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Piglet Kidlet

Detachable's picture

I have a SD10 and SS8. Neither have been taught manners or how to behave in general. I am aware that it is not my role to fix any of this. At the moment, I have a couple of issues that I am struggling to deal with. Neither of these children have been taught how to use cutlery. My SO sat back in his chair at the table one of the first times we ate together, when I was showing SS how to hold the cutlery and then how to use it. SO was devastated because he realsied that he had never taught the kids how to use cutlery. Before the split, the BM would feed the kids before he got home, and he would be left to get himself something, so they never sat at the table together. 

Anyway, there has been some  - mostly-  consistant standards set here and SS is trying and has improved in this area but is still way behind skills wise. However, SD eats like a pig. Although she sometimes tries to use her cutlery, she still uses her hands, eats with her mouth open, drops food all over the place, has her face inches from the plate throwing food  in the general direction of her mouth, takes any opportunity to pretend to laugh so that she can spit food across the table, doesn't chew properly so nearly chokes, and throws her head back and gulps drink  and sometimes food, which, of course often ends with her almost choking. 

I. Can't. Stand. It.

I come from an Italian family and eating together is an important family thing, so my children have sat at the table from months old and were introduced to manners - and cutlery- from the word go. (They are all young adults now.) I looked up the developmental milestones to make sure that my kids weren't ahead of the curve, and that I'm not being Judgy McJudgeface and confirmed that these kids should be able to eat with reasonable decorum and skill by now. Also, I don't expect perfection. 

I don't know what to do. I tried the supportive coach approach, the 'you'll want to know how to do this when you go to school camp', the 'ignore', and the 'let's all get dressed up fancy, set the table like we are at a restuarant and pretend we are all out on a date'. Let's just say that we are NOT all going out on a date anytime soon. Their dad is having to learn how to parent having been shunted to the side most of their life  (but that's a story for another day)

He is doing his best, I know. They're not my kids, I know. 

My Problem  (in this circumstance - there are others) is that I can't be around SD when she eats like that. Last night, she had her face in the plate, along with her hair, throwing spaghetti in her mouth; or close to. There was mess all around her plate, not a little bit - a lot. I took my plate and went to my bedroom to eat rather than stay at the table with her, which hurt my SO. Afterwards when he and I talked, I apologised for bailing on him, and he told me that he understood, and that he had spoken to her again about the way she eats. Tonight was marginally better. a very tiny margin. I had to keep my eyes averted from her general direction. Between her table manners, and her constant niggling of SS, I have a raging heartburn. 

What else can I do?

tog redux's picture

You sure are giving your SO a pass, he's "doing his best and still learning" how to parent? He only noticed they ate like animals once you pointed it out? Sorry, that doesn't ring true to me.  More likely, he doesn't want to be "mean dad" by making his 8-year-old not smear food on her face and hair like a 10-month-old.  My guess is that if you didn't care, he wouldn't address the eating issues at all.

I'd continue to refuse to eat with her - but also, you have to increase your expectations for him as a parent. He needs to step up, here.  He most likely chose to allow BM to do all the parenting, so I wouldn't buy that excuse, either.


Detachable's picture

A pass - Hahahaaha! He'd fall over if he read that, cos it is so not true. He knows, correction. He is ACUTELY aware that this is a potential deal breaker for me and so he KNOWS that he has to get this sorted or I will pull the pin. And he absolutely does not want that to happen. He is a gorgeous, kind hearted and well meaning person who wants what's best. My kids think that he is great. So do I. 

He is an old dad, never been around kids, and was told that he didn't know what he was doing, and 'how dare he' even get involved. He was also told by the BM that the house was no longer his, it's the kids and they are allowed to do whatever and that's the way it is - and he thought that was how things were supposed to be. He's never been around kids either, there is no extended family, no cousins, no family friends coming around for meals etc. As far as he was aware, this was how everybody's kids are!

When I pointed out the numerous developmental delays, he got really protective and I almost had to provide him with paediatrician lists of what they should be able to do and are not doing. He was GUTTED when he realised how he has let them down (although he keeps saying that BM is a good mother *scratch_one-s_head*) He has stepped up incredibly - there's a lot of 'what you do at mum's house is up to mum, but here respect,use manners, use cutlery, keep our hands to ourselves, don't use that kind of language. etc etc.....'  - there is A LOT of catching up to be done. He is 100 per cent doing his best, and I support his efforts. He is human and he is not on everything all of the time. There's also the fact that if we tried to correct ALL of the issues, we'd be riding them every single minute which would be completely counter productive.

At the moment, this one is affecting me the most because it is disgusting.Some of the stuff has been resoved just by reminding 'we don't do that here' over and over until the right way becomes the norm. This, on the otherhand, is a physical skill set that she doesn't have, and I'm wondering if some of the behaviour is to cover up for the inadequacy.


I've never seen anything like it. And I don't know what else to do about it, except find a way to tolerate it while he pulls her back into line in this area as well. 

PS sadly she's 10. The SS is 8 and he has improved quite a bit with this - which I think embarrasses her too, and is possibly adding to some acting up as a bit of a cover. She's also used to be being the centre of attention, and she gets really snippy and oppositional when he gets positive feedback about trying to do the right thing.   

tog redux's picture

Well, okay.  Seems to me that he didn't notice or address these issues until you came along, and unless he lived in a cave, he must have known this wasn't proper table manners for children.  Didn't his own parents teach him to eat with utensils? I personally wouldn't buy the "I didn't know that's not how it's supposed to be", but seems like you are okay with giving him more time to get this figured out.  I guess in the meanwhile, don't eat with them until he can get her straightened out.

Harry's picture

What do other people think when they see this.  Family, friends .?   SO must teach his kids how to eat,  he one bad parent, 

ndc's picture

If he's been working on basic cutlery skills with a 10 year old for a while and she still hasn't come close to mastering it, I would think there's a problem worthy of a professional. Either she has a physical problem, in which case an occupational therapist might be helpful, or a mental/emotional problem for which a therapist might help.


Exjuliemccoy's picture

I don't understand. What exactly does "working on it" mean to your DH? To me, it would mean putting a plate of food in front of his daughter and coaching her throughtout the meal, insisting she sit up, use cutlery, chew with her mouth closed, etc. At ten, a kid is old enough to be told why it's important have good manners, and it shouldn't be optional.

Detachable's picture

What a disappointment this has been. I asked a simple question about how to deal with a situation that is currently being addressed but that I am struggling to deal with in the interim. What I got was a barrage of comments about how terrible my SO is, and how I am being too easy on him.


None of you know the background to how this situation came about, the time frames, or the lengths my SO has gone to to improve himself and the situation. Nor do you know how much improvement there has been despite some seriously large hurdles, including an almost fatal accident. 

Going back, I have read older posts that deal with exactly the same issues, and there was no judgement or criticisms, just suggestions, which is what I thought I was going to get. Instead, it appears that my post allowed a whole lot of Judgy 'Holier that thou' McJudgefaces who felt, while not even knowing the circumstances, that they were entitled to sprout their opinions. 

This is not my first rodeo. I had 3SD thanks to my first husband, to whom I then had five children. So, technically, I've been parenting for over 30years. I made many mistakes and I can read the warning signs before venturing down the wrong path. I wouldn't be here if 1. SO wasn't worth it, 2. he and I disagreed on a standard of behaviour that is acceptable 3. the skids were fundamentally rotten, or 4. I thought it was never going to improve and wasn't seeing any improvement. 

I thought the idea of this forum was to be able to find support and suggestions when there is a stumbling block,  but instead it seems to be an opportunity for some people to think, act and spout off so that they can feel superior. I'm glad you've got the perfect skids and SOs that are doing everything the way you think they should. Not sure why you'd be on a forum that touts itself to be a place where 'stepparents come to vent'.

tog redux's picture

Your last sentence in your OP is "what else can I do?"  So we gave our standard feedback, which is that quite often, the bio parent is a big part of the problems going on in a stepfamily, and to many of us, it appears that's the case now.

You also got the suggestion to have her evaluated for issues that make it challenging for her to eat with utensils.

Not sure what you were looking for?

Winterglow's picture

You need to ensure that your DH is on his daughter's case every time she sits down for a meal, from start to finish, checking every fault. Yes, it will be stressing for him but that's the price to pay. He could also do things baby-style - give her only a little on her plate, let her finish it, give her a little more, let her finish it, and so on. However, the onus is entirely on him to do the job. The goal is for your SD to be able to eat like an adult and for you to not be so disgusted by her that you have to eat elsewhere. Encorage him, praise his efforts, remind him, do whatever it takes for him to invest all of his time and attention at mealtimes to solving this. Remind him that when he has a problem, even a really hard one, at work he will do whatever is necessary to solve it. This is no different. Also remind him that these are essential skills for living in the outside world. Tell him to imagine her at a business lunch ... 

Basically, light a fire under your DH to get him to throw himself into educating his daughter. The sooner he does it, the sooner it'll be over Smile

Good luck.

Rags's picture

He is the one you need to give clarity the regarding the table manners of his failed family breeding experiments and let him know that at 8 & 10yo they are long past being allowed to eat like animals. A toddler knows no better and does not have the dexterity to get it.  Pre teen late single digit and early double digit aged kids, unless they have some developmental issue, don't get it only because they have idiot adults in their lives that tolerate their sessions at the pig trough.

What you can do differently is take a zero tolerance position with your DH regarding the manners of his kids.  If he fails to control them at the table and fails to force them to eat like humans then he and they can leave the table.

You have raised 8-ish kids, 5 of your own and three Skids from a prior husband.  Why is the root cause of this whole pig trough gene pool such a mystery to you?

You are disgusted by your PigSkids and offended by the comments of the people you asked for help.  I am beginning to suspect that this is not entirely the problem of your DH and the pigskidlets.  

Good luck.

Cover1W's picture

I think we were all giving similar advice; your husband needs to be highly involved in the correction of his daughter at the dinner table, or there would be ramifications that you don't eat with them. A discussion with him was also recommended about you and he getting on the same page about it. Different words but all the same intent. When I first started working with STalk, I was "these people are harsh!" But then, they were hitting the sore spot and they were right. So right. And it likely saved my relationship with DH and helped me with how I approached the SDs.

Every situation is different, we get that, but often, so often, the same.

Detachable's picture

Thank you for the suggestions. SO is "on her back",  she is being pulled up,  she does have to clean up. This is not going to be a "say it once and it'll never happen again" situation. It's going to be constant until it becomes the new normal,  and will likely slip backwards (hopefully less and less) everytime she goes to BM and returns. The question - which I obviously didn't make clear is how do I cope with this while it's being addressed? I find it disgraceful,  disgusting,  and FRUSTING AS HELL because I  would deal with it completely different (which is possibly NOT a good thing) way. What do do while he is pulling her into line? How do I keep at the forefront how what he is doing is working even though to me it's excruciatingly slow and I wanted it fixed 'yesterday'? How do I find the grace to praise her for the bits that she gets right and give positive feedback. How do I find the balance between what is good for the family and still look after me?

By leaving the table,  I made SO feel like a failure, even despite the good work that he is doing. And SD gets power over her space,  but at the same time feels rejected. So what am doing is not helping the situation. That's where I need the help/support. I do thank you for the practical suggestions (that don't denounce SO for being a less than ideal parent. He is highly aware of his past lack  and has turned that around like day and night. It took the kids a bit to adjust to that and they still are adjusting to a dad who has a say,  who bm can't override to their benefit and who is invested. SS better than SD. This is still quite new and a work in progress. ) Gimlet, I'm sorry that you got caught up in my frustration. You were one who voiced what I think is the underlying  physical inability. Which doesn't help because that's also sitting in the back of my head niggling,  and when/how do I approach that pile of dynamite  - but that's a subject for a whole different post. Thanks again. 

Winterglow's picture

The only thing I can suggest that might lessen your nightmare would be to simply not sit with them at mealtimes (as opposed to getting up and leaving - I can understand how that could cause offence). Find an excuse to avoid eating with them - oh, it's OK, I've already eaten/am not hungry/etc. andlay it on thick about how nice it is for them to have their own special time together. Or find a way to be out atmealtimes - go to the gym/the pool/have a meeting (even a fictitious one)/hairdresser appointment/and so on. I know it's not ideal but it's a start. 

How often are the kids in your home? What does visitation look like? (PLEASE tell me it's not 50/50!)