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BF Doesn't Enforce Consequences - Driving Me Crazy

Raeisa's picture

My boyfriend of 3 years has a 7 year old son.  He does not enforce consequences.  He'll talk about consequences, or may even mention that there might be consequences if his son doesn't behave (or in response to a bad behavior that already occurred) but never follows through.  In some cases, he has even unintentionally rewarded bad behavior.

This drives me crazy, and we have spoken about it many times to no avail.  I inherently can't stand watching bad behavior go unaddressed, or rewarded at worst, as this is against every fiber of how I was raised.  But furthermore, I have watched his son learn over the past 3 years to whine until he gets his way, and I have seen the areas in which he does act out escalate - including hitting people.  This terrifies me thinking about how bad it will be 5... 10... years down the road.

The instant I bring any of this up, my boyfriend makes excuses along the lines of, "I don't get to see my son that often, so it doesn't make sense to ruin the whole weekend" - or "you don't get to see everything, so you don't know how I handled it" - or "if we haven't figured out how to address this in 10 years, THEN we have a problem, but we don't have one now."  I've learned that it doesn't matter how many times we talk, or how we talk about it - he's going to keep doing whatever he feels like he wants to do.  In the meantime, I really don't want to be around him when he has his son.... and worse, I'm scared of how this situation escalates in the future.

I want to understand from you, am I overreacting? underreacting? is this normal behavior for a 7 year old that does not spell doom and gloom in the future?  or is it a "pick up everything and run" type situation?  I have no idea.

Specific examples of things I've witnessed:

  • His son has escalated physical "hitting" or "slapping" over the years - especially within the last 6 months.
    • It started around 5 or 6 with frustrated shoving or slapping when he wanted attention or wanted to do something and wasn't getting his way immediately (I tried a couple "we don't hit people", but that was about all the correction I saw from anyone).
    • It grew to become a "gamelike" behavior with trying to see how hard he could "slap" or "hit" his dad (of course, my boyfriend didn't say anything to him, other than an eventual "stop" when he got annoyed).
    • Shortly after he turned 7, we were eating in a restaurant and the kid wanted attention from his dad, so he got out of his chair, walked up to his dad, and SLAPPED HIM ACROSS THE FACE.  His dad glared at him, but handed him an iPad and told him to sit down and play video games (i.e. a reward to the kid, he loves video games).
    • A few months later, he's getting in trouble for slapping and lashing out at kids at school in other ways (and continuing more of the "gamelike" slapping dad at home behavior).  His dad talked about imposing a "no video game weekend" consequence, but then the whole weekend was FULL of video games, and cake, and fun outings, and presents, and more fun than ever.... you would have never known that anything was wrong.  The most he did was say, "I heard you got in trouble at school" and then dropped the subject when his son said, "oh I can't remember, I don't want to talk about it."
  • His son has escalated disrespectful language towards adults.
    • Around 5, it was what I would read about as the "usual" demands for attention without being overtly disrespectful
    • Around 6, he started saying things that made my jaw drop.  Once, we were standing at a newspaper dispenser and he demanded his dad give him money for it.  His dad said he didn't have any change on him.  So his son scoffs and shoves his hand in his dads face and says, "Just give it to me, dummy."
    • Also around 6, whenever he'd get in trouble with someone else (his mom, his grandma, etc.), he started proclaiming that it was fine because he'd just go to his dads and do whatever he wanted.
    • Now at 7, he's back-talking on nearly everything he doesn't want to do.  When my boyfriend asked him to bring his bowl and cup to the sink, he said, "do it yourself" in a tone I've only heard school-kids bossing each other around with.  This was basically the only thing I've ever heard my boyfriend say anything about, and it was just to say "no, I asked you to do it."   To which I had to back him up before his son would actually do it.
  • Other concerning trends include a general lack of rules.
    • I've watched the kid eat 1 or 2 bites of his dinner, just to beg for (and be given) a whole bunch of cookies, or chips, or McDonalds after dinner is over and put away.  When I address this with my boyfriend, he always proclaims that his son "ate a whole bunch of food" (which is never true on the occasions I bring it up), and he always has some excuse for giving in.
    • His son also regularly stays up until 11pm.... midnight.... 1am.... or even later.  Basically however late he wants to, or however late my boyfriend feels like staying up.... This is also something I've spoken about with my boyfriend - since I don't want to come over and have NO adult time after a full day, and then have to deal with an over-tired kid on meltdown the entire next day.  Still, he lets the kid stay up until ungodly late hours every single time.
    • And the meltdowns.  Oh god the meltdowns.  If his son feels like staying someplace, or wants to go someplace else, or adults aren't paying attention to him the way he wants them to, or kids aren't playing with him the way he wants them to..... dramatic meltdowns ensue.  Which happen with kids.  But my boyfriend fawns over them.  Which makes them 10x worse, and last 10x longer, and happen 10x more often.

So... after all that.  I'm very grateful for this forum, because it helps to know that you're not alone.  But also, I could really use some help understanding if all of these are normal frustrations stemming from extremely different "parenting styles" - or if this really is a disaster waiting to happen down the line.

Survivingstephell's picture

Its a disaster now!  Epic! Why would he think raising his son to hit and slap people would be appropriate?  He will do this to a teacher and then all hell will break out.  Maybe it will wake him up but most likely he will keep defending his widdle boy.  

If he ever hits you, I'd grab his wrist, hold it tight an look him dead in the eyes and make it clear that will never happen to me again.  Then I'd make it clear to his dad too.  

Idiots.  What does this man bring to the table that is so great that you tolerate this??

SteppedOut's picture

Yea, you need to run. Fast. Far. Like something horrific is chasing you. And. Actually. Something horrific is chasing you. It is a miserable life. 

You have watched for years as your boyfriend's son has gotten worse. He will continue to get worse. 

CC5647's picture

Sister, I feel your pain!!!! Different parenting styles can really frustrate you to a level you had no idea existed! I've been with my boyfriend for 6 years, his daughter is now 12 but let me tell you the hell it was from ages 6 - about 10( things are still difficult at times but getting better slowly but surely ) .  After So Many arguments, fights, and rage between my boyfriend and I , I've set firm rules on what I will absolutely not stand for. With this, you have to also choose your battles wisely.  For example, stepdaughter USED to have zero chores to do, anywhere because mom will forever coddles her until the day she dies. Now she has a few chores that she does at our house( not as many as I'd like but again choose your battles) .  I know dad wants to spend as much time with her as possible but this doesn't mean teaching responsibility goes out the window.  I do not tolerate grabbing, whining, interrupting , or sass. ( she grabbed something out of my hands ONCE and i agree with the comment above, I grabbed her wrist and get fireballs shoot from my eyes , and said exactly that " you will never do that again", and she never did.   The hitting is fun RIDICULOUS to me that his dad doesn't see this as a problem. 
there are things that will matter more to you thank to his parents,, i was raised that education is very important, but hey, if mom and dad don't care to throw a book in their kids hands, and are ok with a C average ( for a kid that can and has gotten straight As before) it can't matter more to me.

I would have hope as long as your partner is willing to meet you halfway and respect you and your life and your life together. It is a huge sacrifice and anyone that doesn't recognize that is not worth it.  I will absolutely not use my vacation days to spend it with your child . In fact, let him spend a weekend or 2 alone with his kid, and eventually he will see the monster he created! I swear this was monumental for all of us.  I will not be forced to spending my every waking moment giving your needy kid attention , because it's not my fault she was never taught boundaries, personal space or taught how to entertain herself.  Stand your ground, set the ground rules and pick your battles , and please give yourself time to yourself and I have hope things will get better for you. 

Raeisa's picture

Its funny- I did a check-in with a blurb I wrote asking for advice about this time last year. Some things have gotten significantly better (like how my bf interacts with his ex) - but were the serendipitous result of something else happening (his ex escalating crazy demands until even he and his family saw how bad of a situation it was) to make my bf change course, rather than as a result of us communicating and coming to a resolution that works for both of us....

Other things (like the lack of parenting) have just stayed flat.  Fortunately I did heed the advice of a lot of you and started drawing clearer boundaries last year. For much of the year, I'd see him on maybe 1 day a weekend when he had his son. And I eventually transitioned out of feeling so guilty about NOT going over to see them (although that's still not perfect yet).

But I'm at the point now where I am SO much happier NOT seeing them when I have to deal with the two of them and all these parenting frustrations, that I just want to continue NOT seeing them. Unfortunately that kind of puts a hard limit on our relationship. And now my boyfriend is facing the possibility that he may need to adjust his custody schedule to have his son for 1-2 months at a time.... which makes things more challenging.

Honestly, things aren't great right now. And I've been avoiding the really shitty parts by simply disengaging with them as much as possible. But theres no room to grow... (Not that I'm bucking for a move in or proposal or anything - it would just be nice to know we havent hit our limit in such a mediocre spot...) I just wish it wasn't such a "lukewarm shitty" situation right now that makes it even harder to leave than a full blown fiery shit storm situation.

notsurehowtodeal's picture

This is not a different "parenting style" - this is a complete lack of parenting. I would think the problems at school are only going to escalate. Does the kid get physical with you? If so, you need to shut that down quick. And if you think he is bad now, what is he going to be like at 17 when he is bigger than you and as big as DH? You need to really decide if the good out weighs the bad in this relationship, especially if you might have the child for extended periods of time.

hereiam's picture

Different parenting styles? There's no parenting going on, AT ALL.

I couldn't be with a man who let his kid act like this. I just couldn't. And I would NEVER want to be around the kid so it really wouldn't work, long term.