Parenting Stepchildren/I need advise!


I am 31, no kids and I have been dating my boyfriend for almost 3 years.  He is divorced with an 8 year old daughter and a 5 year old boy.  I have been in the children's lives for the past two years, they are sweet children and they like me a lot. They are with my boyfriend every other week since he has a 50/50 custody.  My boyfriend and I don't live in together yet, and I only get to spend time with the kids from Friday to Sunday every week he has the kids.  I usually overnight at his house with them those weekends.  The relationship between my boyfriend and ex it's not good.  When I first started spending time with the kids the ex-wife didn't like it and she took my boyfriend to court so he could only have visitations instead of what they already had, but it didn't go through. Now that she has a partner and he has moved in with her and the kids, she makes excuses for her not to have the children on her weekends. The children are adorable, I love them because they are part of the man i love.  It's the children's  behavior what is starting to bother me.  Yes my boyfriend tries to put boundaries and disciplines them or at least tries, but they don't listen to him that much.  both children fight at each other, then they both cried because they want the same thing the other has.  Lately the girl has been behaving better, if one talks to her she understand a little bit more.  It's the boy that i am having difficulties with, he screams, he is rude, he can not stay still in one place, at the store he runs, yells and if he doesn't get what he wants he screams.  Still my boyfriend does not fall for that but he gets frustrated too and screams at him and puts him on time out and 5 minutes later the behavior starts again.  I am a preschool teacher and i deal with this type of behaviors every single day at my job.  Sometimes i feel like i want to jump in and stop the behavior the way I do at work with the kids(eye level, no screaming, calm tone of voice but firm#, but then i don't because i feel like I have no right to do so.  I am embarrassed when we go somewhere and the boy starts acting up #because this happens every single time we go out.  My questions are whether I should talk to my boyfriend and teach him how to discipline? so he won't be weak to his kid's tears, wether its ok if i ask for my boyfriend's permission to let me deal with the situation along with his support? I am only with them every other weekend, but we function as a family.  The kids are at my family events, my relatives all know them and they like them, although sometimes I am once again embarrassed for the boy's behavior. My boyfriend and I have been talking about getting married in about 1 or 2 years and i want things to work well, i know these kids have gone through a lot and as things are going with mom i have the feeling we all are going to spend much more time together than what was stipulated at court. I don't want to be their mom because they already have one, but i want to be able to fully enjoy our time together, specially when we go out.  I am also concerned about the boy having some hyperactivity but i don't know if i should address this issue with my boyfriend or not, and if yes, how?  I don't want to walk away, all i want to know is if its ok for me to put behavior boundaries on the children due to our weekend situation with no resentment from them towards me in the future.  Please i need some advise!!


You sound like you would make a great mom.  You seem to know what to do with the children.

As you are not living in the house with them, you are wise to hang back and stay out of the discipline.  

What does your intuitive sense tell you to do in this situation?  You have training and experience in dealing with this kind of behaviour.  Would your boyfriend be open to you teaching him how to deal with the behaviour?

I  know that you have already mentioned that you know the children have been through a lot, but let's look at that.

Think of the trauma the children wnet through in the divorce.  What they really want is for their parents to get back together again. Now there are two other "parent" figures in their life.  Think of the confusion, hurt and pain that they are going through, and are unable to express positively.  But it needs to be expressed so they do it in not so positive ways.  

From what you have said, these children are crying out for someone to help them feel secure in a very confusing world.  They need to know that someone loves them enough that they will be firm and consistent in what is acceptable behaviour. Children want the security and comfort of boundaries even though they may struggle against them.

So what to do?  First encourage dad to spend time with each child snuggling, reading stories, playing games and so on.  This is also something that you can do as well.  Make it a family thing.  

Second, talk to your boyfriend about what is expected from you, what you can do to help.  Assuming you are planning to make this a permanent relationship, talk to him about the roles you would expect form each other, the kind of behaviour that you want to have in your home.  Get clarity on the vision that you have for family.

Next hold a family meeting where you discuss what kind of behaviour you all want in the home.  Listen to what the children are saying.  Let them help decide what is good behaviour and what happens when someone does not behave appropriately.  Remember, adults should also accept consequences for their actions.  Consequences do not have to be negative.  They can be doing something funny or silly.  Consequences need to be related, respectful and reasonable.  

Here is a simple tool you can teach everyone.  It is called the Circle of Responsibility.

One family we worked with put a happy face and a sad face on their fridge.  The sad face is when we are thinking bad thoughts and are outside of our circle.  The happy face is when we are inside our circle.  They told us one day the children were fighting and one came into the kitchen to tell her mom how unfair her sister was.  The child saw the two faces and said to her mom... oh yeah, all I have to do is change my thoughts to happy ones... and then went back and played happily with her sister.

Here is another article I found on the internet.

Instead of isolating children when they are in the most need of connection, follow some of the examples shown above.

Show this article to your boyfriend.  Search the web together for ways of positively dealing with the poor behaviour.

If you set the tone now for how you interact together as a family, your relationship will be stronger and will weather the ups and downs.


Parenting Stepchildren

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Rick Olson


As a stepparent of 4 children and a family coach, I can answer questions about the issues that arise in step-parenting including discipline,blended families, boundaries and guidelines.


I have 18 years as a stepfather, and over three years as a family coach focusing on unifying, strengthening and empowering families.

My wife and I have written 2 books on Family FUSE Your Family - Family: Unify Strengthen Empower! and Raising Families

BA(Recreation Administration) Grad Studies in Urban and Regional Planning and Design Certified as a LifeSuccess Consultant/Coach

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