Respect issue with bf's teen daughter

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-02-2013
Respect issue with bf's teen daughter
12
Wed, 10-02-2013 - 12:45pm

Hi, I need your feedback.  I've been dating a great guy for 10 months.  He has 2 kids...10yo boy (Jake) and 15yo girl (Maria).  Last night, we hopped into the car to go to dinner to celebrate Jake's birthday.  My bf was complaining during the ride about the traffic and how he dreaded the trip. I offered to drive and he said no.  The kids (Jake and Maria) were sitting in the back seat as usual, and they started to argue a bit (as they commonly do). My bf told them to stop and then he pulled off on the nearest exit and turned back to head home.  I was angry with him when we arrived back at home and told him that he was just looking for the first excuse to head back home, as it seemed to me that he didn't want to go anyway.  I felt it was important to celebrate Jake's birthday, since he had been looking forward to going to his favorite restaurant and the fact that his Mom (my bf's ex-wife) didn't do a thing for his birthday. I felt it was very important to celebrate Jake's birthday in the manner that we all discussed and planned. I know that the arguing among the kids wasn't good, but other times when we've been in the car and they argue, he will threaten to turn around but never does. But this time my bf's fuse was short and he turned right around. I felt he was being selfish because he himself didn't want to go.  So anyway, when we got home, my bf and I ended up shouting at each other in the driveway.  He felt he would've received my support and I felt he shouldn't have turned around.  I think I was correct in my assessment that the issue was really my bf not wanting to go because he went off to find Jake in the house, who went off crying as soon as we got home.  Pretty soon Jake and Maria came outside to get back into the car, but my bf didn't say anything to me besides "Are you going?"  His tone with me conveyed anger.  I told him that I'm not going to go if he's in a terrible mood. Then Jake started crying because I said that I didn't want to go (he wanted me to go with them).

So after a few minutes, I decided to go to the dinner for Jake's sake. I walked to the vehicle and Maria had already sat in the front seat next to my bf. I just stood there waiting for her to move to the back, but she just glared back at me. I looked at my bf and he didn't say anything either. So I had no choice but to walk around the vehicle to get into the seat directly behind my bf.  I felt this was pretty disrespectful, with the child in the front and me in the back. I decided to let it go at dinner and salvage Jake's celebration.

During dinner, Maria asked me "Can I sit in the front next to Dad when we go home?"  I calmly said "No....why, what's the difference btwn front and back?"  And then she said "Exactly, what's the difference, so can I sit in the front?"  I ignored it and she asked me again why she can't sit in the front.  I replied "Because I'm the adult."  My bf said nothing during this exchange and the issue went dead.  When dinner ended and we were walking out to the car, Maria yelled out "I should yell out shotgun, but I'm too tired!" Then she ran ahead of me and started getting into the front seat of the car.  I looked at my bf and said "Are you going to allow this?"  He then quietly told Maria to get in the back.  She had never pulled this type of behavior previously, so I feel that since her Dad didn't make her move to the backseat on the way to the restaurant, that she was testing the limits by pulling the same stunt over again.  It's especially disappointing since I've gone out of my way to do nice things for her (I've rushed from work to take her to a boy band signing at our local mall, I made a big deal out of her birthday, I've taken her to school and guitar lessons, hung out with her, etc.). 

Collectively, both episodes have me questioning how to handle Maria in the future. I feel she has really taken some disrespectful steps.  My bf and I haven't talked about any of this.  There's tension between us (my bf and I). I'm angry with him and he seems to be angry with me.

Can I get your opinions? I'm not a big power person, but I do believe in respect.  I'd like to handle this in a composed and classy manner.

Thank you.

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Community Leader
Registered: 05-14-2001

It seems to me she's testing the limits -- seeing how much power you have and how much power she has.  Have you and your boyfriend argued in front of her before?  Your argument likely spurred her behavior, more so if you've not argued in front of her before.  

As for being upset because you've gone out of your way with her in the past, you're living in a dream world if you think a teenager is going to always treat you well or respectfully because you go out of your way with her.  I promise you there are more challenges and crappy behavior to come and it won't be affected by how much you go out of your way for her.  Welcome to life with a teenager.

I would suggest that you have a talk with your boyfriend about how to handle his daughter.  Is he ok with you handling situations like the one you described on your own?  Will he support you in these struggles with her?  It's important that his daughter knows he won't let her get away with these things but it's equally important for her to see that YOU won't either.  If handling this depends on daddy being around to tell her to stop, you'll be in a world of hurt.


~ cl-2nd_life

cl-2nd_
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-29-2010

I'm thinking that you probably should not be involved in disciplining his kids at all, even to tell him when you think he's doing it wrong. Not trying to be rude but its only been less than a year with you in their lives, so you are still "just the gf". If you were their stepmother the situation would be different but still not easy.

You might want to repost on the Stepmothers board or even Blended Families board to get their perspective on when and how its appropriate for someone other than the bio parents to discipline.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-12-2011

I am a firm believer in say what you mean and mean what you say, if you constantly threaten your kids with something and it never happens then they won't pay you any attention and continue with the bad behavior. Yes the traffic was bad and he was in a bad mood and the kids fighting didn't help. Had the kids not been misbehaving even though he didn't want to go he was going and yes the kids behavior gave him an out, but it was a legitimate out and you should have either backed him up or kept out of it. He as a parent made a decision to teach them a lesson and not reward them for bad behavior and that is something that as parents we have to do even if we don't want to. Birthday or not their father asked them to stop and they didn't so he decided to punish them.

You wanted and expected him to back you up when the daughter was being a brat and you should have done the same with him. A birthday does not give children a pass to misbehave. Bottom line is those are his kids and he gets to decide how to punish them and from the sound of it, it was way pass time that he put his foot down.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-13-2006
Point blank..your bf should be the one handling this...HE should have been the one to put his daughter in her place...not you..because they are not your kids and he is the father...he KNOWS he should have done this but of course his anger with you over-rided his judgement so of course his daughter took advantage of that opportunity to test the waters with you. I tell you there is nothing that I can't stand then a person who is the parent of kid(s) who don't put them in their place BUT instead make it your business to do so and it's NOT your job to... Dating someone with kids...you need to make sure that THAT parent makes sure that their kid or kids understand that there is to NOT be any disrespect towards the person that they're dating or with.If they don't handle that business...then you don't have a foot to stand on...
Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Thu, 10-03-2013 - 10:27am

You chuck aside a relationship when there are issues with the other person that you cannot solve.  You have to be willing to take someone as he is, not take him on as a project.  He is NOT a good parent, and you can't make him be.  It is very sad for the children that their parents are so self-absorbed that neither of them has time to *really* be with their kids.  Let me tell you, I travel for work - coast to coast & back in 24 hours sometimes - and if it was my kid's birthday, or any other important event, I would be there no matter how bloody tired I was.  It doesn't have to do with *how* you celebrate the birthday, but that you let your child know that they are special to you. 

Your bf is nice to you because he is wooing you and you probably haven't caused him any problems, because you're an adult.  This will not last, as you've already seen.  My advice (since you asked) is yes, end the relationship.  And do it completely so the kids don't have the pain of wondering whether you are going to come back. I feel very sorry for them, but unfortunately you can't make their parents be good parents.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Thu, 10-03-2013 - 12:57am

Thank you Mahopec!  As I was reading your original post, I was wondering why you were worried about his daughter's behavior, and not her father's obnoxious and childish behavior.  It was his son's birthday celebration, which he'd already blown off on the boy's actual birthday because he was too tired, and now because the traffic is heavy......he throws a little tantrum and turns around and goes home?  You say he treates you like a queen?  Of course, it's a new relationship, and he's making points, but just wait, that will soon fade away.  If he doesn't care about his own son's feelings, why would he care about yours?  And as for his daughter, she sees his little tantrums, so she figures she's entitled to the same.  And he was wrong again for NOT telling her to get in the back seat IMMEDIATELY!  Yes, it is typical teen, but at the same time, it needs to be curbed now, or that behavior will continue into her adult life.  Both of those kids have problems, and they have two parents who are the cause of the problems.  When kids are bad, it's a FAMILY problem, and you don't MAKE kids go to therapists, you go with them.  I would definitely "chuck aside" a relationship if I saw a man who cared so little for his children's feelings and/or behavior. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 10-02-2013 - 11:06pm

Thank you.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-02-2013

Thanks Music.  I was hoping to hear from you.  I've read these boards for years and love your advice!

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 10-02-2013 - 3:12pm

After my experience w/ my 2nd DH, I would say that sometimes it's a good idea to jettison an otherwise good adult relationship because of issues the man has w/ his kids.  If the 2 of you stay together, you are going to be w/ the kids a certain percentage of the time.  It's easy to say (as I thought) that you let him raise his own kids but sometimes it causes problems when you feel that the guy is doing something harmful to the kids.  Not making a big deal of birthdays is unusual but in the long run, I think there are worse things.  Promising that you are going to do something for a child and then backing out is not good--maybe at least there should have been a warning, like if you kids don't stop arguing, then I will turn the car around.  It sounds like he doesn't have that great a relationship w/ the kids and the boy is acting out.  Really do you want to be in the middle of this kind of thing? My 2nd DH (who's now an ex) has a DD who is one year younger than my DD, so when we were together, she was a teenager.  They had a very difficult relationship. It was not all the dad's fault.  He would make normal rules, like you shouldn't be talking on your cell phone after midnight on a school night cause then you will be too tired in school--that would be a normal rule for everyone, I think.  so then she would passive-agressively do these things she was not supposed to do and they would end up in huge arguments about it.  He would do terrible things like yell at her & call her names & I'd have to step in.  My relationship w/ my kids was so unlike this--they did little things that were wrong, but nothing major and it caused a lot of stress on everybody.  Since my kids are grown now, I probably wouldn't date a guy w/ younger kids just cause I'm done with all that, but I think you learn a lot about someone if you observe their relationships w/ family members.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-02-2013

I know what you're saying.  My bf's behavior was astonishing to me because I had commented to him how it was so important that we follow through on dinner for Jake's b'day.  Jake's b'day was actually on Mon. (2 days ago) and we originally planned to go to dinner last Friday night (a night that Jake was scheduled to be with his Dad and also not a school night), but my bf was too tired to go out to dinner after traveling all week. Jake was so disappointed, but my bf told him we'd go on Tues. night instead.  I was so disappointed that he couldn't suck it up last Friday and go to dinner for Jake's sake.  Both my bf and Jake's Mom have been having lots of behavior issues from Jake since the divorce a few years ago and now I'm beginning to see why.  They do absolutely nothing for their kids' birthdays, which is something that I don't believe in.  I'm not talking about material things, but they need to make a celebration and special day out of it.  At least a card would be nice, if no gift.  I grew up in a household where my parents always made a big deal out of our birthdays.  My bf told me that he normally doesn't buy birthday presents for his kids -- just dinner out.  That's why it surprised me that even the dinner out seemed annoying to my bf.  When he complained out loud about the traffic last night as we initially headed to dinner, I felt so bad for Jake.  And Jake's Mom didn't do anything for Jake's birthday.  She required Jake to keep an evening appointment with his counselor on his birthday night (the mother has been making Jake see a counselor since the divorce).  When she picked him up from his counseling appointment to bring him to my bf's house, she gave him something to eat while riding in the car (instead of stopping on his birthday night to take him to dinner).

The whole thing with how my bf views the b'days of his children is upsetting to me. Jake just clings to me. I feel he gets more attention from me than anyone else in this situation. Jake's mom is currently planning a wedding to the guy she met while married to my bf and she seems to be too busy for the kids.

My bf is the most honest, standup guy whom I've ever met. He has always treated me like a queen. He treated me royally on my birthday, so I don't understand why he basically will only do the obligatory dinner for his kids' birthdays.  He goes out of his way for me daily, is very sweet, and is very respectful.  But in this situation last night, it makes me question certain things.  Perhaps he was having an off day and frustrated with traffic, but I don't like his sometimes selfish ways.  Perhaps there's so much baggage with Jake's behavior issues that my bf is reacting without realizing it (punishing Jake for the times when Jake sasses him, which Jake does very often).  I felt that Jake really needed the special attention and good times of that birthday dinner, so it was shocking to me that my bf started complaining about the traffic and car ride as soon as we left the house. On the other hand, I do understand that there are behavior issues with Jake.  I just knew in my heart that my bf didn't truly want to go to dinner, so it was obvious when he turned the car around at the first sign of arguing that he was getting his "out". 

I do see what you're saying about the daughter.  She is just living, reacting, testing boundaries.

I'm confused about what to do.  Do you chuck aside a relationship because of these issues?

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