We met at a book signing in February at Indigo in Toronto, where I bought a copy of No More Assholes. I read your book and followed your advice, and found a great man! He is divorced and has three kids, which he has every second week for a week.
All is going well and we are exclusive, and have been in a committed relationship for over 30 days now. The problem is he wants me to spend time with his kids when he has them, but unfortunately they have very bad manners and he lets them do whatever they want. Do you have any reading recommendations on how I can provide him with feedback on his parenting without insulting him?
I’m not looking to be a step parent anytime soon but when we’re eating dinner together and or just staying at his place they are out of control, and it’s driving me crazy. Help!
Oh sister, I’ve been there!
When I first met my man his two children were 9 and 10 and very rambunctious, sometimes loud, and often demanding. I have to admit, there were many stomach clenching moments over the next several years where I bit my tongue and then waited for my frayed nerves to heal.
The great thing about a good man is his commitment to his kids happiness. The most maddening thing about a good man is his commitment to his kids happiness. Good men worry about their kids – a lot. They want to make sure they’re well provided for, which means if their mom doesn’t have her shit together he’s working overtime making sure all their needs are taken care of.
They want to make sure they feel safe and secure, which means they’ll buy a house for them (and their mom) to live in if need be. And they want to make sure they feel loved, so they’re loathe to scold them too much because they don’t’ want the kids to grow up only remembering dad as the mean guy who kept giving them crap.
All this means that sometimes they seem a bit wild. And loud. And rude. And demanding. Which is frustrating, especially when you compare them to either how you were raised and taught, how you’ve witnessed other kids being raised and taught, or just how you expect kids to be raised and taught.
I know you want to step in and teach him how to do it right – I know I did. But here’s the great thing about not being the actual parent – you don’t have to parent. And in fact, you shouldn’t parent. It’s not your job, and really, telling him how to parent isn’t your job either.
Trust me, I learned that last part the hard way.
After a few times giving my husband my two cents on how he could parent better he let me know I should just let him be a dad and trust his process, because deep down all he was doing was making sure they understood he loved them.
So I stepped back. Each time my mind was overwhelmed with the notion that what was happening would fail to instill the respect and work values they’d need to succeed in life, I’d remind myself that I didn’t have a crystal ball and I’d just have to wait and see how they turned out.
Well, it turns out they’re okay after all. Both are slowly but surely taking on more and more responsibility, and all their childish behaviours that drove me crazy have disappeared. They’re now great young adults who are sweet, quiet, and respectful.
What I did end up doing throughout all those years was make a deal with my husband. He got to parent any way he wanted, but if he gave them a “quiet down” command three times, the fourth was mine. The great thing about this was I became a backup, and because the times when I actually I spoke up were few and far between and when I did it was with a quiet assertiveness, they always instantly listened to me.
As for the rest, you’re going to have to learn how to deal with your stress without adding more on his plate. He’s trying hard, and that’s his job, while yours is to be his companion and support. His kids will only be this small for a limited amount of years, and once they’re older and more independent things will change greatly.
It’s not easy being a dad, and it’s harder doing it when the household is split. There’s added responsibility and pressure, and of course guilt. He’s trying his bestest to ensure his kids have a happy childhood, and if he’s anything like my man he’s sad when he thinks about what he wants for them versus what he can actually do.
Meditate (click here for my Let’s Meditate Playlist which will help you make it easy), shrink your fight or flight response, release your pent up stress during meditation, and tough it out. In the long run it’ll be worth it and in the meantime you get to be Ms Nice Guy!
You can’t say anything if they’re misbehaving (unless it’s the fourth warning) but you can make an effort to watch for behaviours you like and pounce on the opportunity to praise them for it. Maybe they’ll like it so much they’ll repeat more of the same, just to gain more praise and approval.
Encourage your man to follow suit, and who knows? You might be able to turn it all around. In fact, maybe you can encourage the kids to meditate too! Tell them about what you do, how you do it, and ask them if they’d like to join you. A few minutes each time you see them might turn into a habit they’ll dive into, and if they do they’ll calm down naturally.
I know you asked for a book to recommend for him, but I’m going to recommend one for you instead. After The First Kiss is a book I wrote for this phase of your relationship. It covers how to navigate that first year, create another healthy boundary that ensures you don’t move too fast again, and gives you insight on how to easily fit into each other’s lives.