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Raising children in the same house under different rulesets.

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

Quick overview for the TLDR; on my personal situation.

Married a year and a half. 1 SK- 6. My wife, and our daughter.

Wife is overly permissive to SK. Child can run and scream all day. Never eats dinner, watches youtube 24/7 (until the AM hours, you'll hear it in her bedroom.) I try to correct the behaviors, and my wife stops me. (She says if we become the house of too many rules, her daughter will want to move in with her father.) Whatever, she's delusional. Agrees with me that her daughter is a little s**t, and it's her fault. Irritates the heck out of me.

This brings us to OUR daughter. Recent, I've upfront said that my daughter will not be sprinting and screaming, will not be on devices unless she's under my direct supervision, and will sit her behind down and eat dinner with us as a family. I said that our daughter is going to live by a set of rules that is going to make her be a decent person. My wife replies with "you have to let kids be kids". She thinks that enabling a 6 year old to do as she pleases is allowing kids to be kids. I asked her if she agreed that a child that isn't insane, and is well balanced is a good idea. She said yes, and told me "you do you" with how I work discipline and raising with our daughter.

Now don't get me wrong, while I am prior Marine Corps, I'm a teacher now, and a pretty big teddy bear. I don't want to run a military unit in my household, but damn, kids can be trained to be decent individuals, at least outwardly.

Now the question, right? Has anyone raised their own children different than stepchildren successfully?

ITB2012's picture

and it’s why many of us are here: we are frustrated by the disparity between the first family members and the non-first family members. 

My DH and I agreed to house rules. However, only my DS (my bio, DHs skid) was consistently held to the rules. DHs kids were allowed every excuse in the book and I got the exact same suggestion that we have fewer rules in case the skids don’t like the ones we have and don’t want to come.

We are not super religious or military or type A so it’s not that there is a truckload or picky and hard-to-follow rules. There weren’t that many rules and many of them were suggested by DH. Later I realized they were suggested only for DS and not meant to apply to his kids.  None of the kids are bad kids, we don’t have hellions, so it’s not like there is one who needs extra boundaries. 

Your DW is not doing her 6yo daughter any favors by being so lax. The kid is gonna keep trying stuff to see where the boundaries are, she needs boundaries in order to feel safe, if she doesn’t feel safe she’s gonna keep looking for something to soothe herself whether it’s videos or eventually boys or shopping or hopefully something g constructive like sports. 

Kids should be kids but parents should be parents.

ESMOD's picture

This is kind of a tough one.  Your wife is all kinds of wrong with her parenting style.  Kids actually are happier and better adjusted with REASONABLE boundaries and expectations of behavior.  So, her child should have limits.. and unfettered screen time has been shown to cause problems for young kids (older ones

Now, yes.. kids can be a bit loud.. and rambunctious at times.. but that doesn't mean a hands off allow the kid to go in free-for-all mode.

Ideally, you would have gotten your wife on the same page before you had a child together.. and if she wasn't going to adjust her parenting style.. she probably shouldn't have been the one to have a kid with you.. because.. the situation you are in now.

But, I think that you need to go back to this with your wife.  I think it's possible for kids to have somewhat different expectations if they are not bio to both adults in the home.. but when you have one kid with shared parenting.. it makes it really difficult to expect from one what you don't the other.

So, I think you do need to get on the same page with her on some minimal standards of behavior and boundaries that will apply to all children in the home.  Now.. some of this may be "age adjusted" as I am assuming that a lot of this is going to be different for the girls based on the fact that your joint daughter would likely be an infant/toddler now?

So.. screen time.. It doesn't have to be "zero screen time".. but she needs to not have unfettered access.. she can have her tablet.. or whatever.. but at a certain point in the evening.. it goes away.  Running and screaming in the house?  We all know what an "inside voice and behaviors" are right?  her daughter needs to learn those too.  She is 6.. she may get loud.. but she can also hear her mother tell her that she is playing too rough for inside.. if she wants to run wild buck.. she needs to do that outside... because she shouldn't disturb others in the home... and should be careful not to break things.

Now.. that doesn't mean that any 6 year old or young child is going to play softly in the corner all the time.. kids can be loud...messy etc.. but it's up to the parents to keep it down to a dull roar.

So... it also may be easy for you to say now that "my daughter won't do X" when your daughter is too young to want to do X... in practice, your daughter might be queen of the banshees when she gets to be 

But you and your wife need to decide NOW.. before it goes too much further down the road.  She is ridiculous to think that her child won't come to her house if she has 'rules".. Is she going to do every bit of parenting from a place of fear.. giving her child all the power.  What about when teen SD wants to have her BF sleep over.. mom gonna think that is AOK?  What about when SD decides she will just fail every class and not do her homework?  What about when SD steals from a store.. that going to be ok?  So.. how do you help kids grow and develop into decent human beings???? it all starts at home.. and letting them completely run amok is setting them up for failure.  If she loves her daughter.. she will parent her.

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

I like this response a lot.

You are absoultely right, and I wish my wife had the same outlook.

As it stands, I do not feel that we will be on the same page as far as rearing is concerned for our joint infant daughter. It does put us in a terrible place as far as rules are concerned. I don't expect my daughter to be perfect, but I do know that she's going to have Daddy watching over her shoulder, unlike the other whom I am not allowed to parent or correct in any way.

At this point in this marriage, it's either going to work or it's not, and I've come to terms with the consequences of "if it does not".

ESMOD's picture

I might have another go at talking to her.. focus less on the actual picking apart the girl's behavior and focus more on outcomes and concern for the girl's wellbeing.

"Baby, I know you love your daughter very much.  That's one of the reasons I love you so much.. your big heart and capacity for love.  But, I'm worried for little SD.  I know you are afraid that being too strict will push her away.  But my concern is that if she isn't taught manners and boundaries that she will have a much harder time in life.  Other kids, teachers, adults won't want to be around her and it's unfair to burden her with that future when you can do something about it now by stepping up and helping her learn about acceptable behavior.  Yeah.. I know kids aren't going to sit down and play dollies like perfect, quiet little robots.. but learning to not run amok in the home.. and learning to be mindful of other's.. those are things that as a parent, we owe our children.  So, I'm not talking about some mile long list of rules here.  But can we agree on a few adjustments to expectations.. we can talk together as we go along and see how thing work.  I don't have any problem, and in fact prefer it, if you want me to step back and let you be the person redirecting and guiding your daughter... but if there are times when I am asked to watch her, I expect that I will also be trusted to act in your place.. and if I see her behavior going beyond boundaries that we have agreed upon?  I should be able to give you a chance to step in first.. but if you won't.. I will have to.. to be consistent in our home.

For a 6 year old.. I think a basic boundary should be no screen access at a minimum after bedtime.  Ideally she should not have full access to it otherwise.. but at minimum when her bedtime hits (and she should have one).. that's it.

Learn to practice "indoor voice" and learn that rough housing and wild play needs to happen outside..

Maybe she gets one small child sized chore.. help mommy make her bed.. pick up her toys and put them in the toybox etc..

Learn to say please/thank you.

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

Going at it from an emotional standpoint is a good suggestion. It's not really in my character to approach things from a "care" prospective, it's always been more "logical". It'd take her by suprise for sure.

To be clear about my wife though, she is a total PAS'er. She does all of this with her own child because she thinks it'll make her want to see her father less, so when she found out that I wasn't going to be a "replacement" for her father, things got rocky. The father won visitation that will increase every ~2 months (court dates) until he reaches 50/50. This has caused her to become less and less stable.

I stay because I don't want to ever put my own daughter through this, and because I love the person that she can be. All of this is fairly recent, and once he recieves his full half time, I think it'll settle in.

ESMOD's picture

I think the message that "we owe it to children to raise them to be people that others want to be around" is important.

And.. as she has already discovered.. the court is going to insist that the girl have access to her father just as much.

Just like she has the capacity to love more than one child.. her daughter has the capacity to love more than one parent.. and just because her EX was a crappy husband, that doesn't mean he is a bad father... and her daughter should have the opportunity to have TWO parents that love and care for her.. without either of them cutting the other parent down.

Goodluck's picture

I could not live like that under the conditions in your home. Sorry--

Our bm and her kids (now adults) told us that WE had too many rules in our home. No running in the house or jumping on funiture, not fighting, clean up after yourselves AND be kind to each other were our rules. It was interesting to remind everyone that Life has rules, schools have rules, sports have rules etc.


Wishing you GoodLuck with this. Parents who are raising kids under their roof should have more things in common than not. IF she cant meet in the middle---it will become worse as her kids become older.

Maybe a few sessions with a Family and Marriage Therpist with a Phd after their name will be of GREAT assistance to your marriage.



ITB2012's picture

when he said we shouldn't have rules/so many rules at the house because BM doesn't have rules...because they also may have a hard time remembering them.

So I asked him if that held true in other areas. He didn't know what I meant. So I asked if that means that they don't have to follow the schools rules in general and can't remember which teacher makes you raise your hand and which ones doesn't, and if they get to play sports according to whatever rules BM decides are okay for that sport? He fumbled and mumbled for a little but had to admit they have to follow rules everywhere. So, since they are so skilled at knowing where the rules apply, it isn't a leap to have them follow rules at the house.

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

I know exactly what you mean by that. I'm actually an 8th grade teacher. I hear some other teachers speak of specific students as if they were the scourge of the earth, but when they come into my classroom they sit, listen, and participate.

Kids are only as good as your expectations and their training.

Jcksjj's picture

Is your daughter a baby then? If they are 6 years apart it probably wont be a huge deal because they arent ever going to be in the same stage where the rules would be exactly the same anyway. I'd be more worried about your wife undermining you because if she's permissive with one is she really going to back you up on rules with the other? 

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

I actually don't think she's going to interfere, she knows what her own is doing is wrong. She openly admits to it and shrugs her shoulders. Yes, my daughter is an infant, so it'll be about a year or so before the 7 year old is running around the house like a nutcase, ripping my dog by the tail before I step next to my own daughter, point and say "this isn't how we act". That is the vision that goes through my mind a whole lot.

Jcksjj's picture

If you can set up a separate play area - I have my younger 2 upstairs and SD and ODS have their stuff downstairs. Then theres less influence on your younger one and it's easier to keep the area baby proofed since I'm sure the 6 year old has toys with alot of little pieces etc

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

I get crap for that all of the time. I have a pretty big master bedroom, and she doesn't leave it often - to avoid the pandemonium downstairs. I have a pack and play, she has her walkers, bouncers, and toys scattered on a blanketed area over my hardwood floors. I also have a king bed, which I play with her all of the time on. It's well established that the parental bedroom is not for SD, but for infants who require constant supervision, it's ok.

I lose either way though. I'm either evil for separating the two, or I lose because I have to go through extra big reinforcement of how my wife's daughter's behavior isn't how we act.

It's a rough situation, but I chose the first option.

Jcksjj's picture

Well I would think it would be common sense that infants have different rules than 6 year olds.

Maybe try reframing the way you tell her - instead of keeping them separated you're sending SD outside to run off her energy. Or find something SD likes that will entice her to want to stay downstairs. Or whatever other "I care about SD too" reason makes sense.

tog redux's picture

BM and DH were polar opposites in parenting SS when they were together.  Not only did BM allow SS lots of freedom, she colluded with him on what a meanie DH was, behind the scenes, while they were still married. 

When they divorced, she promised SS that if he came to live with her, she would give him everything he wants and he could do whatever he wants. She also continued to paint DH as the harsh, abusive father for having normal household rules.  SS began to see any authority as a problem.  He stopped visiting our home or speaking to DH at age 15.  We could see online that he did poorly in school and gamed all night, frequently. 

He is now 19.  He was alienated from DH for 3 years, barely graduated high school and is living with BM, not working or going to school.  

The issue is not that two kids are parented differently, the issue is that you and your wife have polar opposite parenting strategies, and she is going to undermine you with your own daughter. 

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

It is no doubt not an optimal situation, but how her home involvement is extremely low, it's like I'm a single father anyway.  I'm hoping to raise my daughter as I was raised. My father was a hard ass, but I loved, respected, and feared dissappointing him so much that I kept my ass in line even in the face of having the option to make a bad choice right in my face.

All I can do it hope it works.

tog redux's picture

I hope it works out. As you've seen, your wife has a strong need to be the "favorite" parent.  

Exjuliemccoy's picture

I agree with tog, OP.

Please don't ever underestimate this woman you've married. Prepare for and expect the worst from her.

Your wife may not take much interest in your daughter atm, but as the child gets older your wife will seek to be the favorite parent. She'll drip poison in her ear, paint you as evil, be the "friend parent" who permits all sorts of shenanigans...I could go on and on.

Bottom line? You've bred with a disordered person, and you're going to pay dearly for it on many levels for many years to come. Logic can't save you.

shamds's picture

was helping give me laundry to hang on the clothes lines or fold up, that i was not allowing her to be a kid. 

She had seen this as a normal thing growing up and wanted to imitate me. Saying let kids be kids and not teach basic manners expectations and rules is a cop out to parenting your kids...

1wonder woman's picture

Why is it so many divorced couples that have children think they are to raise their children differently then they would if they never did get a divorce? Divorced or Not every home needs house rules and a list of chores for children to do daily... the sooner you start this the sooner you will have a peaceful happy home and your kids will show both parents respect.  So many divorced parents make the big mistake of not disciplining their kids the way they would of if they remained married. Parents that do this will end up with disrespectful out of control teenagers that end up getting into trouble and not to mention it causes drama and stress in the marriage. Not fun!

 My parents were divorced when I was 7 years old... My parents did things right thank God! Yes I had two sets of parents and two homes and in each home there were sets of rules and chores that we kids had to do and follow. Sure maybe one house had a set of different rules but one thing both of my parents did do ... each couple stay united as a team never backing down to help one another to raise us kids right! In each home my parents did do one thing exactly the same they created a house rule list on a wipe off board and a list of chores for the whole family to read and follow daily.  Just because I went to visit my mom on weekends did not mean it was a Disney weekend with my Mom... No far from it... we helped he do laundry at a laundry mat and we cleaned her helped her clean her apartment and we went to the grocery store with her and helped put away the food. We helped her clean and wash her car every weekend too. We kids were raised to respect our step parents just like we would do our birth parents. Our step parents disciplined us kids too as if we were their own kids. The one thing my Dad and step Mom always stayed on the same page united same went with my Mom and Step Dad united. They had each others backs and I must say this worked for us kids we knew there was no manipulating any of our parents into getting what we wanted... we kids were raised to always work hard and earn our own money to buy the things that we wanted out of life too. We kids were not spoiled and just handed money to buy things... I think so many divorced parents try to spoil their kids and make it up to their kids because they feel bad that their kids had to go through a divorce. I've heard many parents on this site say well they are not his kids they are my kids he is not to discipline them... or I've heard some say this is none of your business it's between my ex-wife and I.... stay out of our family business let me discipline my kid ...the kid is mine not yours..  NO... NO this is not how you handle things if you have a new partner married or living together and there are children from a previous relationship you are not just dating or marring the girlfriend or are marrying the kids too they are a package deal. When you marry someone that has kids of their own you are becoming a part of that family unit a blended family and you will be making a commitment not just to your new wife or new husband no you are making a commitment to their kids as well. You have to work as a team together united staying on the same page to help one another to raise all of the children together just like you would do in a family united where there is no divorce.  If you raise children with no rules no chores and you just spoil them... trust me you will have a monster on your hands. Kids need to be taught at young age right and wrong... they need structure and discipline.

Our house rules for example would be... No running inside the only run outside... you have a indoor voice and a outdoor voice. You are to show each other respect... no hitting... no yelling.... no eating outside the kitchen... no going into mommy and daddys bedroom... all toys stay in the play room... You are to show your step parents the same respect that you show your birth parents. You break a house rule you will be punished either by your birth parents or your step parents... I never once saw any of my parents argue or fight in front of us kids .. nope they did that behind closed doors or when we were at our other home or in school.  I never once heard my parents cut the other parent down either... We were also taught we never had a choice to not go visit our mother either... nope that was a court order and we did not break the court order it was a rule. I never missed one time visiting my mom not even as a teenager.

I would sit down and talk to your wife... trust me this will never work unless you two are united on the same page. Our children grow up to be a reflection of who they spend the most time with and usually that is their parents. All children grow up to be adults and they will be a reflection of their parents. Now raise them right or in the end there will be a price to pay and it will not be fun!