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All kinds of issues - nutrition, discipline, etc

iris288's picture

Struggling with dynamic between myself, partner and two SSs (7,9). One SS has sensory issues, the other ADHD. Both are very needy, very high energy, and obsessed with electronics. They can also both be very creative, artistic, and engaging, but it has to be cultivated. 

Issue one: Discipline/ laziness/ yelling. The boys will not listen to us, not do chores, and then back talk will start and the boys will be generally awful ("I hate you! I hate this house!" - they say this to their dad, not me). The youngest can be very helpful, especially in the kitchen, but a live wire and running and screaming in the morning. The oldest is a total pill normally about chores (occasionally he surprises us!) When acting out happens, my partner yells. I understand he is frustrated, and I am too, but I just don't think that screaming is a great way to discipline. I've tried suggesting consequences (like using electronics) and a calm voice instead, but he struggles with doing this, especially when he is tired. It makes our home life miserable and it makes me extremely uncomfortable and anxious to see/hear the yelling, and it makes me feel awful for the boys. 

Issue two: Nutrition - BM is a disneyland parent and lets them totally graze, eat crap all the time. We eat a primarily whole foods, vegetarian diet. I don't have any issue with them eating meat in the house (my partner prepares it), but I just want them to get some quality food in, especially food that won't give them sugar highs and lows. Meal time is SO hard, with refusals to eat things that are the same items they may eat out or at home but look slightly different (wouldn't eat fried rice made with same ingredients but slightly different COLOR than grandparent's dish for instance). Partner commiserates, but still buys them chips and crap and is not great at managing the consumption (or super sugary yogurt) then is surprised when they get sugar crashes. Any tips on handling this? I never make 'weird dishes' when they are here - all very basic, spaghetti, rice and veggies, etc - and yet it is still a nightmare at meal times. On top of this, oldest SS is definitely overweight for his age and we are trying to get him to be active with us and he bitches and is awful about it the whole time. His school eval recommended better food and more activity, and his mom runs and seems to try to turn over a healthy leaf, but none of this is translating to home life for them at mom's. 

Any advice for dealing with any of this? We only have the boys two weekends a month, but I dread them, because they are chaotic, full of misbehavior, back talk, arguments and my partner yelling. I don't want to tell my partner how to raise his kids, but I feel like I have little voice or influence but it affects my life and it is my home too. I feel bad for the boys because they have great qualities that just need to be nourished but I just want to hide because our time together is so so stressful. On top of it, the boys constantly fight with each other. HELP!

GrudgingSM's picture

You cannot care more than the bio parents. If your partner doesn't care about their nutrition, YOU CAN'T FIX IT. If he doesn't seriously address behavior, YOU CAN'T FIX IT. And you don't have a voice. It sounds like your partner tunes you out a lot, whether it's the BM or the kids. Make plans with friends and leave the house. Get a hobby and get out. Show up for a meal if it's going to be nutritious and something you want to eat or don't, but this is 0% your job. You can talk to your partner until you're blue in the face and contort yourself into an emotional pretzel, but BM isn't going to change and likely your DH will shoo away your concerns like he does about his communication and bonus time with his ex. If you want to stay, you have to disengage. You cannot fix this. 

iris288's picture

You're right. It is hard to feel like I shouldn't be responsible for addressing these things and my partner seems fine with me taking on a caring/ disciplinary role. I've always been very active and like to do things outside, and part of my motivation is selfish - I want to be able to do these things as a family like camp, hike, etc. Youngest SS is totally into it but eldest is not. I guess when I was younger and imagined what my family life was going to look like, I imagined bio kids (or maybe just a dog) and obviously adjusting activities by age and endurance, but still being able to do the things I love. I fear these issues compounding as they get older and not being able to do these things in my free time. The boys are so codependent with their mom and so up in our business that they will constantly interrupt or ask about me even if I take an hour to go make art and try to have some of my own time. I feel like I have to disenage to save my sanity but I feel like if I can't cultivate some good habits and activity I feel like we will continue to have a disruptive energy-draining home life that is nothing like what I imagined for myself. I feel selfish for wanting to have my alone time when they are here and I don't know how to express these feelings to my partner without it sounding like I'm just nitpicking on the kids.

GrudgingSM's picture

I know you've posted about yours and your partner's jealousy issues, so maybe there's an issue with you being independent? But please, please do not give up the things you love to do and the things you wanted for your life because he's a terrible father! You are allowed to be a full person and have interests and hobbies! And frankly, it would be good for the kids to have their dad to themselves and good for him to take the active parenting role because straight up, he's their parent. You aren't. Your home is a black hole! Please go hiking!

ESMOD's picture

Yeah.. obviously your SO needs to figure out how to parent effectively.  Maybe some counseling to give him some tools so that he doesn't just resort to screaming at the kids.  You are right.. calm and firm language and consistent expectations are most important.

The nutrition part.. I know kids can be notoriously picky.  My OSD to this day has an aversion to mayonaise.. and onions were bad when she was younger.  My YSD was generally a good eater but occasionally we would bump up against something that she would completely turn her nose up on... But we were lucky.. they both were fairly adventurous and would eat all sorts of stuff.. sushi... indian food.. any kind of asian.. cajun.. My DH and I are actually both really good cooks.. so they were used to a variety even when young.. but I can give some advice that I saw working when we did have issues.. and how my mom dealt with me and my younger brother.

1.  Don't make food that you know they have an aversion to.  It's ok for people to have a preference... 

2.  Insist on trying a new food, but don't insist they clear their plate of it.  We had to try a bite or two of something new.. and if we didn't like it.. we were not forced to finish it.  

3.  Don't make "special" meals for the kids.... they eat what the family eats.. unless they absolutely can't then there is a "backup meal".. depending on their age they may need to make that themselves.  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich.. cheese sandwich... microwave chicken nuggets.

4.  I wouldn't fight about the food.. they don't like the fried rice you prepare.. ok.. well go make yourself a PBJ then.  

5.  Have a selection of "free range" snacks in the healthy spectrum but your So shouldn't get lazy and buy chips and crap food.  It's ok to have a treat every now and then.. but not as a daily filler.  My mom would let us choose a box of cereal on our birthdays.. literally we were allowed sugary cereal once a  

iris288's picture

Thank you for these suggestions! Really like the idea of backup if they don't like the prepared meal that we are all eating. Eldest is more than capable of fixing something for himself. Good idea as well as try something but no need to finish it. I'm fine with some processed foods that they are used to if paired with an apple or something else with some with some nutrition, just not potato chips and nothing else all day. 

SO is in therapy, took a lot time to get him there. This past year has been a nightmare and he's experienced significant depression, and the yelling at the kids was one of the big reasons I encourage him to seek help, because everyone was walking on eggshells. Might be worth reminding him, as it doesn't seem to have improved at all. I know change takes time, but we're going on a year of me talking to him about this issue. 

ESMOD's picture

I also find that if it is not available.. I can't eat it.. so I don't buy junk food.  I set up a healthy snack bin in the cupboard and in the fridge for the girls.  They had "free range" from those choices.. there may have been a few less healthy options.. but if they ate the chocolate chip granola bars all the first day?  There were no more added for a while.  They could also learn the joys of snacks like cut up apples or celery with PB or air popped popcorn (or I make it in the microwave in a brown paper bag then add either a spritz of spray olive oil or drizzle of real butter and sprinkle of salt.)  

I also forgot the big thing that can help kids open up to food.  Get them involved in making it.. growing it.  Have them make the salad dressing... have them help plant the herbs.. veggies.. give them a little plot (or couple of pots) to care for.. make learning to cook new recipes fun for them.  making no bake "cookies" (aka healthy oat etc.. learning how they can make a dip like yoghurt or caramel sauce to go with cut up veggies.  it might excite them to try more things.

weightedworld's picture

Your problem can easily be solved by you removing the care from your bones. 

At the end of the day it is not your responsibility and at the end of the day you have absolutely no say. 

You can drill whatever you want into your SOs head but beings you are only getting them 4 days out of the month I would guess that your SO does not have the energy and feels highly defeated knowing that whatever the two of you try to instill in them at that time is going right down the drain the moment they leave your house and you will have to start completely over the moment they return because there is no follow through at moms. 

My infant son got a handful of his daughters hair and literally pulled out a huge chunk of hair, dad was all concerned and asked me about it.. I said well when you eat a family style bag of chips for breakfast, lunch, and supper and any other junk food inbetween why would her body be healthy enough to hold the strands of her hair to her head.*unknw* I use to take the chips and throw them away and quit buying them so they were not in the house.. then I would find them in his truck because he would get them after he picked her up to eat on her 45 minute drive to our house. And at moms it is no different. Her main course is french fries from the bar. 

He could go for custody if he truley wanted to, I suggested it and gave him his ammo, she weasled her way out of the basics, I suggested going bigger and set the table for what he could do.. I did nothing more as I had to walk him through the first attempt.. I came to the realization that I cannot make him want to be a father and if he doesn't have the will to go about it on his own I am certainly not forcing him too nor pushing him to. 

I've washed my hands of it. Not my problem. 

iris288's picture

That's a good point that he probably feels defeated. I think he doesn't want to fight them, which I do understand. Its not the best for their bodies but definitely the easier route and if they aren't getting similar improvements in food at their mom's it feels very futile. Hard to switch off the caring but probably would help.

weightedworld's picture

I know simple right.. I chuckled at myself when I wrote that. It's not an easy task and fortunately for myself there were other issues in my situation that made turning off and not caring quite easy. 

We have a constant tug and pull of will eat this at moms but not at our house (a long with activities but thats besides the point) I've gotten to the point if I am making food, there are no options, if your not going to eat, fine, sit there until everyone is done as you would had you eaten your food, and no snacks in the mean time. 

Our last experience was over a piece of toast. She REALLY wanted cheese balls but I told her that she had to eat breakfast first.. so she wanted toast. Could barely get one slice of bread down because she was soo full. After breakfast I noticed her sneaking around the kitchen. She had two handfuls of cheese balls held up to her chest.. I had her walk right over to the garbage and throw them away. Not happening. 

Merry's picture

... and my partner seems fine with me taking on a caring/ disciplinary role

OF COURSE HE'S FINE WITH IT. That's because he won't have to discipline if you do the hard work. It's the easiest thing for HIM. Your SO is a lazy parent, and you are taking on the weight of that. It's not fair to you, or the kids, or really even to your SO.

Under no circumstances should you give up what you love to accommodate him and his kids. If you have to join a hiking or camping club or have active days out with girlfriends, do it. You can't force his kids to like your lifestyle (but it's great that you are exposing them to the option), so don't make your activities always contingent on what they want to do and what their capabilities are.  Eventually you will lose yourself and wonder what happened, and you'll be resentful as hell. It's fine and healthy for you to have a life outside of the stepfamily pod.

iris288's picture

Thank you for validating those feelings. I know how hard it is on my SO when he has the boys by himself, and now that we live together it feels like there is an unspoken assumption I'll be around to help, but really you can't pour from an empty cup. I feel like I'd be more capable of enjoying activities they like if I prioritize things I enjoy too, and not feel so frigging guilty that I need my own time, space, etc to keep me happy and healthy!

Dogmom1321's picture

I also have so many qualms about the ridiculous stuff DH allows. 

- Unlimited screentime, constant junk food, no outside play, very poor hygeine, no chores, soda allowed, etc. 

I used to care about SD10 schooling, nutrition, and hygeine more than her Bio Parents. It was only stressing me out and causing a rift between everyone. So SD has gained weight, has cavities, bad grades? Guess what - not our problem. If all of that is okay with their Bios then why should we be the ones to address it? I have made it clear to DH all the things I don't approve of regarding his parenting. All I can do though is let him know "Well, with OUR child, this is how I will parent." I honestly think DH is lazy to parent SD10 because he has guilty Dad syndrome. Not my responsibility to fix SD though. 

tog redux's picture

Why are you the one dealing with all of this? They are his kids, let him parent them how he sees fit. BM's not the only Disney parent in this situation, and you taking over and being the strict parent will just make them hate you (especially since DH doesn't support it - no, he doesn't, or he wouldn't buy them junk food).

Time to disengage from being their parent figure.

iris288's picture

I will work on disengaging. But screaming at the kids as 'discipline' affects me too, it is my house as well, and I think I'm well within my right to be bothered by that.

Merry's picture

Set some boundaries around the screaming. The solution isn't for you to step in but for your SO to learn how to parent and discipline without losing his temper (more often than not).

"SO, when you lose control and scream at the kids, I feel like I'm expected to take over so that you are less stressed and the kids do what they need to do. I'm not the parent, and that's not fair to me, and I end up carrying the stress and burden. I am happy to talk through parenting strategies or help find parenting classes for you, but can't be everybody's parent. When you scream instead of discipline, I'm going to leave the house to go do something that I enjoy."

Or similar. And DO IT. Your SO won't like it, he will be unhappy, mad, whatever, but so what? He has a lot to learn about being a parent, and as long as you continue to be the only grownup in the house, he'll never learn it and his screaming will never be resolved. Imagine when these kids are teenagers and everybody is screaming at everybody.

tog redux's picture

You can definitely be bothered - but that doesn't mean you can change how he parents, only he can do that. And you taking over isn't the solution. 

iris288's picture

I'm not trying to take over. I'm just over the yelling and screaming. I wouldn't tolerate him treating me that way, and it impacts my life and my home when he does it to the kids. It isn't up to me to parent, but I still have a right to set boundaries about reasonable behavior in my own home. Just because I'm not responsible for parenting or parenting decisions doesn't mean I have to just accept behavior that while not directed at me, absolutely affects my life and mental health. Yes the onus is on him to change, but I have to stand up for myself too. 

Rags's picture

As an equity life partner in your marriage you are also an equity parent to any children that are in your blended family.  That means you can and should set and enforce the standards of behavior and performance whether your mate has the parental fortitude or intellect to do it or not.

If your mate does not like how you parent and discipline, they can step up and get it done before you ave to or... they can STFU and have your back.  Their choice.  But, there should be no leaway in kid compliance to the standards of behavior and performance for the blended relationship home.

It is simple, kids comply, or kids suffer an escalating state of abject misery.

If they hate you and hate being in your home, give them a reason to hate it. 

Pain is a great behavioral teaching tool.  It is entirely the choice of the kid in the home to suffer... or not.

IMHO of course.

Good luck.