unable to follow rules at home. That is why it is in my opinion bad behaviour. That's not to say it's his fault but that is what it is and OP's husband has to deal with it, ideally with the support of mum.

Russianfudge Tue 25-Mar-14 17:34:32

All bad behaviour is a symptom. Kids aren't born bad - they're maybe tired, or grumpy, bored, indulged, entitled, angry etc. Doesn't make it any less annoying and doesn't make it any less essential that it is nipped in the bud!

Xalla Tue 25-Mar-14 17:46:18

He probably is knackered if he's making endless trips downstairs after lights out. All the more reason to put a stop to it! We all know how trying a tired child can be...!

BarbarianMum Tue 25-Mar-14 22:33:04

Also please bear in mind that whilst your dd is happy to be put to bed awake, in the dark etc now - it may not always be that way (and it won't be your step son's fault if things change).
The routines and fears you so disprove of tend to develop with age, so she ma
y well end up with a nightlight and a pile of teddies yet.

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