Making SD Feel Like She Belongs

oh_my

Just some background first. I have a BD, 9 years old, a SD, also 9, 4 months older than BD, and we have a 4 year old daughter together. Dad has every Weds and every other weekend visitation with SD. I have BD all the time, never sees her father. We just got married a year ago, but have been living together since before 4yo was born.

Now my dillema. It seems as though since the wedding SD feels as if dad went out and got a new family and that she isn't as loved. She has told him that if it weren't for me he could be with her mom, which he has told her would not be the case. They were never married and were split up by the time she was a year old. We didn't meet until the girls were 3yo.

In the beginning I stepped on a lot of toes by treating SD as the other children in our family. It's okay to do things for them, take them places, play with them, care for them, but I shouldn't have been so quick to discipline SD as I do my own children. It just seemed natural to me to correct both the 9yos when they were being naughty together. I understand that this was a mistake, and I take full responsibility for that.

I have learned to let my husband take the lead in discipline, and when the children do need correcting and he is unavailable, I specifically say my 9yo's name and then give the direction, and then I just hope that SD will be listening. However, when my husband disciplines SD, she just sees that as me making him do that and him loving the other children more.

SD's BM is very much a contributing factor in the problem. She tells SD that her father does not contribute enough to her and perpatuates SD's feelings of not belonging here. She also puts much of that on me. The consensus between them is that if it weren't for me, everything would be great.

SD and I do get along well at times. We'll go shopping or on family trips with everyone, play games, and she'll seem fine. Then I'll say something like, Let's clean up now, and SD is in her room text-messaging mom that she hates it here and that I'm sooo mean. She commonly refers to me as Meanie and Fatzo in her text messages (yes, we look at them later sometimes), although she would never do this to my face.

Discussing this with BM is not an option for me as she commonly avoids me, and when we are around each other, she is sugar sweet to my face, although I know she has said nothing good about me to other people behind my back. My husband cannot address this issue with her either as she commonly is volatile and blows up at him. He is going back to court now to try for shared parenting. He feels that if she were over more, she would feel more wanted and he could have more influence on her upbringing.

My question is, Where do I go from here? I know that I probably should not hold myself responsible for her upbringing, that that's between her father and mother, but I do want her to feel loved and that she is a member of our family as well.

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imamommy

First, you are not responsible for her upbringing, but I can understand how it feels to want things to be. Your situation sounds very familiar to what it was like in the beginning with my step daughter and her mom. (her mom also was always sweet to me, then would call DH at work and complain about me and everything I did) In our situation, BM uses threats of taking him back to court to intimidate him to do what she wants. (It doesn't work anymore because he now understands the laws a little better & knows she has no case). I agree that if you live a reasonable distance, that shared parenting is better and might help. Expecting to be a better influence on her upbringing may not happen. If her mom lives a contrasting lifestyle, and you think you are going to change how a 9 year old thinks, it won't be a drastic change. My SD was 5 when I met her dad, 7 when we married. She's going to be 9 in a month. I think that if you give her your example of how to live life, and her mom gives her a different example, the child ultimately chooses which lifestyle she is going to live. Unfortunately, we can't control how kids think. We can sometimes control what they do, but at a certain point, we can't do that either and if they don't take our advice or warnings, of course they suffer the consequences. That happens with kids in general.

I think a good way to make her feel like part of the family is treating her like part of the family. Talk to her and explain to her that you have rules because you care about how she grows up and turns out. Explain to her that you understand her feelings (about her mom) but that there's nothing you can do about that. I told my step daughter that "I'm sorry your mom feels that way" when she said her mom said she didn't have to listen to me. I told her that in our house, these are the rules and it's not up to her mom, just like her mom doesn't make her rules at school. It's only up to her mom to make her own rules in her house. We also make sure she is included on "family" pictures & gatherings (as much as possible) and telling her how lucky she is to have two families that love her might make her feel special.

Her texting her mom (or saying things to her mom) about you and her dad, she is trying to manipulate her mom to get what she wants (what most kids want) and that's to have things her way or get attention. I don't necessarily agree with a 9 year old having a cell phone, but I know that they do, (and I don't fault you at all for looking at the messages because of her age, it's not that different than monitoring her use of a computer for her protection.) but I would not bring up what she says to her mom because it really is not your business (even if it's about you). She may not even feel that way but just trying to get mom's attention.

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true_panacea

I feel for you. That must be incredibly difficult for you and your family. It seems as if the SD views your husband, you and your two children as an intact family (as the other children are always there and don't have to share time anywhere else) and she is likely sad she doesn't have that. That may be why she has the fantasy of her mom and dad reuniting?

For her it may always feel slightly broken. It is unfortunate that her mother does not foster a good relationship with you and her father for her to have a better life. Bitterness and envy often come in the way of doing what is right. When my kids dad began dating his girlfriend (now of 4 years) my kids would come home and try to say bad things about her and I would always come to her defense and ask them to give her grace. I told them that it is so hard for someone who doesn't have kids to adjust and that I was certain they would find a common ground at some point. 2 years later, they did. Now they respect her and have good things to say about her. Had I fostered their negativity or allowed them to talk badly abou ther...that never would have happened. Even though I have the worst possible feelings toward their Dad, I also ensure that they do not speak badly to him or about him in my presence. That I do for them...not him.

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sweeby

"It seems as though since the wedding SD feels as if dad went out and got a new family"
That's probably exactly how she feels... And you're wise to address it.

I know not everyone here will agree with me, but I don't feel it's always wrong for a step-parent to discipline a step-child. Especially in a case like this one where there are two children of the same age and gender who would generally misbehave together. The parents run the household, and if one child is off limits for one parent, then the system is just plain broken. I mean, how fair is it for your DD to take all of the reprimands when her co-conspirator gets off scot free? How much better to say "Girls - You know the rules --"

However, for the sake of diplomacy, I think it's a wiser move to have the 'house rules' be announced either by both parents or by the biological parent of the step-kid. Rules should be written down to the extent possible, with consequences clearly stated and communicated. To the degree possible, remove the appearance of 'arbitrariness' 'favoritism' or 'discretion' from the equation and announce consequences as a simple expectation rather than allow them to be a surprise.

But getting back to the root of things...
As a non-custodial mother, I can tell you my family just feels "incomplete" when my son isn't here. (I suspect my husband may feel like there's an 'extra' when he is, but that's another story...) I know that on several occasions, I've said to my son how wonderful it feels to have him back home -- to have 'my family back', and this seems to be very meaningful to him. I'm wondering if your SD may need to hear the same thing -- first from her father, but then later, from you. That there's an important place in your family that only she can fill, and that there's a 'hole' there when she's not with you. That might help her find the feeling of belonging she seems to need...

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oh_my

My husband tells my SD all the time how much he loves her and misses her and wishes she could be with him more often. Our 4yo asks every day if SD is coming over and sticks to her like glue when she's here (which I'm sure gets irritating to SD). SD is my 9yo daughter's best friend (the reason we got hooked up in the first place).

My SD is told how much she is loved and is a member of our family, but sometimes I think she feels like if she accepts that role that she will be hurting her mother and other times I think that she just doesn't believe that she really is a part of our family. She acts like she is only a part of her mother's family, and we are often referred to as "those people" who she has to come stay with.

We never plan any family activities without her. All vacations, day trips, family functions are scheduled around when she will be over. Even my mother and father plan their picnics and family outings around when we have SD.

Still SD won't accept the love we have for her. I can handle the way she stiffens up like a board when I hug her...after all, in her eyes, I'm the biggest problem. My husband has a much harder time with the rejection, as she does the same thing to him. All I can tell him is to keep doing it, like she's hugging back and that hopefully one day she will.

It's feels to us like the hole we have when she's gone is often times still there when she's with us. We obviously can't cater to her every whim, as we have 2 other children to deal with, but aside from that, nothing seems like enough. One second she seems happy and content enough with us, and the next she's in a meltdown over her awful life.

So if anyone has any good suggestions on bonding, please, please, please help us out.

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ceph

My situation is a little different because I'm fairly new to my BF's son's life (he's almost 9) and we don't have "our own" family that he feels somehow excluded from... but I have a few ideas

- Does your SD have her own room at your place? How is it decorated? A lot of kids really feel more at home when they are in charge of their own space, so maybe letting her redecorate a little bit might help a bit to make her feel more at home. And it would be even better bonding for the two of you if a lot of it was DIY and you made the new stuff together. For example: it's easy and inexpensive to make a cool border for a corkboard (materials: corkboard, fabric, quilt-bat, glue-gun, ribbons or gems or sequins as desired, heavy cardboard or lightweight wood, a few staples or finishing nails. Total cost: $15 to $40, depending on what you come up with). Throw pillows are also really easy, so are wall-clings or lampshades. Painting plain wood photo frames from Ikea is also a fun one.
Let both girls pick out their own stuff and have a cool weekend of redecorating.
I'm going to be doing some of that stuff with my BF's son this summer when he finally gets his own room at his dad's place.

- I agree with what Sweeby said about posted rules and rewards/consequences. My mom did that for awhile when we were kids and it worked pretty well to remove the element of rivalry and perceptions of favouritism between my siblings. For common infractions, you and DH can just tell both girls to go look it up. Depending on your kids, it could be good to have them in on this process, to set the consequences or rewards for the list. That might help her feel like she played a role in a family decision making process and less like your rules are being imposed upon her.

- With my BF's son, we have to be very specific and structured. I've also encountered the playing and having fun, but then when it's time to clean up, he pitches a fit and runs away to hide behind the bed, yelling "I hate you guys for being so mean to me! My dad is the meanest dad in the whole world!"... So we started saying "OK, we're going to play ___ until 2:30. Then at 2:30, we'll clean up. I'll put away ___ and you'll put away ___. After that we'll walk down to the store and pick some groceries for supper. So start thinking about what you'd like to have for supper tonight"
If we do it that way, there's fewer freak-outs about cleaning up and he doesn't always say "I don't know" when we're planning supper. It seems to work for us, so maybe it could be worth a shot for you.

Those are my ideas.

Oh, and I understand your frustration about that you that you can't really control what BM does, when what she does makes your life harder!!
I would love to tell my BF's son's mom to stop telling him things like "If you love Mommy, you'll clean up your toys" - it's giving him the impression that love is conditional ~and~ he's trying to use affection as bribery on stuff like "If you really love me, you'll let me have pop for breakfast"... but I can't. Argh.

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imamommy

oh my,

I would tell her that what she's feeling about her mom is normal. Acknowledge her feelings of loyalty toward her mom and tell her that it's okay to feel that way. Let her know you love her too and there's always enough love for everybody. I've told my SD that it doesn't matter if her mom likes me or if I like her mom, the important thing is that we both love her. I've found that talking to her more about how I feel and letting her feel the way she does, she is more receptive. It takes time and patience.

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serenity_now_2007

I can tell you truly do have the best of intentions and really want to make sure your SD knows she's loved, important in the family... and I realize that what I'm about to say may sound a bit picky. But it's always illuminating to step back and look over our own words and actions and see if something isn't revealed that we hadn't been aware of. What I'm referring to is a few of your phrasings (one of them in the title of your post): "how do I make my SD FEEL LIKE she belongs?" and "[DH] feels if she [SD] were over more, she would FEEL MORE WANTED and he could have more influence on her upbringing".

Again, this is NOT to rip you apart or villify you for your word choices or to accuse you of not caring... But there is a difference between "making SD feel like she belongs"/"feel more wanted" and SD actually BELONGING and BEING WANTED. Not to suggest at all that you don't want her, but it does seem like your phrasing reveals that you are focusing more on achieving a certain outward *effect* or *result* that would presumably cause some sort of change in outward behavior, notably hers. As opposed to focusing on the internal feelings within you and DH, shared with SD and the other girls, that ensure that a shared FACT or STATE of belongingness and wanted-ness is truly the case. I guess I see it as the difference between a performance of togetherness gestures and true family bonds. But I realize that in the frustrating and sensitivity-loaded waters you're navigating, all this may seem vague and this is probably why you've turned towards a need for external cues or markers to make sure all parties feel they belong. But here's the tough question, not to attack yourself with but to serve as a guiding principle: "Do I really want her to belong --truly, totally, even being a product of that pesky mom of hers, even not being my own offspring-- or is it enough that she feels "like" she belongs, based upon the cues I'm giving to that effect?" See the difference? (Kids definitely can!!!) It's just kind of a shift in focus, from an external result/change she enacts, to a deepened internal feeling commitment within you.

A kid her age and in a blended family situation is going to have some of those feelings no matter what, which is another thing you can remember to take a bit of the heat off you. Try not to take it personally ---even try to laugh it off-- when she vents her feelings by calling you names (at least when she thinks she is doing it privately and not rudely to your face, which would be something of a different story but I'd still think you should strive to laugh it off, be above it, ask her to explain why she feels a need to call you that, maybe even make it a bonding moment). Continue showing her the unconditional love... or, more importantly, FEELING the unconditional love for her. She's a kid adjusting to what's an awkward situation for any of us, on any side of it and at any age, who've ever been through it. Continue to truly love and care for her and she will eventually feel it herself. If the love is really there and really even-handed and inclusive, there should be minimal issues in the long-run
(with the universal exception, of course, of The Teen Years!)

I also liked what sweeby had to say on this, and I think it more-or-less ties in with what I'm saying as well as providing you with something concrete you can actually say to SD:

"As a non-custodial mother, I can tell you my family just feels "incomplete" when my son isn't here. (I suspect my husband may feel like there's an 'extra' when he is, but that's another story...) I know that on several occasions, I've said to my son how wonderful it feels to have him back home -- to have 'my family back', and this seems to be very meaningful to him. I'm wondering if your SD may need to hear the same thing -- first from her father, but then later, from you. That there's an important place in your family that only she can fill, and that there's a 'hole' there when she's not with you. That might help her find the feeling of belonging she seems to need..."

The key, ultimately, is for YOU to really believe and mean these things as you're saying them. Don't berate yourself if you don't mean it 100% early on but take it as an opportunity to reflect on why you may not mean it 100% and what you can do about that.

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oh_my

I chose the wording I did because that is the problem, the way she FEELS. A child's perception IS their reality, whether it's everyone elses or not. SD is definitely loved and wanted and does belong in our family, no matter who her mother is and how we may feel about that.

I chose to love and marry my husband, and with that comes loving his child, who is a part of him. Obviously, SD and I don't have the bond that I have with my biological children, and that's for obvious reasons, but it is my ultimate goal to nuture a bond there. I love her, and she is 100% a member of this family. My husband and I just want to help her realize that.

We are committed to having the happiest, healthiest family possible for all our children, and I know better than to expect blending our families to be problem free. I was just looking for some suggestions from people that have been through the struggles I'm experiencing, and thank you to all of those who have offerred some good advice.

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gooseegg

Oh my!!!! this sounds JUST like how my situation started with my now 15 year old SD.

my husband took the lead on discipling her and that was a HUGE mistake! now, if i tell her something, she refuses to acknowledge me or what i tell her, and in fact goes around me and pouts to my husband so she doesnt have to do whatever it is.

we were constantly looking at her texts as well, and we had the same issues with her texting her mother every time something was going on in the house that she didnt like, and her mother just coddled her by saying " oh i know, its horrible, come live with me"

i cant say it gets easier, because in my circumstance, it has gotten ten fold worse, but seeing now what i wish i could have seen then, i would tell you to definitely take the reigns back on the discipline, unite with your husband on being consistent, and address the text messages..remember, you are the parent, and you have every right to check those and address any of the issues from it.

Good luck !!!!

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theotherside

Neither the father, nor especially the stepmother, has the right to read or listen in on what the girl says to her mother. If the girl wants it to be between her mother and herself, it should be.

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kkny

Goosegg,

I do not think you should be reading a child's email to his/her mother. To me that shows an incredible lack of respect.

I dont think the SM is the parent and PS I as the mom dont read my DDs emails to her dad. In fact, I dont read her emails at all, BUT I CERTAINLY WOULDNT READ HER EMAILS TO HER DAD.

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oh_my

TOS, "If the girl wants it to be between her mother and herself, it should be." I agree. She should keep it out of our sight and hearing range then. It's not like we bugged her mom's house so we could hear what's going on over there. She's in our house, and her father and I decide what's appropriate in our house.

KKNY, "I don't think SM is the parent"...Well, I am one of the parents in my home. We have three children, and I'm sure no good would come of treating the children differently or as if any one of them wasn't one of "our children".

I'm sorry to the both of you that I seemed to miss what advice you were attempting to give me, as I felt a little attacked.

On a brighter note, with the pending court case (or for whatever reason which in unknown to me), BM has seemed to ease up on constant contact with SD while she is spending time at our home, and SD seems much happier as of late. I've been spending some time helping her with homework (dad's not too great at homework) and playing some games with the kids. When it's time to clean up, there haven't been any meltdowns at all.

I'm happy when our children are happy, so thanks to all who gave helpful advice.

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theotherside

I don't understand - if your husband and you decided that it was appropriate for his daughter to have no contact with her mother while she was at your house, that would, in your opinion, be something you and he had the right to do? I can understand how it is possible for the child to keep her phone calls out of your hearing range, assuming that she is using a cell or cordless phone, but text messaging is always out of your sight, unless you are looking over her shoulder.

You are not her mother. Morally, and almost undoubtedly legally unless it is specified otherwise in the divorce agreement, she has the right to contact her mother whenever she wants to, and to talk about whatever she wants to with her.

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kkny

If you want to destroy your relationship with a teenager, just read his/her emails or texts. This is not a case of being afraid of a sexual predator, etc. So go ahead, address the messages, and when she finds out you have been reading them, expect to never be trusted again. YOU will be the one escalating the situation.

But I guess the consensus here is no SMs have a problem with reading emails and texts.

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finedreams

you cannot be serious... Reading your children's text messages to their mother? It is nobody's business what children say to the other parents. DD can talk to X and complain to X any time about anything. In fact when she was still at home I used to leave the room when she was on the phone with her dad so she can have privacy.

It is absolutelly morally wrong not only read her textmessages to her mother but especially "addressing" them. How is that your business? This is a total lack of respect for your DH's children. No wonder SKs feel like they don't belong.

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kkny

FD, thank you for a voice of sanity from a SM here. I am certain my DD texts her friends etc. that I am the meanest mom on the planet. SO WHAT. Thats what teenagers do. As long as she doesnt go over her text limit who cares.

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imamommy

kkny, FD isn't a SM, but that's beside the point. You may not monitor your DD but I have every right to read my DD's emails, text messages, or anything else I want. She's a teenager and while I don't routinely read her things, if wanted to, I could. Yes, kids deserve privacy. Yes, what they say to their parents is their business. But, there are teenagers out there with problems they don't always take to their parents. If you don't know what's going on with your kids, then it will blindside you when something happens. And I know I'm going to hear that "if you talk to your kids and have a good relationship with them, they will let you know when they have problems." but that isn't always true. If they think you are going to be so disappointed in them, they may not feel they can talk about some things. You may be the most understanding parent in the world and depending on the kid, they won't tell you everything you might need to know.

As for addressing what you find out, unless there is a detriment to the child, anything you find out is "confidential". I have never gone to my child and said anything unless he/she was in danger. A few years ago, I found some "private" writings that my DD wrote. I found out that she wanted to hurt herself. She was having urges to cut and I got her help right away. So, yes I do care what is going on with my kids and would "monitor" their email or texts. (and my daughter has always come to me with her problems but she didn't that time)

In regard to reading things written to the other parent, one of the problems is that a lot of times, kids complain at both homes. It's a manipulation technique that they use (more often if it works). If they are telling mom how horrible you are, they are probably trying to get mom to give them something (unless you really are horrible). If you read that and take it personally, it's going to affect the step parents feeling toward the child. I know that I would feel like I do a lot for my step child and if I hear (or see in writing) her telling how terrible I am, it would make me feel resentful for the things I do for her. I know she probably tells her mom things to make her mom feel better or to get her mom to react, etc. When we are shopping and wants me to buy her something I don't normally buy her (sweet cereal for example), she'll tell me how her mom buys it for her. or she'll tell me that her mom lets her do this or that, hoping that we'll let her do it too.

and back to the subject of "snooping", there are some things kids won't always tell their parent:

If they are being molested. If they did something sexually with a boy and he dumped them, so they feel used. If they are doing drugs. If they are having problems with other kids at school (bullied or other social problems). If they are having homosexual feelings. If they want to hurt themselves. (while a lot of kids that "attempt" suicide have warning signs, most "successful" suicides don't. Kids that are crying out for help don't usually want to kill themselves and I think kids that really want to kill themselves don't want to let anyone know so they won't be stopped.)

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kkny

Ima, for the nth time, we are not talking about reading emails to a sexual predator, but to a parent.

"Yes, kids deserve privacy. Yes, what they say to their parents is their business."

I see how quick you are to tell me I am off point, but not so quick to distinguish between emails to mom vs. to sexual predator. What a surprise.

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mom_of_4

my mom... when we were growing up always had access to all of our kids' emails. Even when I got a cell phone it was apart of the rules that she had full access to it at all times. She always tracked what sites we visited and so on. I think there should be a sense of privacy but not at the risk of being completely naive and blind sided. Obviously, what she says to her mom is between her and her mom... But, there comes a time (not necessarily in this case) when it is the other parents business and a necessity of the parent to know what is being said. ie:the big blow out we just had with the ex and her new boyfriend. Things were being said repeatedly to us and though we tried the approach of oyu need to talk to your mother about this... it came down to needing to find out exactly what was being said to whom in order to sort out the truth of the situation.
Also, I would note that there is no way shape or form that there would be a child in my house that I would not discipline in the exact same way I do my own children. I absolutely think when both girls are doing something BOTH girls need to be in trouble. Heck I even tell neighborhood kids... (when they were all acting a fool and I made them rake the yard) you can either participate in the punishment since you participated in the bad acitivity or you can go home and I am sorry but you will not be able to play here anymore. (they helped) For SD or any of my kids... if I tell them it is time to clean up and everyone else does it but one person is throwing a fit everyone else gets excused from the task and the person throwing a fit has to do it themselves. Step bio I don't really care what is good for one is good for all.

And BTW I am a sm and I just so happen to be a PARENT. (not only to my daughter but my skids)

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imamommy

I'm not talking about sexual predators either, but monitoring and knowing what is going on in the kids' life. I don't think it's a big deal (to read a text to the other parent), but I'm not promoting it either. If you are reading all the texts, and there's one to mom, not a big deal. If it's only text messages to mom, then that may be different, but parent's should know what the kids are doing. Why is it so horrible for a step parent to read a text message but if the mom asks the kid 20 questions about every thing they do, every waking moment at dad's house and then grabs the phone to complain, that's ok?

I gave my opinion on reading things step children write and what is your problem with that? I said that anything found should not be addressed unless it affects the child's health or safety. and also that negative things they might write may be motivated by something other than how they really feel and reading those things could have a negative impact on the relationship between the child & step parent (so I'm not really for it). That's my opinion on it, you can have yours.

You stated that "If you want to destroy your relationship with a teenager, just read his/her emails or texts" and I'm am only saying that if you feel that way, that's your choice. But there are reasons to read emails or texts, and you won't know if a sexual predator is involved unless you read them. (or are you psychic, or do you think your DD will come tell you she's talking to a sexual predator?)

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gooseegg

First, thank you imamommy. You said it perfectly, and to clarify, i was giving suggestions, not gospel. I was also referring to what we did, because we had other serious issues we were dealing with, that was not included in my post. I stand by my suggestion, and only the parent can determine if it is the right course of action for their situation.

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cawfecup

If they are not doing anything "wrong" then they shouldn't have anything to worry about ... just like reading your spouses email if they have nothing to hide they shouldn't worry about you reading their emails.

I know my SS uses text messages to tell his mother he has to stay after school because he doesn't want his dad to find out ... btw my SS12 stays after atleast once a week because of a myriad of reasons they have him pegged so if he walks crooked he has an "after session".... anything from chewing gum and this relates to the other post as well.... not having the right color folder for class ... their notebooks and folders have to color coordinate for each class.... I called about this particular after session and he won't get another for not having the right color folder.

I really could care less what he or the others say to their mother about me ... but again ....

If you have nothing to hide/worry about then you shouldn't have a problem with anyone reading your emails or looking at your my space page ... whatever it maybe ... if you are using my computer to convey these messages then they are mine for the reading.

My SS gave his mother the password for the childrens aol account ... which is under my name ... so she could go online and visit a dating website ... I changed the password saved it so he doesn't need to know it, can't use the account anywhere else but at home .... I only found this out after my bills came in had only 9 hours of dial up time available and the bills was unreal ...changed plans soon after (I also checked the days of usage days most of which he wasn't at moms) asked him how much he was using the account he said I gave mom my password so she could go on ________. Oh ok ...
note to self change password :).

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oh_my

To clarify, my husband never set out to find out what SD was saying to her mother. That's not even relevant. He set out to find out why she hovered over that cell phone and then was nasty and miserable the rest of the day.

What we found is what BM says to SD, which is relevant. I don't know about where you all live, but in our state it is illegal to attempt to alienate your child from the other parent as it is not in the child's best interest, and it can be grounds for a reversal of who the custodial parent is.

We wanted to find out why she was so sad much of the time, and we did. I don't know why some BMs see fit to make their children feel that if they love (or even get along with) someone else (BD and family) that they are hurting their mother. It's sick, and it's abuse, and now that we know what the problem is, we can address it.

I also know that these things may be private to her and that IF she found out, she might feel violated, but it was done out of love. Also, SD is not a teenager. She is 9, and I really don't see why a 9yo would need the pink Razor phone to begin with (but that's a different subject).

Now, and even before she had her cell phone, she was allowed to call her mother whenever she wished. We have never denied her that. And before she had her cell phone, BM didn't call at all times of day and night either or do things like call to ask SD if she could pick her up early when it's not really her decision. Also, when I was a kid, we had one phone, it was in the kitchen, and nothing you said was "private", and I don't think I was emotionally scarred by that.

On a side note, we also discovered that BM's ex-boyfriend is continuing to call and text SD, even though BM no longer has contact with him, which I feel is a bit inappropriate and is something we should keep an eye on.

My piece being said, we all do what we think is right in the moment. Sometimes it's the right thing, and sometimes we're flawed. You don't get excused from being human just because you're a parent. To those of you who only critisize...what's done is done. If you have some good advice on how to move forward from here, I'm sure everyone would like to here it.

Thanks to the advice from those of you who adressed the issue, even if it was advice I didn't care for, but I think I'll stay away from any further debates on if things that can't be taken back were right or wrong. I want to move forward.

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finedreams

If you snooping and reading what your kids say to the other parent in emails or textmessages, then you inevitably see what is the other parent replying.

And if you are SM, then by reading text messages or emails of your SKs to their parents, you are spying on your DH's or DW's X! Did you ask a permission to read your spouse's X's text messages or emails?

This whole topic wasn't about making sure your minor children don't get hooked up with sexual predator but reading what they complain about to the other parent. In fact somebody quoted what her DH's X replied to a child in a text messages: come live with me. So did you ask a permission to read his X's private conversations with her children? Unbelivable!

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cawfecup

No I didn't ask but I certainly will remind her that anything she says via email or text is available for public viewing .... would that help? Since the computer is in plain viewing area for the whole family to see ... teenagers included.... so the teenages know not to use foul language because younger children could/would be able to read it.

And in oh_my's situation ... she found the mom's ex bf was texting the 9 yr old ... that should be monitored. Don't ya think?

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kkny

Cawfe, for the nth time, we werent talking about moms BF, we were talking about communications between mom and children.

But go and ahead and monitor them -- it will be you who do so increasing your own unhappiness.

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cawfecup

Personally I could care less what the children tell their mother about me .... but I do think its my business when using "my" online account to access the internet... and keeping secrets from their father...

Other than that I don't give a flying _______ what she thinks of me.

But to keep an eye on their emails is keeping them safe ... so I have to sift through ones to mom oh well .... I also sift through the older ones websites and delete posts I do not like if they block me from getting at it with passwords I delete the account.... my right as a parent to keep them safe.

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finedreams

we are not talking about BFs, we are talking about stepparents reading without any permission what bioparents text or email to their own children, and then judging.

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mom_of_4

Here is my thing. When I decide that my kids are old enough to have a cell phone (which may be soon) I will not be so much of a downer to block text messages so long as they do not abuse the privelege. I will however check the contacts in the phone and the messages being relayed. Same with email and all of these social sites. They are welcome to have them so long as I have the passwords to check on what is going on and delete if need be. If I happen to cross communications between mom and kids... so be it. And, in this case ohmy clarified and said the intention was not to specifically spy on mom kid conversations it was to see what was going on in general to effect her in that way. It could have been anything. What they found was mom encouraging discontent instead of encouraging a positive outlook and feeling in her child. And in the long run finding out an ex boyfriend that the mom doesnt even communicate with anymore is still text messaging a young child is something that a parent should definately be aware and taking close evaluation of what is going on. When I send the kids emails I fully expect that BM is reading them... but I also always conduct myself in a manner with the kids that is both responsible and in the best interests of the kids as opposed to my own.

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kkny

Do you intend on telling child first you will be reading emails? Or are you planning on confronting?

Do you think your children or stepchildren are so stupid they dont know what a delete key is and how to defrag and get rid of old stuff?

Do you think that maybe you are discouraging children from communicating with their mother?

Do you think maybe the mother will discourage communication with their father?

Do you think the child will just use email at the public library or school?

Wow, everytime I feel like I deserve a break that my DD spends all her time with me and virtually none with her Dad, I read about SMs who feel that child has no rights, no right to talk to mom while at their house, etc.

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imamommy

are you serious kkny? that's so funny.... My SD's BM doesn't even call her all week when she's here. When SD calls her, she doesn't even answer the phone most of the time and only talks for a few minutes when she does, always telling SD to call her later, when daddy gets home. and when SD leaves a message, she NEVER calls her back. HOW AM I (AS A SM) DISCOURAGING HER FROM COMMUNICATING WITH HER MOM? I have her call her mom everyday after school, give her the phone to take in her room if she wants and absolutely do not monitor anything. SD usually comes back with my phone in a couple of minutes, disappointed that she didn't answer or telling me she has to call back later when daddy gets home. IF BM IS SO INTERESTED IN TALKING TO HER DD, WHY DOES DADDY NEED TO BE HOME?

And yes, BM does decide when SD can communicate with her father. She made sure SD had the phone (at age 7) to call him every hour or two while we were on our honeymoon. But, when he tries to call during vacations when she's there for a week, BM won't answer her phone and never lets SD call him. But, if it's Friday night, she has SD call daddy (even though she picks her up on Fridays and usually has her call right away since she likes to pick her up late in the evenings) because she knows we have our date nights on Friday and we usually leave as soon as she picks her up. It must be a coincidence.

This isn't about a child's "right" to talk to their parent, it's about a parent's right to monitor their children's communications and activities. Interfering with or discouraging communication is something different completely. Using information to start fights is also something different. If a child or mom says something negative about dad or step mom in their communication to mom and dad or step mom uses that to restrict their communication, then I think that's wrong.

Children should know that their email, website history, text messages, etc. may be viewed at any time. It doesn't mean that they should be or are going to be, just that if I randomly look, there should be nothing to hide. I don't think we are talking about wiretapping the phones. If they choose to use the computers at school or library, they can but that suggests they are trying to hide something.

I have my SD call her mom everyday after school. However, if SD gets in trouble for breaking a rule, the first thing she says is "can I call my mom?" and the answer... NO. We don't discourage her from calling her mom, but she isn't going to be encouraged to call her mom when she's unhappy with the rules here and doesn't get away with breaking one. Her mom can't change our rules and allowing her to call up mom crying that she's in trouble is only going to upset mom and not change a darn thing for SD. If she's upset over something else, like sad her friend at school won't talk to her or something like that, then sure, she can call mom to talk. But like I said, her mom usually doesn't even answer the phone or call her back. The only time BM seems to care is when SD tells her something that she can call DH about to yell at him.

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kkny

"This isn't about a child's "right" to talk to their parent, it's about a parent's right to monitor their children's communications and activities"

I dont know why you put the first right in quotes, but not the second. Is it becuase you dont think the child has the right to call the mom?

And this discussion is about stepmothers monitoring stepchildren.

What do all these people have in common?

Stepmother, grandmother, mother-in-law, godmother. They all have mother in the name, and unless it is a very unusual situation and the mother has lost custody, they arent the mom.

This cite really energizes me.

And the following is meant only as a discussion of my situation, Dads GF clearly has no boundaries, so I do have to remember what I learn here that most SMs have no issue with reading emails, texts.

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ceph

"On a side note, we also discovered that BM's ex-boyfriend is continuing to call and text SD, even though BM no longer has contact with him, which I feel is a bit inappropriate and is something we should keep an eye on"

Hell yes it's something you should keep an eye on!
If BM dated him for a long time so he and SD were pretty tight, I can see that he might want to take her out for lunch once in awhile or something... But he should be initiating that through BM (or your DH), not with SD! If my BF and I split up and I wanted to keep a connection with A__, I would talk to his mom or dad to see if this was OK, not directly to him.
A grown person texting a child is a little weird.
Have you mentioned this to BM? How did she react?

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imamommy

excuse my punctuation kkny, I was in a hurry. and in my earlier post, I was talking about my own DD, I (or my DH) can monitor all the children in our house. Does it really matter which one of us reads it?

and it's only common sense that when you put something in writing.. it's out there for someone to read. (I've mistakenly gotten emails and faxes from people that were not intended for me.) I was always told if you don't want anyone to know something, don't put it in writing.

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ceph

Ima, I agree - if you write it down, you must accept the possibility that someone else will read it and it cannot be "taken back"....

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it"

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kkny

I agree, and I do give that advice to anyone I know, not to put something in writing if you dont want it read. But I would never ever read my DDs eamils or texts to her Dad.

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theotherside

Even if you believe that you have the right to monitor their emails, there would be absolutely no reason to open emails to or from their parent, so there is no excuse for knowing the content.

If the father is concerned about his exW's former boyfriend contacting their daughter, the sensible thing would be for him to talk to his wife about it - she might be even more concerned that he.

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justnotmartha

Though this horse is beaten and dead, I will chime in. I think oh my and her DH were justified in reading these texts. He SD had been obviously and outwardly troubled all day, and the cause was clearly what was on the phone. I would not have hesitated to pick it up and she who she was texting. The question of would we read them once we found out it was mom is tricky, but yes in this context we would have as it was having such an effect on SD. If she had been happy and not negatively effected by the texts would the need to check them out be there? Not so much. In that case I would have looked at who she needed to be texting all day, seen it was mom and moved on as we would have no cause for concern.

We monitor my SD's phone, email and internet history. She knows we randomly do this and understands it is required if she is to use a computer and have a phone. She also understands it's for her safety, not our curiosity. We respect her privacy as long as she respects the rules.

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finedreams

There is a big difference between seeing who children contact and actually openning up an reading text messages or emails.

I can see who I get emails and texts from by just seeing phone number and email address, but in order for me to read it I have to actually open it.

So when you see that the email or text is sent from BM's address or phone number what is your reason for openning it and reading? You don't suspect Bm is a sexual predator and you are not concerned of kids's safety, right?

So you just want to know what your husband's X talks to her kids about.

"It is out there for someone to read". Yes, someone can get access to it if they need to, but there was no need to read it. Your kids' safety is not in risk. And if you believe that mom is a predator, inform the police. They will get access to emails and texts. Not you.

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mom_of_4

I assume these questions were for me to answer so:

Do you intend on telling child first you will be reading emails? Absolutely, they know if it looks suspicous I will open it and the way our email is set up you automatically see the emails content as soon as you move over the name. Or are you planning on confronting? And yes I would confront only if necessary and this is not something that I would do all of the time.. I dont have enough time in my life to check 7 email accounts every day

Do you think your children or stepchildren are so stupid they dont know what a delete key is and how to defrag and get rid of old stuff? Fortunately, at this point and time I am much better at computers than they are and infact better than a lot of people even if they are deleted I can find them. And besides the only way that I would go looking that hard is if I suspected something was going on that I really needed to know about. In which case there are also programs to help you with that as well

Do you think that maybe you are discouraging children from communicating with their mother? Not at all... especially considering never once I have EVER interfered with them conversing with their mother even when it has been on my cell phone for excessive amounts of time when I was low on minutes

Do you think maybe the mother will discourage communication with their father? I am sure she does... at this moment my computer is out for repair and I am waiting on my laptop to be shipped to me... DH and I sent emails to the kids weeks ago (funny christmas emails) and not once has she let the kids check their email since we told her we sent them something (although previous to this they were doing it every day) Not to mention the fact that on several occasions the kids have come home to say Dad I tried to call you last night and the night before that but mom said I couldnt "Why" She just told me to go to my room she doesnt have time for this nonsense.

Do you think the child will just use email at the public library or school? school does not have email...even if they do go on the internet it will still go through same account and still be there to see. If I find out they have opened another they will have broken our agreement and there will be no more computer access. It is as simple as that.

I will do what I feel is right to protect my children.

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kkny

Dear Mom,

They are not your children. They are your stepchildren.

And anyone can open a free hotmail or yahoo account for use at the library. And that is what teenagers will do when they dont feel trusted.

If this thread was about making SD feel like she belongs, boy, reading emails is way to go.

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mom_of_4

Actually, THEY ARE MY CHILDREN. I love, care for and treat ALL of MY KIDS the exact same way. I would not and will not demean our closeness or our relationship by distinguishing the difference between bio and step. It is not only insulting but useless. The only person it serves is the adult who should have more gumption and selflessness to put the child's needs ahead of their own.

And, as I said if they did decide to open an additional email account... eventually I would find out... lies always have a way of coming out and then ALL computer priveleges would be suspended to the point that I would bust out my moms typewriter if they needed to do a report or something. Trust is both ways I trust you to tell me the truth and follow these restrictions and you trust me to not abuse my authority.

And, obviously this thread got off topic awhile ago. There are things that are private that I would never intrude into like their private diaries or the 'secrets' box I have given each of them. However, the internet and texting is not. When you put it on the internet ANYONE at ANY time could have access to it and you. That is a risk you take when you go onto the internet. With how prevelent not only sexual predators but simple things like websites and forums that advocate suicide, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc etc on the internet are always always will I be vigilant. There are far more important issues at hand than if a child feels like he or she is being violated by parents having access to their email. I equate being aware of internet activity to knowing where my children are. I would not stop asking where they are going and who they are going to be with what time will they be home simply because they cry that is not fair, that is none of your business. It is a safety issue... you are a child and you ARE and always will be my business.

I am sorry if you disagree but I suppose we will have to agree to disagree. I do not have to provide these for my children. (phone, computer etc) These are luxuries that come with responsibilities and restrictions. If they can not follow our rules then they do not need to participate or have the luxuries.

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kkny

I dont know how you distinguish between reading a journal and reading an email from a child to a parent. That was what this is about. As FD said, you know who the texter or emailer is before you open. If you chose to open an email from a child to a parent, I think that says a lot more about you than it does about the child or the parent.

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mom_of_4

And yet again.. I volunteered a general what we do at our home approach to the comment that Parents should not read their childrens email. And I further clarified by saying I would be looking at the email and texts as a whole and if I happen to run across one that is from a parent then so be it. And I even further clarified that it would be fairly easy for me to see what was written in the email as I was tabbing through the email since our email is set up with an automatic view.

And since it was said over and over about a childs rights..I clarified what I felt my childs right to privacy was/is in my home. I did not compare reading their journal to reading an email from a child to a parent.

And since I do not necessarily open emails from parent to child and since I do not prohibit conversation between parent and child. And furthermore since I actively take steps to make sure that my children are safe in every way shape or form necessary then yes it does say a great deal about me. A great deal of good in my opinion.

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finedreams

If your stepchildren know you read what their parents write to them, they will never feel like they belong and they will find other ways to communicate to their parents without your interference.

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mom_of_4

Trust me, my children know that they belong...

And yes, they know that email is checked so if they have something that they just absolutely can not stand if Dh or I see then they will talk to BM in person. Which goes the same for our emails to them.

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kkny

So you are in effect restricting communication to the child's mother. Good work there.

This site is so informational to me. If ever a bone in my body thought any future SM could be trusted, this type of response oblivatates that.

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mom_of_4

Actually, I am in effect making sure that my children are not abusing their email privelege. And furthermore, as I have said repeatedly I/DH do not deliberately read emails from parents or even friends. (Not that this has ever been an issue so it is in all effect onjection of what might happen) I would tab through and make sure there aren't any suspicious looking items and move on. But, ofcourse you can read and interpret however you feel. And, if that is truly the stance you want to take on Stepmoms in general then that is truly sad for you. If you choose to be that close minded and only get what you want to get out of my statements then so be it.

And while we are at it...I noticed that while you jumped on every line I have typed you have had nothing to say in response to BM not allowing kids to call home to talk to their father or myself or check their email at all since we sent them items for christmas... and to use your own words this site is very informational to me as an insight to the one sided closed minded view of a BM that can't stand a SM. No matter what is said ... it is wrong.

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cawfecup

You should be reading your teenagers emails, texts, journals, .... you think teenagers aren't smart enough to disguise things by naming something like:

Homework
letter to dad
spelling words

As far as personal journals ... they could give you valuable information about your child and their friends and what they are up to in your area. You don't need to confront child but it gives you a heads up ...lets say she wants to sleep at sally's has several times .... but after reading her journal you find out sally's is just a cover for her to hang out with mary and mary's brother. Even though you told your daughter you don't want her to date she is doing it behind your back with mary's brother.
My mother was 40 years older than me ... I pulled what I knew I could get away with... at 15 I thought she was too old to figure out what I was doing .... boy was I a dumb teenager she knew before I did what I was going to do!!! seems she was reading stuff ... never bagged me directly but didn't allow me to do certain things. And I wasn't allowed to sleep out but my friend susie was and I was sally in the story ... she would tell her mom she was sleeping at my house and hang out with mary and her brother. And her mom was much younger than my mom but susie got away with lots of stuff I would have been to scared to pull guess thats why she was a mom at 15 and a grandma at 30.

Children are very intelligent when it comes to being sneaky.

Your teenager could have a whole other life going on just by renaming the title of something.

My 15 yr old has his own laptop ... I use it because its "faster" than mine ... and I snoop as much as I want.

I also watch when the younger ones are on my comp because one of the first times the 9yr old went on webkinz a porn site popped up. Did she mistype? were the older ones doing something they shouldn't have been? was hubby ?... who knows.

If you had an involved ex and SM I could understand you making such blatant comments but neither of them is interested being a parent to your child as you have said over and over again. So really a non-issue for you.

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kkny

I allow my DD to call her dad whenever she wants. She has her own cell and email. I do not get in the way of her communicating with her Dad.

Momof4, when you said that if kids dont want you to read it they will tell their mom in person, that is restricting communication. That is wrong.

And to those people who say, my computer, my internet etc., why is it sometimes marriage means sharing (e.g. when it is Dads money), but if it SMs or house items that word my keeps reappearing.

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kkny

This was about emails and texting. I think I recognize her dads email in the address spot, forget the title.

I dont think very much of people who read their children's diaries either.

I have a lot of trouble beleiving that my honor student, two varsity sport DD is holding down another life. Considering I drive her virtually everywhere over weekends, and she has practice or meets every day after school.

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mom_of_4

wrong what I said was they know that email is checked if they are so worried about what they say in the email possibly being read then they need to address it in person. They can say anything they want to them just know that there is a possibility of other people reading it. Same with emails I/DH send them... with bm.

But, ofcourse you are right saying marriage is sharing is exactly the same thing as saying to kids it is my internet my computer my rules. Since we all have to share everything and have open access to anything... I should probably take the restrictions off of the kids tv in their rooms... who cares if they can watch what is tantamount to porn... And while we are at it since we share everything which means I can not set up any rules or guidelines... I suppose that our car does not mean mine and my husbands it means my my husband and our kids... so any time they feel like they want to play in it or heck even drive it despite the fact that the oldest is only ten ... I really cant tell them what to do then either. (I hope you are gathering the sarcasm)

Marriage is sharing means even though technically my money pays for the internet and the rent and so on... My husband and I both make decisions about how not only was my money spent and his, but the rules and guidelines that goes along with each of those things. It does not mean I let kids do whatever however they want without my input and it does not mean that I let children determine how our household is run. Just like when I tell the kids do not run across my floors with your shoes on. It is their home ...it is our house. There is a difference.

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kkny

Momof4, What I was saying is that even you recognize you may be discouraging child emailing parent. And I think that is wrong.

And there is no need for sarcasm. What I was saying, to make it clear, is that for a Stepparent to use the notion that "I pay for internet" to justify monitoring communication between a child and his/her parent is wrong.

I am sorry my DD has so little contact with her Dad. I think he is losing out on an opportunity. But discussions like this make me very wary of any relationship with DD and Dads GF, or a future SM.

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imamommy

you can believe what you want kkny and do what you want with your DD. That's your business. But how would you know if the pressure of being an honor student and two varsity sport or other high expectations are taking a toll on her and she is trying to hide it so as to keep you from being disappointed in her? Teenagers don't always (ok, rarely) come out and tell you all their problems and reading a journal may save a child's life. and if her mom/dad is telling her something that is upsetting her and affecting her life, the other parent has a right to know. My SD is too young to use the computer or have a cell phone, but if she writes a letter to her mom, I always read it before mailing it. I have never not mailed one, but if there is something in it (and a couple of times there were) things that were bothering her and she hadn't told us & I let her counselor know so she could talk about it. Her mom has gotten those letters and not once, ever called DH and told him that their DD said she had a problem with something. Her mom sees her a couple of weekends a month and has not addressed any of SD's problems. It's a parents responsibility to make sure their kids are safe and healthy and reading what they write is not restricting communication. If they know it could be read, of course they can choose not to put it in writing. But they can also tell BM on the phone or in person, so how is that restricting communication? Refusing to allow them to call the other parent is restricting communication. Not mailing letters or not giving them letters they get is restricting communication.

and momof4 made a point, why haven't you addressed the issue of BM not allowing the kids to call or read their emails? I wrote in an earlier post that BM doesn't let SD call daddy unless it's a time she knows is inconvenient. (and he always takes her calls anyways)

and when it's said that it's MY computer, My internet, etc. I don't think the intent is to say it's SM's and not dad's, it's SM & Dad's and NOT the kids. The adults are paying for it and not the kids. The kids don't have the same rights as the adults... and in my house, even if they are paying for it, I still have more rights than they do. IT'S MY HOUSE. They want more rights, they can move out and get their own house and make their own rules. (of course I'm only talking about my grown children)

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serenity_now_2007

As a general rule, I personally don't feel it's warranted to read kids' emails without certain compelling evidence that there are important reasons to do so (namely their health and safety)... but I also can understand where you would, or at least be tempted to, know what they're writing whom. The fact that these are 9 year olds, still very much children, gives more weight to your apparent "safety and protection" logic. Do you have a cut-off age in mind when you will stop reading them, or is it a "as long as you're under my roof" policy? But I guess the real questions to ask yourself are: Is there compelling evidence that your kids are in imminent danger, are having serious problems in school or emotionally? Are they even misbehaving beyond normal kid stuff? (And no, venting their natural anxieties and adjustments to blended family by referring to you with a rude epithet when they think they are doing so privately doesn't count as misbehaving... although if it gets worse or starts happening to your face it might be evidence of emotional/adjustment troubles requiring your understanding and support). Specifically in your SD's case, do you have any real reason to believe that anything in the exchanges between she and her BM are causing her or anyone in your family serious harm? If not, you might also ask yourself if you are "searching" for info to be concerned/upset about regarding SD/BM relationship.

If you are going to be reading her emails with her BM, I personally feel that the following should be the case, to be fair:
-BM needs to be told, by you, that you will be reading them
-SD needs to be told, by you, that you will be reading them
-You need to accept the very real possibility that neither will react to this with trust or good feelings. The catch with having a "my house, my way" approach is that you may get your way on the surface but it can be at the expense of closeness (or "belonging", to use your word).
-If you choose to NOT tell either that you are reading the emails, you need to accept the very real possibility that you will occasionally stumble upon words that are personally hurtful, insulting or embarassing to you. When this happens, you either have to come clean and tell her/them that you read something that upset you and open a convo about it OR you have to suck it up and refuse to let it color your relationship with SD b/c there's no honest disclosure and thus no chnace for SD to rectify the situation to your liking.
-Also you might have to prepare yourself that SD or BM will feel like they have the right to snoop on you and/or become more sneaky about hiding their thoughts, which quite possibly could become more negative towards you over this very thing.

You mentioned earlier that you "don't in any way restrict SD's communications with BM" but then you said in a different post that one instance where you DO is when SD has gotten into trouble and asks to call her mom and you say "No". These statements are inconsistent. And frankly, you don't have a legal right to restrict the communication between them, whether it's "in only one type of instance" or in the interest of consistent discipline or avoiding a fight with BM or whatever your reason. If your means of discipline are sound, you should have nothing to fear from BM knowing about them. She may disagree or try to start a fight, and that sucks and is a hassle, but that's her right to have an opinion on her child's disciplining. Kids need to be able to vent their feelings, even when they have "been bad". Especially kids in your SD's situation of adjusting to a blended family, trying to maintain ties to all family members involved and deal with sometimes inevitable divided loyalties. In a situation where she has been singled out for punishment, SD is likely to feel even more like the "fish out of water" and will crave the connection to BM at that moment; not that she shouldn't ever be punished for anything, but a 9-yr old girl is going to have these needs, they're dramatic, they're sensitive, even minus the blended family situation. If you don't allow her to seek outside support when she is feeling alone or upset, she may come to view you with more mistrust and feel an additional punishment: that of being cut off from outside sources of connection or support. That's really no small thing: kids are very sensitive and this is the kind of stuff that you find out years later has shaped a big part of the course of their relationship with you.

I know you feel strongly that "all my kids will be treated the same and have the same rules"... and in general that's a fair and noble position to take (just think about the many SP's who refuse to eevn think of their SK's as part of the family!) But there are a few areas where this "equal rules for all" approach can backfire, and they correspond with those areas where the SK's experience is different from the other kids in the household: namely, they have other parents. In this case, I would seriously consider making an exception to your "I monitor all my kids' email" policy as it pertains to emails b/n SD and BM, unless there is a clear and serious reason to think that someone's safety is directly affected by it.

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kkny

I think it also unacceptable that you read your SDs letters to her mother.

As to monitoring, it is one thing to monitor calls/meetings etc with childs friends etc, but with their parent quite another. And if the mom ever finds out, I suspect she will be quite put off. I would.

And Ima, on the other thread you are complaining about moms being dismissive of SMs. May I suggest that reading someone's mail from their child is not likely to improve a relationship.

But go ahead in this, the land of I am the SM, I am so badly treated, and I do nothing wrong, so I cant understand why, especially as the kids get older, and less in need of me, that they dont actually like me.

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imamommy

and kkny, why should YOU be wary of your DD's possible relationship to a future SM. That's really NONE of your business. It's really all up to your DD. NOT YOU.

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imamommy

from the other thread, my SD's mom has said and done things to make SD feel she can't "have fun" with me. It has affected the relationship I have with her and it's all because her mom has a problem (jealousy). Who do you think suffers when SD lives with me full time, and I am the one that takes care of her after school (until dad gets home) and does things with her? She chooses to sit in her room and not do anything with me because she doesn't want her mom to find out. She says her mom asks her and then gets mad. Do you think mom is suffering at all when she makes SD feel guilty by acting all sad that SD enjoys time with me? Mom chose to move two & half hours away with new BF and who knows what she does all day... she doesn't work and she doesn't take SD's calls or call her back. Meanwhile, SD is here but living with the friction that her mom created. SD's the one in counseling, not mom. So, yes I read what she writes to mom and let the counselor know and I really don't care who agrees or disagrees with it. I care more about how much pain this little girl is in because her mom is a selfish idiot. I don't have to worry about reading what mom writes to her because she doesn't write back.

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mom_of_4

It is not restricting communication.. they have their own choice to make on how they perfer to communicate certain things. Based upon the topic importance etc etc they can choose how they want to contact whoever they want to contact. They know the deal... so they make their decisions based upon that.

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kkny

Serenity, very nicely written. Your post lives up to your name.

Ima, you're the one on the other thread complaining about dismissive moms. You have a funny way to cultivate relationships. Oh, now I understand, the mom has to be nice to the SM, but not vice versa. Got it.

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imamommy

no, you don't "got it".. it's a two way street. My SD's mom and I were friendly until she started getting jealous of my DH getting engaged to me and jealous of her daughter having fun with me. I have never been rude to her like she is to me. I am a bio mom that doesn't see what purpose it serves to MY child to be dismissive of another person that may be in my child's life... of course if the SM is being a B*tch, the mom doesn't need to be nice, but when you are dealing with someone that is going to be caring for YOUR child, why would you want to have animosity? DUH!

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finedreams

"and kkny, why should YOU be wary of your DD's possible relationship to a future SM. That's really NONE of your business. It's really all up to your DD. NOT YOU".

So it is SM's and DD business what relationship they have. But why do SMs inists that the realtionship between their SKs and BMs has to be monitored up to the point that their emails or texts have to be read, judged and restricted. So why such a double standard!

I think kkny would worry that SM would control and try to restrict her communication with her own daughter. Luckily her DD is 16 and cannot be manipulated, but it is pretty easy to manipualate younger children. It would be pretty scary.

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kkny

Ima, On the other thread, you note as rude, if the child says we went to zoo, and mom says I am glad you and dad had a good time, and ignores SM. I think that is a little demanding. Of course the mom cares more about her child, and more about childs relationship with child's father. Frankly I dont have a problem with that, but I think anyone would veiw reading of emails from their own child as much much rude. So I guess there is one standard for SMs, one for everyone else.

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imamommy

My SD is allowed to call her mom everyday. Her mom doesn't answer her phone 99% of the time. When SD is upset because she gets in trouble, the first thing she does is ask "can I call my mom". We used to say sure and she would call and get her mom's voice mail, leave a very incoherent message, crying call me back mom. Mom doesn't call her back. If she does happen to get through to mom when she's crying, she gets mom all worked up and hands the phone to dad. Then he has to listen to mom try to fix things when she doesn't even know what happened, other than SD is upset and crying. He explains what happened, mom is upset and yelling at dad. SD is standing there expecting that now mom is going to change dad's mind. It's ridiculous. Mom has no control over the discipline in our house.

Imagine an intact family. Dad tells a child "you're grounded and no computer for two days" and the child goes to mom (in the next room) crying that it's not fair and mom walks over to dad (with the child) and says to dad, that's not fair, then they start fighting. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't think that's the way things should work. It's no different when they are living in two homes, they don't control what the other is doing and if the child calls the other parent every time they get in trouble to cry to the other parent how unfair it is. If there's a problem, the child can discuss it with either parent when they are NOT upset and the parent's can discuss it when it's the right time. The right time is NOT when the child is crying because they are in trouble. While both parents may feel they have a right to have input regarding discipline (in the other parent's home) that doesn't mean they really do have a right to tell the other parent what to do. If they want that right, they should not get divorced and stay living together. My DH doesn't have any say in what BM does in her house any more than she has a say in what we do in our house.

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finedreams

I cannot imagine under what circumstances anyone would read my emails or texts to my DD or hers to me or my X's emails to her and vice versa. Cannot even imagine anything of the sort.

Maybe that's why she has a good relationship with both parents, that's why both I and X have a respectful relationship with each other, DD doesn't sneak around and doesn't cause trouble. This thread is horrifying to me, but it explains a lot about where the trouble comes from and who is causing it...

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serenity_now_2007

Ima-- First off let me apologize for conflating your post about SD calling BM after getting in trouble and OP's email policies. Oops! My mistake...

Second, I agree with you that the custodial household gets final say on discipline AND that discipline should ideally be as consistent as possible... But that being said, it's bound to come up in conversation (or in arguments) with non-custodial parent every now and then b/c practically every individual on this earth has a somewhat different opinion on it and so there's bound to be times that something flies in one house and not the other... It's a classically hot-button issue. I'm very sorry to hear that the BM in your life sounds so problematic--- even more sorry to hear how little it sounds like she is actually there for SD. Obviously your situation is very difficult, but even so, SD shouldn't feel like she can't access and share her feelings with another member of her family and support system (even as dubious a supporter as BM sounds, which SD will most likely come to realize on her own in the next few years). And BM still is allowed to share her feelings (within legal boundaries on harrassment of course) even if the buck ultimately stops with the rules of your household. I don't know what to suggest other than: a) trying to come to some sort of sensible adult reasoning with BM (though it sounds like this could be a tall order) or b) try to arrange something with the phone where if BM actually calls SD back, *you* can opt to not speak with her at that volatile time (caller id, for example). I'm a big believer in the idea that other people are not necessarily going to change and that we have limited ability or even right to change them; and all we can do is change what WE do. *YOU* don't have to take BM's calls every single time. You can remain supportive and unobstructive of SD & BM's relationship, AND you can periodially open up the discipline issue for adult discussion, while still reserving the right to not answer her calls every time, refuse the phone being passed to you if you do not feel like talking (fighting) then, and say "BM, we are willing to discuss this issue with you but not right now and not unless we can be civil discussing it."

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imamommy

I realize my situation isn't the same as everyone's and we've explained to SD that her mom can't change the rules in our house and because she does have such little communication with her mom during the week (and now weekends too as BM has started canceling weekends on us) when she is here, we feel that when she does talk to her mom, she should be having a pleasant call and not upsetting her mom when there isn't anything her mom can do about it. She doesn't have a problem sharing her feelings with us and her counselor. When she wants to call her mom, it's because she thinks her mom will fix it for her somehow and she won't be in trouble anymore. Usually, after she calms down, DH will talk to her and sometimes I talk to her and she is okay with that. The only thing that happens when she calls her mom (when she's upset) is that her mom starts yelling at dad and it's chaotic. SD usually gets even more upset over that too.

I think it's very important for her to be able to talk to her mom. I even get her sister on the phone for her when I can. (Her half sister was living with their mom but when mom moved away in August, she left her half sister behind with grandma) I've even offered to pick up her half sister so they can visit and go out to dinner together but BM won't allow it. BM stopped picking up her half sister a couple of months ago so SD lost her mom & sister in this mess.

We have a huge problem with BM communicating with DH and we've resorted to only using email or text because she will say one thing and later deny it or say that she said something different and so we want it in writing. BM doesn't have any problem calling DH while he's at work or in the evenings and she usually responds to his texts or emails right away. That is why it's very upsetting that she doesn't call her daughter back, and we have to deal with the daughter being angry and hurt.

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justnotmartha

KKNY, your consistent use of sarcasm contradicts your earlier statement "And there is no need for sarcasm." I find that it truly takes the merit out of your opinions when you resort to sarcastic statements lumping all stepmothers into one evil group. If you want to have your opinions respected, be respectful.

It's been asked several times why you don't take issue with or respond to the fact that a mom restricts her daughter from calling her dad. We know you don't restrict your DD, but how do you feel about a mother that does? Isn't it just as wrong from a mother to do that as it is a father/SM to restrict calling mother?

And why is it that you seem to be able to ignore those pieces of a situation and instead focus only on what you can use to paint the step parent in a bad light? It's rather self serving, IMO. It's like telling my SD she can have a friend over AFTER she cleans her room . . . she only hears the first part of the sentence that furthers her cause. I call her out on her childish behavior and I will do the same with you.

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theotherside

Are these monitoring SM's actually standing over the children's shoulders all the time? Don't the kids ever go to a friend's house or to the library without them? Surely by the time they are 12 or 13 they would realize they could open a new email account that they only access away from the house.

There are no excuses for either parent to not let a child call/email their other parent. This is just so wrong. These parents we are discussing are not sexual predators; you are not hiding from them in fear for your life.

It is useless to argue this with people who think it is ok to monitor or restrict the children's communication with their parent - this is a difference in basic core values analogous to trying to argue with someone who doesn't believe in freedom of religion.

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finedreams

this thread explains a lot to me why so many steparents complain about bad relationship with their stepkids. You cannot possibly have a good relationship with children under the circumstances described.

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ceph

I was a 14 yo with an email account not too terribly long ago. The internet has changed a lot in the past 12 years, but as one of the only people on this site who was a teen with the internet came along, I think I may have a different perspective on privacy.
When we got a connection, my mom told me that if I used the computer, I had to leave the office door open. She would come and go from the room regularly, sometimes for a reason, sometimes just to see what I was doing.
She said something along the lines of "I'd like for you to write down your login information for your email and ICQ and all that. We'll put it in this sealed envelope and into the desk drawer. That way, if I ever need to access your email, I can, but you'll know that I did. I know that I can't stop you from opening another email account and hiding it from me, but be aware that I don't want you to do that"
So I always knew that what I did ~could~ be monitored at anytime, but my mom trusted me enough to never open the envelope. I knew when she asked me to do this that she trusted me, but wanted access for "just in case" and this was 100% OK with me.

As for phone calls to parents... Maybe my situation was different as a kid and early teen because my parents were together, but unless I specifically said "I would like this to be a private conversation" it was fair game for Mom and Dad to share.
I remember being upset with my dad once at about 8 or 9 yo and telling my mom I wanted to talk to her about Dad, but didn't want her to tell him. She said "OK, but after we talk about it and you feel better, I think ~you~ should talk to Dad about it"

My dad drove truck when I was a teenager. At that time, cell phones were a lot more expensive, so I wasn't allowed to call my dad whenever the whim hit me. I had to wait until dad called us, or until after 6 pm.
There was also an expectation in our house that when you're mad at one parent for saying "no", you don't go crying to the other, you sort it out with whoever told you "no" or made you clean your room, etc. If it was something longer term or larger scale, then you could talk to the other parent about it for help and advice, but you didn't go behind anyone's back.

I think that all gets complicated when parents are split, but IMO the same principles should be in place.
- Don't run to Dad when Mom or SD says no (etc)
- Parents don't hide things from each other, so anything you say is fair game for parental discussion.
- If you have a problem, it's OK to talk to the other parent for advice, but you sort it out with the parent the problem is with as soon as you have your head on straight about it.
- If Mom or Dad says "not right now" about calling the other, you listen and call once they say it's OK.

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mom_of_4

I don't think that anyone said that they don't let children contact their parent in any way. With the one exception of IMA and her DH in a very specific circumstance that may require it in their case. Since we are not there to witness the aftermath of such calls then who are we or anyone to judge.

And I personally, highly resent the "this thread explains a lot to me why so many steparents complain about bad relationship with their stepkids. You cannot possibly have a good relationship with children under the circumstances described" Considering I have a fantastic relationships with all of my children.

And further, you do not have to stand over a child's shoulder all of the time to make them be cautious of their activties. Mostly the very fact that they know that at any time we could be checking on what is going on is enough to make them think twice before doing something we wouldnt approve of or that may be dangerous. And while it may be step moms who are involved in this current conversation do not delude yourselves into thinking that these were decisions made soley by us. As I have said time and again my DH and I are a team and all decisions are our decisions. And in this case BM is on the same page as well.

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finedreams

"If Mom or Dad says "not right now" about calling the other, you listen and call once they say it's OK".

Absolutelly unacceptable rule. Children should call their parents when they need to. Unless fo course somebody else uses the phone. Peiople on this forum are talking not about moms and dads limiting chidlren's contact but stepparents not allowing stepchildren to freely communicate to their bioparents. Ceph, wait when you have your own children and see how your views will change. I would never tell my daughter to not call her father. Never.

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kkny

Ceph,

I think the email from serenity says it best, that rules that work in intact families dont always work that well when parents dont live togethor.

And I dont think restricting phone calls by child to parent is right. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this one.

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kathline

It doesnt reallly matter whether its a stepfamily home or an intact family home. Reading another person's mail, snooping in another persons dresser, listening in on other peoples conversations, all indicate a lack of respect for that person. Teens will almost without exception react negatively to an invasion of their privacy, and will learn new ways to hide things from you if they dont feel that their rights are being respected.

Invading someone's privacy should be done only in the most compelling circumstances, for the shortest amount of time, and only if the risk of not invading the privacy will result in serious damage to the other person.

Try to justify it any way you like, but in reality, unless you strongly suspect the child is endangering him or herself, you have no reason to snoop. You are inviting a power struggle.

I remember being 13 and having my mom snoop in my diary. I dont think I ever trusted her again.

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mom_of_4

I don't think saying not right now is restricting access to a parent. Especially when you are dealing with younger children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying.. not right now especially when I am in the middle of cooking dinner and up to my elbows in flour or some such concoction and my phone is in my room. Not right now is perfectly reasonable response. And there are about a million other reasons why not right now is acceptable. Like go get a shower... Can I call mom... Not right now, when you get out of the shower you can.

Ceph:
I think that all gets complicated when parents are split, but IMO the same principles should be in place.
- Don't run to Dad when Mom or SD says no (etc)
- Parents don't hide things from each other, so anything you say is fair game for parental discussion.
- If you have a problem, it's OK to talk to the other parent for advice, but you sort it out with the parent the problem is with as soon as you have your head on straight about it.
- If Mom or Dad says "not right now" about calling the other, you listen and call once they say it's OK.

And personally I think these are perfectly reasonable principals to live by. If you are working in the best interests of raising a child instead of petty differences. I think a lot of problems stem from the fact that we forget basic rules of parenting like children should not run to another parent when they have been told no .. simply because there has been a divorce. Things like this really shouldn't change.

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kkny

Mom, because there is a divorce, that means child is not living with one parent at any given point in time. That makes all the difference in the world.

Kathleen, I agree snooping is snooping. But it is ten times worse when someone wants to read your mail to your mother.

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ceph

Here are a few examples of when I don't think it's unreasonable to say "not right now" and I'm quite certain I will still think are OK when I have my own kids:

- I have a cell phone. It's pay-as-you-go and I put $10 on it each month to use only for very quick calls when it's absolutely necessary ("I'm caught behind a car accident and will be late for work" etc). We were out the other day and A__ wanted to use my cell phone to call his mom to tell her that he saw a yellow hummer. I said "No, my phone is just for emergencies, but you can call her when we get home to tell her about it"... He called when we got home.

- At supper the other night, A__ was mad because we told him he had to finish his salad before he had more pasta. He wanted to call him mom to tell her that he thought this was unfair. My BF said "No, but if you're still mad after supper, you can call her then"... He didn't care after supper and didn't call her.

- We had an extra good day a few months ago. A__ was well behaved all day, we did a bunch of fun stuff, he did really well on his reading, etc. BM had to work at 6am the next day and had asked my BF to take A__ that day so she could go to bed early and wouldn't have to drive him to her mom's at 5:30 am. A__ wanted to call her at almost 11pm to tell her what a good day we had. My BF said "Mom has to work really early and will already be sleeping, so why don't you write her a letter about today and give it to her tomorrow when you see her?"... A__ liked this idea just fine and BM got to continue sleeping.

- When the other parent is long-distance and it's cheaper at certain times of day. That's why I didn't call my dad in the middle of the day and I never felt this infringed on my rights. It made perfect sense to me to call after 6pm.

- If the parent isn't supposed to receive personal calls at work (unless it's an emergency) and the kid wants to talk during the day, I don't think it's unreasonable to say "not right now". Maybe a system of "Mom will call on her lunch break" can be put into effect? That could be sorted out with the situation.

I don't mean that kids shouldn't be allowed to talk to their other parent, just that sometimes it's not practical or logical to call at that moment... So if the parent says "not right now" for a good reason, the kid should listen.

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mom_of_4

Just because there is a divorce does not mean parents should let children do things like If dad says no run to mom to try and get another answer. The parents should work together to raise the children. For example: oldest 10 wanted to get his ear pierced. Mom said no. Despite the fact that he really wanted this and Dad was okay with it. Dad backed up mom. However, oldest got an Ipod for his 10th bday. Ofcourse everyone else wanted one as well. Dad told everyone else no, not until your 10th bday. It is expensive and you have to wait until we feel you are old enough to handle the responsibility. Kids asked mom, mom said don't worry about it I will get you one. Obviously, dad was POed. He called her explained the reasoning at the time she said to bad I will do what I want. Well, if that is the case I suppose I can take my son to get his ear pierced. A day or two later mom called back saying I thought about what you said and I won't get the ipods. It also doesnt mean that there should EVER be things that one parent doesnt know about the child. Both parents should always be fully aware of what is going on and work together to correct the situation ie: the cause of an enormous issue over christmas. And so on.. just because parents aren't living together does not make these things null and void.

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finedreams

Kathline, great points. It is lack of respect towards stepchidlren. And it is not only Sks they are spying on, they spy on what BMs say to ther children. i suspect some of it comes from SMs' insecurities and establishing territory. There is no children's interest involved. What children's rights or interests are protected by reading their letters to their mom? None. Only SM's. Then don't be surprised when kids grow up and are not appreciative and resent you. Well duhh

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finedreams

I agree that both parents should be aware of what is going on with children, but it could be accomplished some other ways rather than spying on the other parent and a kid.

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justnotmartha

MY DH IS THE ONE TO CHECK HIS DAUGHTER'S EMAIL AND CELL PHONE. HE is the one who will tell her no, you can't call your mom because you are being punished and have been sent to your room as a consequence. If you want to call her afterward to tell her about your poor behavior you may. THIS IS DONE WITH MOM'S KNOWLEDGE.
AND GUESS WHAT? MOM does the same at her house, WITH OUR BLESSING. WE ALL are trying to defuse a situation where SD thinks she can run to the other household when she gets in trouble for sympathy and support. WE ALL agree that this is not restricting contact, it's teaching SD not to pit one house against another. It's teaching SD that consequences for bad actions apply regardless of where you are. It's teaching SD that just because she has a split household she doesn't get a different set of rules. Time out is time out. Running to mom because dad said no will get you in just as much trouble as running to JNM when dad says no.

How 'bout them apples?

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mom_of_4

:-)exactly

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kkny

Sounds to me like some people who dont show respect for their stepchildren and then dont understand why, years later, the stepchildren dont respect them. It is easy to use power or dads money to bully kids. And if the marriage falls apart, they blame it on the kids or the X. Oh well, thank g*d, my DD has minimal contact with Dads GF, and I will make certain she doesnt.

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justnotmartha

KKNY - are you blind? Did you not read my last post? SD'S MOTHER AND FATHER ARE THE ONES DOING THE MONITORING. AND WE ALL AGREE THEY SHOULD.

Don't bother - just toss out another ridiculous, sarcastic and totally off point comment and lose more respect.

"Money and power"? Have you been drinking?!?

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kathline

As I said previously, it doesnt matter if its a stepfamily, or an intact never divorced family. Snooping in someones email, listening on someones phone conversations, searching someones room, unless there is a compelling reason for it, is an invasion of privacy and does not garnish respect from a teen ( or anyone else)

Unless there is an indication that the child is doing something dangerous, or wildly inappropriate, childrens privacy should be respected. I fail to understand the reasoning behind a parent, or stepparent who blatantly and consistently trespasses into the private space of their tee

My own personal opinion of people that snoop is that they are control freaks, who want to manipulate situations to their liking. They are very disrespectful, and I would be willing to bet they would be the first ones whining if someone weere invading THEIR privacy.

Oh well. Opinions are like you know whats and everyone has one. I am sure we both will give each others opinions all the consideration it deserves ( smile). You dont have to agree with me. I am just glad that those of you who think nothing is wrong with snooping, arent part of my family. I would have a difficult time living in harmony with someone who cannot respect boundaries.

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kkny

JNM,

In many divorcees, the man leaves the marriage with more money. And the X wants to make certain child is taken care of.

No, I havent been drinking.

And I suspect that when some SMs here are older, and may experience DH leaving them for younger or richer woman, they may be more understanding of dynamics of situation.

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ceph

I'm not quite certain how me saying "No, my cell phone is for emergencies only. But you can call Mom when we get home" or my BF saying "No, you can't call Mom during supper to complain that we're making you eat your salad. But if you're still mad after, you can call her then" is bullying A__.
Maybe you meant furtively reading emails without the kid's knowledge, not the practical things like Mo4 saying "I'll go get the phone for you once I'm no longer up to my elbows in flour"?
Could you clarify?

One thing though, if I were you, I'd be wary of making sure ex's GF has minimal contact with DD. I'd be concerned that this would cause trouble between her and her dad and weaken their relationship... or that it would come back to bite me later if DD and GF turned out to really hit it off and DD resented me for that she was discouraged from getting to know GF... or that Dad would see me being a jerk about GF and be a jerk right back about whatever he could... etc
I don't mean that you should have her on speeddial and have DD call her every night to tell her about her day, just that I would be concerned that fostering a divide between them could be more problematic than if contact between them was allowed its own organic progress.

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justnotmartha

"JNM,
In many divorcees, the man leaves the marriage with more money. And the X wants to make certain child is taken care of."

What in the world does this have to do with what we were discussing? Do you intentially change the subject when you have been painted into a corner?

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kkny

Ceph

To clarify, no I dont mean you have to go get the phone when your arms are up in flour. I do think reading emails and letters from a child to mom is wrong. I think serenity's post on this was the best.

My DD is 16. She has her own mind. Bad wording on my part, she decides. It happens her decision is same as mine -- that a woman who has affair with married man with children cant be trusted.

This post started out as trying to make SD feel welcome. Even if SMs intent is good, I think that reading her emails is not a good idea.

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kkny

Dont know why you are so angry.

Commenting on dynamics of divorced parents. This is a blog, people, inclduing moms, can post what they want, but I dont think I was "painted in a corner", this was just my response to people who think that mom agrees to things out of free will. Maybe yes Maybe no

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ceph

I agree that snooping is an invasion of privacy and shows a lack of respect! The same principles of respect should apply in an intact family or a split one.

I do think though that kids may lack the maturity to warrant complete privacy, so parents should be able to ask to see what they've been up to on the internet, etc. That's when something like my mom used to do with the computer is a good idea - keeping the computer in a public space in the house, and asking for a list of my logins and passwords in a sealed envelope, just in case she ever needed it.

I also think it's good to encourage the kids to have their friends or SOs over to the house once they are teenagers. That way you know who they're hanging out with and have a better idea of what they're up to - eliminating any need to find out through nefarious means!

Diaries and journals should be private though - ESPECIALLY if they keep it stashed away in a hiding place! I knew my journal was totally private. My mom actually asked me when I was about 11 if I would like to keep a private journal that I could hide in my room and it would be totally private. If she ever found it while she was cleaning or something, she would not read it, and if I would like, she would get me a small combination lockbox to keep it in so I could be assured of my privacy for it.
That's terrible for you that your mom went through your journal. I would have trouble trusting her after that too!

For a young child with big troubles, like Ima's SD, I think the lines are a little fuzzy. She deserves privacy and to be able to pour her thoughts and feelings out on paper without anyone else looking at it... but on the other hand, she's not old enough to communicate all her feelings clearly to her parents or her counselor, so it may be beneficial for someone to be checking up on what's going on in her head to try to better her emotional well-being.
If she was 12, I'd probably feel that her writings should be her own, but at 8... I think I lean more towards that as long as no one ever attacks her for anything said in her thoughts book, and anything gleaned from it should only be used to help her, then it might be for the best to keep an eye on it for now. Once she's a little older and in a better emotional place, then it should be hers alone.

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ceph

Thanks for clarifying that for me.

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kathline

I have all of my childrens passwords, voluntarily given to me by them. I havent ever used them to snoop, although my kids, and foster kids in their late teens sometimes have me log into their online banking and pay their bills for them, lol.

You are correct that just the fact that they know you can check if you are concerned about something is enough to keep them from doing anything really stupid, like posting lewd pics , etc. online.

Part of the agreement that I have the passwords is also that I promised , if I ever feel the need to look, I would talk to them about it first, instead of going behind their back.

I also can see checking emails for someone whose child is troubled. But I do have a hard time understanding why any parent or stepparent would read emails intended for the other parent. To me, thats never right.

Part of that is that my stepchildrens stepfather routinely reads through and approve or disapprove of any emails that my stepdchildren send to my husband. The girl in particular is upset and finding it very invasive that her stepfather is reading her mail, and she is starting to react in an angry fashion She feels she has no privacy, and that is not a good way for a girl in her early teens to be feeling.

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imamommy

Kathline, I don't think it's up to anyone, parent or step parent to approve or disapprove of what is written to or from the child & parent.

I'm sure I've stepped on some toes by admitting that I read my SD's letters but I would never take it upon myself to decide if it should be sent or not. If she writes it with the intention of sending it, it gets sent. The only purpose reading it serves is to help her counselor know what issues may need to be focused on. It has helped and hopefully she won't need to be in counseling at all eventually. But, as with my own daughter, if I felt she was having problems again, I wouldn't hesitate to look for the reason why.

My kids know that all electronics (text messages, email, etc) are always subject to my review, even if I found that there is a problem, I probably wouldn't tell them how I found out. I would address the problem and deal with the issue at hand, instead of making it a situation where they will react to feeling their privacy was violated. When I found out my daughter was having problems and wanting to hurt herself, I didn't go to her and say "I found these poems you wrote" but I did address her feelings and through talking, she opened up and told me the problems. I don't think she told me before because she either didn't know how to bring it up or didn't think I would understand. If I had told her that I found her poems and read them, it might have turned into an argument about her privacy and the issue of why she wanted to hurt herself would not have gotten addressed. As a parent, I think we have the right to know what our kids are doing and we have a responsibility to know if they are quietly suffering and help them through these rough times. I agree that kids will be angry if they know and while I don't advocate being dishonest or lying, if you have a child that is troubled or having problems, the parents need to know and sometimes they are good at hiding it.

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justnotmartha

KKNY - why would you assume mom was coerced into anything? She actually came to us, if you want the truth. Why is it so hard for you to admit your sterotype may not apply here?

Not mad at all, just amazed that you can't open your eyes past what you want to see.

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kkny

JNM, I just asked the question. Because I think most moms have issues with violating childs privacy.

And this thread, with SMs insisting they have the right to read letters, monitor emails to child doesnt do lot to eliminate any stereotypes.

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justnotmartha

I'm not sure what your "question" even was.

What if the father is reading letters to the mother? Or the mother is reading letters to the father? What does that do to your stereotype?

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theotherside

If two divorced parents decided they didn't want their child to pit them against each other, rather than forbidding phone calls when the child is upset with one of them, I think it would be far better for them to allow the child to call the other parent, who would then back up the other parent. Then the child learns that his/her parents back each other up - as opposed to learning that his/her parent interferes with communication with the other parent.

All these kids seem to be constantly being punished for one thing or another, far more than seems normal to me.

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justnotmartha

You are SO right TOS. In a perfect word this is exactly what would happen, but unfortunately too many parents have their own agendas and would rather tell their child that dad/mom was wrong to punish you for that, you poor little dear. If you were here with mom/dad that wouldn't happen. They put their agenda before the best interest of their child, so instead of telling the child "yes, it was wrong for you to spit on your brother and you deserve to be in your room" they will make the punishing parent the bad guy to make themselves look better in the child's eyes. Trust me, it happens more than you know as I don't believe you would do that.

Since the big pow wow with mom and step dad last week we do back each other up. I have often suggested if she wants to call her mom when she gets in trouble that we can both call mom, explain SD's behavior and see what mom has to say about it. The urge to call mom suddenly vanishes as it's not a true desire to talk to mom, it's a desire to hear that we were wrong to punish her. Mom actually has called me several times when SD has misbehaved with her to have me talk to SD because she won't listen to mom. (there are many issues wrong there that I won't get into now, but they are being worked on as of the pow wow. Yah!) Prior to this it was almost a given that unless SD had robbed a bank she would be told by mom we were big meanies. After years of this mom has realized the situation she created by making her life into a competition to be the nicest parent. Now she is cracking down the whip and trying to reverse years of learned behavior in a day.

So to reel myself back in, yes it would be far better to operate as you suggested. But sadly, unless you have two rational and supportive parties it just doesn't happen.

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imamommy

TOS

since my household is the one that doesn't allow (or forbid as you put it) SD to call her mom when she's upset, it is because of the additional problems it creates. (so please don't make it sound like other SM's do that, because I don't see that anyone else has said any such thing and implying it is unfair.)

If the situation were that her mom and dad were united in an effort to keep her from pitting them against each other, there would be no problem letting her call. When she did call (because she used to), she would start crying harder and mom couldn't understand her and when dad tried to explain the problem, mom would start yelling at dad because she couldn't handle hearing her baby cry. It never matters why she's in trouble, it's always "poor baby" and we are wrong to punish her for anything. What's the point of SD calling her mom when her mom can't change our rules or punishments?

Like JNM's situation, BM has made several requests to "get together" to work on being united. Every time we have scheduled it, she has some reason she can't do it. She insisted SD was ADHD and she couldn't handle her on her weeks (this was before she moved away) and said she needed to see a psychiatrist. She wanted to get medication for her daughter. We ended up making the appointments because although she kept insisting there was a problem, she never made the appointment. She went to a few sessions with a therapist that didn't feel her daughter was ADHD. As we were leaving, BM turned to me and said she needs to find a "real" doctor that can get medication for her daughter. We have used behavior modification techniques as well as just being very consistent with SD and most of her behavioral problems have ceased. Yet, she still has behavioral problems at BM's house and BM thinks the only solution is to medicate an otherwise healthy child.

I'm really paying attention to JNM's situation to see how long it lasts. I hope it works out (it would give me more hope) but then again, it doesn't seem that we are dealing with a BM that is nearly as rational as the one she has to deal with.

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theotherside

The parents were probably rational enough to raise their children when they were together. I suspect it would be a lot easier for them to act rationally if THEY AND THEY ALONE were dealing with any behavioral issues.

How often do these kids get punished? I don't think I've punished my kids more than a couple of times a year at most. I don't remember ever being punished after I was about 8 or so. Most infractions don't warrant anything more than a "Stop annoying your sister." I have rarely sent anyone to their room - what would be the point, when they "send" themselves to their rooms when they are upset.

My kids know about as much about Internet safety as I do. My youngest is not allowed to get on the Internet when no one is home, so she doesn't. One day I was about to go somewhere, and she was the only child awake. She was on Neopets or Webkins, and she said, "But Mom, if you are leaving, I can't be on the Internet." I am sure I would have completely forgotten. She keeps track of the rules better than I do.

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imamommy

The most recent incident didn't involve punishment. SD loves Tuna and I can't eat Tuna so since we usually all eat the same thing, she doesn't eat Tuna a lot. This last weekend, we were talking about lunch. DH came to me and said SD wanted a tuna sandwich for lunch. I suggested that they go ahead and eat that, I'll fix myself something else. She was happy about it but as soon as she saw that I was having a corndog and fries, she decided she didn't want her sandwich. DH told her she already ate most of it and she isn't getting corndogs. She got upset and started whining, "can I call my mom?" DH told her no, eat your lunch. She was allowed to call her later when she wasn't upset anymore but then she got her mom's voice mail. Mom didn't call her back until Wednesday...

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justnotmartha

Well TOS, as you have stated that you don't have problems with your kids swearing at teachers or adults I'm sure your boundaries for acceptable behavior are a little broader than my DH and I and therefore our children are sent to their room more often. I am more than fine with that equation given the source. My children don't get upset and send themselves to their rooms. They are sent away from the family as a consequence of their poor choices.

"The parents were probably rational enough to raise their children when they were together." Really? Would you care to ask my husband if his ex wife was rational when she would hold their 2 year old daughter in front of her when she was screaming at him and then chase him down when he would walk away rather than deal with her under those circumstances? Would you care to make any other completely unfounded statements about his life? He is actually laughing in awe that you would actually have the nerve to make such a statement.

"I suspect it would be a lot easier for them to act rationally if THEY AND THEY ALONE were dealing with any behavioral issues." Are you daring to imply that having a step mother and step father causes her behavior issues? I truly expected more from you. How disappointing. Perhaps you forget I am the one mom comes to when she can't get her daughter to listen or behave as SD does not act that way with me? You must have also forgot that mom and step dad came to DH and I asking to emulate our home as hers was failing badly under the way she was running it?

Yes, I'm sure you forgot. SM couldn't be getting it right and curbing poor behavior rather than creating it.

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theotherside

Yes, I do think that divorce and blended families often cause behavioral issues in the children.

I think it is inappropriate of him to be sharing details of his life with his exW with you. If I were ever to remarry, I certainly would not share details of my relationship with my exH with a new spouse.

My children's right to free speech is never abridged in our house. Not one of them has ever had detention and they rarely "misbehaved" in school.

I do think something is wrong if children are behaving in a way that merits frequent punishment - either their supervisors are too rigid, or something is bothering the children that should be addressed.

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finedreams

I was grounded once in my life, in 6th grade. I got bad grades and lied to my parents, but they of course found out when they visted my school and it was pretty embarassing. I wasn't allowed to go to a Christmas party and i already had a dress purchased. But then on that day my dad felt bad and changed his mind and let me go. It is funny how vividly I remember that. i also remember that I didn't feel bad about being grounded because I knew that what i did was wrong. I also remember that i felt that my dad's decision to end my punishment was the right decision. It taught me more than punishment. I never got bad grades after that not because I was afraid of punishment but because I was forgiven. I don't think punishment teaches anything.

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mom_of_4

I have four kids all 10 and under. Getting into trouble is a regular thing. Right now, our oldest is spending his latest stint on a two week grounding for lieing about his homework last weekend. It is part of being a kid growing up making mistakes and hopefully learning from them. Although, some are much more hard headed than others. Actions have consequences. Just like when my daughter made up a big lie about cupcakes at school. She was grounded to her room for the day and we had a loooong talk about what lieing is and why you can't do that.

And, ofcourse they were rational enough to raise their children on their own when they were together. That is why they got divorced... because everything was so hunky dory. It wouldn't have anything to do with the raging fights that would be egged on by mom following dad in the car with all of the kids when he would try to walk away. Or the fact that he would come home from work to find she had been home with the kids all day and they hadnt even been fed. (which btw I know you will say is only his side but numerous people have backed these stories up including some that were friends of hers until she started babysitting for them and decided not to feed their child either and was a habit she kept up while I was with DH.. dropping the kids off late in the evening without having eaten at all that day) I couldn't possibly have been a positive influence on their life. I mean I am only the one who got them into a new school, got them into activities (that I paid for on my own), signed them up for and took them to tutoring every other day, sat and did "special homework" on the weekends and any other time I could fit it in to bring them up to grade level at least. I am the person who sits and does craft projects and scrap books with them and curls the girls hair for special events. No, ofcourse not my very existance in their lives is somehow damaging. It does not matter that I am the one with the cool head saying now is not the time to get into this. Ofcourse it is all my fault because I am younger than the ex wife is and I make more money?? I really don't see how any of these things line up.

And, really... do you honeslty think in the midst of dealing with the past on a day to day basis. And continously feeling the reprocussion of the ex's anger that our spouse wouldnt share about their past. My DH and I talk about everything. It is one of the things both he and I have said in the past that we enjoy the most. We can sit and talk all night about our past, about our future, our kids...everything. There is nothing that is off limits. Just because I happen to be a second wife does not mean that suddenly we have to have subjects that are off limits to each other that we can't discuss. One of the things my mom always told me about her marriage to dad was "Out of anyone in this world I know I can tell him anything and not have to edit myself" And, just because I am the second wife does not mean that our marriage will fail. And to be honest I am truly sorry for what your husbands did to you. I think it is reprehensible but as with the ex wife I am tired of thinking well they are just hurting. Not everyone's marriage will end in divorce just because yours did. Not everyone's husband will leave them for a younger woman just because yours did. And I am entirely sick of being told otherwise. And, I am entirely sick of being told that we are abusing the situation with money and power or whatever it is that is in your head... or that this situation is soley caused by the SM or sparent. Because sometimes, it is just not us. Sometimes we are doing everything we can for these kids and our husbands.. sometimes we are doing what is right.

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ceph

"All these kids seem to be constantly being punished for one thing or another, far more than seems normal to me."

Here are some of the recent (approx past two months) things punishments A__ has received when with us and why and how often:
- No Warcraft for four days for swearing at a teacher (this one was implemented by BM and we upheld it) - 1x
- The office chair is taken away from him because he uses it as a jungle gym. He sits on a kitchen chair now. If he continues to climb on it, he will be sitting on a stacking stool. - Ongoing
- Sent to the other room for refusing to apologize for being sexist (ie "Ceph cooked supper for us because women are supposed to cook and clean for men") - 2x
- No popcorn for harassing the cats - ~4x
- Sent to the other room for telling his dad that he hates him - ~5x
- No Warcraft tonight AND go to the other room to calm down for taking all the cushions off the couches to make a fort (which is no big deal) but then pouring a glass of water on one of them to make a moat and screaming at the top of his lungs when instructed to get a towel to clean it up AND then throwing a cushion at his dad when BF told him to stop screaming - 1x
- Skipped dessert and had to do the supper dishes by himself because he spit food on the table, refused to clean it up, got up from the table about 5 times during supper without asking, and didn't want to take his own plate to the sink after the meal - 1x

If he's sent to the other room, he can come out when he's calmed down and/or ready to apologize. When he apologizes or does what he was told to do in the first place, the incident is over and we go back to things as usual.
He goes to the other room anywhere from 0 to 5 times in a weekend, and stays in there for anywhere from 1 to 90 minutes. I'd say most weekends he gets sent to the other room once and stays there for about 5 minutes.

Here are some rewards A__ has received when with us in the same time period:
- Go to my lab for a tour and look under the microscopes for doing homework without being told and being good all morning - 1x
- Got comfy chair back for sitting properly for 1/2 hour - Ongoing
- Pick dessert for tonight for being good at the grocery store - ~3x
- Extra 15 minutes of Warcraft for a variety of different good behaviors - ~5x
- Go to riverbank to look at ice (his choice of activity - I thought it was weird, but I'm not 8) for being polite all day - 1x
- High fives for getting a hard word right when we're reading - ~20x ?? (I really don't know, it's a lot)
- "Good job A__!" or "I'm proud of you kiddo!" or "That's awesome!" gets said about twenty times a day for all sorts of things that he does

So yes, A__ is in trouble quite a lot... But when you consider that the positive reinforcement for the good things he does is nearly constant, spending five minutes in your room because you screamed at your dad you hate him and threw your shoes down the hallways when he said you should put your shoes in the closet (that was in September or October, so not on my above list) isn't really that extreme.

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justnotmartha

"Yes, I do think that divorce and blended families often cause behavioral issues in the children."

This is a different statement than you made early with completely different implications. Of course divorce and a blended family can cause issues. But it is often that whole picture, not just the new spouses (not saying that they aren't sometimes a problem, but this is not the case every time.)

One of these fights I mentioned was actually witnessed by me and several other of our co-workers, so it would be difficult to hide. But as momof4 said, we do not hide our pasts with eachother. That isn't just talking about his ex, it's talking about him, too. Why should he hide his life to spare her embarrsement? If you won't be proud of something you do being shared, don't do it.

You can't have it both ways, TOS. You can't preach that the first family doesn't disapear when an ex remarries but then say the ex can never discuss the first family. How can you have a relationship with any depth when your life "started" the day you met each other?

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theotherside

ceph,

I think it is very wrong to punish a child for something they said. My kids are free to say they hate me, etc. It is one thing to talk to them later about how saying things like that is hurtful, but my kids are never punished for what they say.

justnotmartha,

The first family does not disappear, and the relationship between the father and mother does not disappear, but this relationship is ENTIRELY SEPARATE from the relationship between the people in the second marriage. My exH was married very briefly several years before we met. I never grilled him about his first wife - he volunteered a little information, but not a lot, and that was fine. When he suggested giving away some of the wedding gifts they had gotten, I asked him if he was sure he wanted to because I thought they might have sentimental value. This woman/girl was a part of his life, but not a part of MY life.

I think it is ironic that is previous posts SM's have complained when the children reminisce about pleasant times they had with their parents when they were together, and yet you want your husband to tell you all about his first wife. Would you feel the same way if he started telling you all the good things about their life together?

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justnotmartha

It's strange you would assume I would "grill" my husband. Is it not possible he would volunteer information? I have asked periodic questions - "How did you and ex handle holidays with family?" or "Did ex read to SD as a baby?" Hardly the grilling you imply. Has DH volunteered several pieces of the past? Yes. Do I discourage him? No. Nor do I discourage him from asking anything about my past. Why would I hide it from my husband, and why would he hide his from me?

I don't recall saying I wanted to hear all about his past. I just don't want him to feel like he can't talk of it. And yes, I would love to hear something positive about their life together as it might give me some understanding of what he ever saw in her in the first place. My SD doesn't remember life with both parents together so I'm sure that unfounded statement you meant couldn't be directed at me.

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theotherside

justnotmartha,

It was not an unfounded statement, but it wasn't directed at anyone in particular. Awhile ago there was a thread in which some SM's were complaining because the stepchildren sometimes brought up events from the past, back when their parents were together, and it annoyed them.

Why would you care if his wife read to her daughter as a baby? (Did you ask if HE read to his daughter as a baby?)

You know they must have had some good times, or he wouldn't have married her. If he never mentions them, yet talks about other parts of his life with his exW, I would wonder why.

I don't know that I would have fallen in love with my exH if he had been highly critical of his first wife. I would have been difficult to respect him if he had not respected his first wife enough to limit discussion of their personal life together. I never felt that he had to hate her in order to love me. I never felt that he had to criticize her in order to confirm his feelings for me.

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imamommy

Well, aren't we the evil step mothers? We all want our husbands to hate his ex. We all think that it's the ex's fault they aren't together. We all think that our husbands are perfect. We all wish that the ex and children didn't exist. and We only want to hear what a witch the ex was....

Yes, we are an evil bunch. Yes, just a bunch of desperately lonely women that need a man so badly in our lives that we settle for only men that bash their ex's. We are so insecure that we don't want to think that he has ever had a happy day in his life with anyone other than us. Heck, I think my husbands child was conceived the one time his ex tied him up and forced herself on him the night she got him drunker than he's ever been. Yeah... that's what I think.

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theotherside

Well, the posts of the last few days have certainly gone a fair piece toward convincing me that your latest post is not as farcical as you intended it to be.

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justnotmartha

Funny, I forgot where I said he had to hate her. Maybe you could refresh my memory? You wouldn't - again - be making unfounded statements for which you have no basis would you?

Why does it matter to you why I cared? Why does it matter to you what my husband wants to share with me? Why are you the judge and jury about what he should feel appropriate to share about HIS life with HIS wife?

You don't know why they got married, or if they had any good times, and I am amazed each time you make these baseless statements. Not that it's any of your business, but he married her because she got pregnant on a post breakup tryst . . . just as his father did with his mother. It was what he felt he had to do, and it didn't last long. I don't doubt that they had some great times, and hope that they did. This in no way threatens me. I'm still trying to figure out why you think I would need him to hate her.

Ima - i heart sarcasm.

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theotherside

As I said before, I wouldn't want my H to be highly critical of his first wife. I did not say that YOU wanted your H to hate his wife - just that I did not. If you want to read something into that statement that I didn't intend, go ahead.

Just as you can often predict how your husband will treat you based on how he treats his mother, you can also predict how your husband will treat you based on how he treats his first wife.

Let's just say hypothetically that someone (not you) had a husband who routinely recounted stories of stupid things his first wife had done, of the I Love Lucy variety. The second wife could be pretty sure that he would do the same with his third wife, if he and she divorced or if she died first.

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finedreams

ceph, with such extensive and elaborate punishment routine
all you will cause is more rebellion. It seems like he is constantly punished for something.

he doesn't seem to get better so why do you think he will change just because you keep punishing? As he will get older he will be more creative in his misbehavior if you cotinue pushing it. Would you be punishing your own child that much too?

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kkny

FD, I think there is a tendacy for SMs to be tougher on stepchildren. But all they say is there child is well behaved, etc., but steps are a terror. And then they want more control over steps.

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imamommy

"Yes, I do think that divorce and blended families often cause behavioral issues in the children."

No duh!!! Divorce alone can cause behavioral issues in some children. As does fighting parents in intact families. It isn't the divorce or remarriage that causes behavioral problems, it's the conflict that those situations that can cause behavioral problems. (& I'm sure there are other reasons too)

If there is conflict in an intact marriage, the kids are more likely to have behavioral problems.

If there is conflict in a divorce, the kids are more likely to have behavioral problems.

If there is conflict in a remarriage (either between the new couple, the divorced couple or the ex & new spouse), then the kids are more likely to have behavioral problems.

If the grown ups act like grown ups and don't allow conflict into their children's lives, the children are less likely to have behavioral problems. However, some kids can still have behavioral problems regardless of their situation. Blaming it on divorce or blended families is ridiculous.

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theotherside

If there is no conflict in the first marriage (which would include conflict resulting from adultery) there would be no reason for the divorce to occur.

There is no such thing as divorce without conflict. There is no such thing as blended families without conflict. There is actually no such thing as life without conflict, but divorce and remarriage exacerbate it.

Many behavioral issues are a direct result of divorce and attempts at blending families.

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imamommy

I agree with you to a point TOS, but I will bet that there are plenty of divorced people and blended families living out there without conflict because they are behaving as grown ups and doing what's in the best interest of their children.

And adultery or conflict is not the only reason people get divorced. Some people get married young and grow apart. I have seen 'amicable' divorces where they just agree that they are not happy or that they have changed into wanting different things. It's not always one sided. So I don't necessarily agree that there is no such thing as divorce without conflict. The conflict may occur when only one spouse wants to leave and the other is hurt or angry at being left. Every situation is different and I'm not addressing your particular situation.

If mom and dad are civil to each other, the kids are not going to be affected as much as if they are fighting all the time and dragging each other back to court for every little thing. Sure, they may not like each other, they may even hate each other, but if they put their feelings aside, it's better for their kids to not be a part of that or see them argue or fight. And that includes when one or both of them remarry. If all of the adults are mature enough to put aside their negative feelings in front of the kids, then the kids are going to be better off. (and that also means that even if you act civil to each other, face to face, the actual damage is done when you say negative things in front of your child about the other person, even if that person isn't there to hear it.)

That's just my opinion, you don't have to agree and I see that your opinion is that divorce and blending families causes the problems. I respect that and you are entitled to your opinion.

Our kids learn from watching adults. You can tell your child it is wrong to steal, but if they see you leave the store when a clerk forgot to charge you for something, they will learn that it's ok to take things you haven't paid for. If negative things are said or a negative attitude is shown, that is what the kids pick up on and that is what they are learning to do as well.

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theotherside

I have yet to hear about a divorce that involved neither adultery nor abuse, either physical or substance. I think it is very rare. "Wanting different things" usually means one of them wants the next door neighbor or his/her coworker, as does the "not happy" bull.

Although I agree that going back to court all the time is a waste of time and money, pretending that everything is hunky dory fools no one. It is fine to be civil to each other, but if you think the kids don't know how you really feel, you aren't giving them much credit.

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imamommy

I'll agree it may not be the 'norm' but I've seen several in my job. I only see a very tiny percentage of divorces over all and if I have seen several that were 'amicable' and not due to adultery or abuse, I would disagree that it's VERY rare. I have one couple that is very friendly through their divorce. They both hire me to serve each other, just so it's all done 'legal' because they don't have an attorney.

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ifiknewthen

Many behavioral issues are a result of poor parenting that came well before the divorce and/or remarriage.

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ceph

The only time in that stretch of time that I determined what a punishment will be was when A__ has made a sexist remark directly to me (I sent him to the bedroom until he was ready to apologize for not treating women with respect), so I'm not making his life horrible. I will uphold rules or rewards/punishments put in place by Mom or Dad, but rarely decide them on my own. Oh - and I have chair removal/replacement authority.

TOS - the reason A__ gets sent to his room for things he says is that he will say horrible deliberately hurtful things at even very little things like "Please put your shoes in the closet so no one trips on them" or "No, you can't have a can of pop tonight. You had your can of pop this afternoon."
When the response to a cheerful "OK kiddo, it's time to get your stuff together to go to soccer. We have to leave in 20 minutes." is a venomous "I hate you! You're the worst dad in the world! I want you to die so you can't be mean to me ever again", he goes to the other room to calm down (because screaming and throwing things often follows next if he's not sent to somewhere quiet to mellow out) and to think about why what he said was the wrong choice.
Different kids have different reactions and different levels, so if your kids are angry with you, remark that they hate you and it gets left at that, then that's fine for you guys.
If it's just grumbling about "You're so mean for always making me take my plate to the sink" or "I hate picking up the Xbox and you're a jerk for making me do it", then I agree with you that it's better just talk about how that wasn't nice and that everyone has to pick up after themselves. When it's malicious shouting, or sexism/racism/classism that's another story for us.

FD - I'm not sure what's elaborate... Occasionally there are two parts (1- Go to the other room to calm down so you're not screaming any more or to think about why what you did was wrong and 2- The actual punishment)... The no dessert and do the dishes alone started off as just "You should be sitting at the table during the meal. I've asked you three times now to stay at the table through the meal, and if you get up again, you're not having any dessert" Then when he spit food on the table (on purpose) and refused to clean it up, doing the dishes on his own was added. Could I ask what you would have done in that situation? How would you have disciplined getting up repeatedly even though he was asked and told not to, followed by spitting food onto the table and belligerently saying "No. I won't. You do it." to his Dad when told to "Go get a dishtowel to clean that up." ?
We know that no popcorn tonight for bugging the cats is a little abstract, but we can't come up with anything directly related to the cats (the only thing my BF thought of was making him clean the litter box for being mean to the cats, but thought that was too extreme) so we stick with popcorn and try to be consistent with it. Any alternate suggestions?
Haha, FD - I got a good-natured chuckle out of your interpretation that his behavior isn't improving! I know it may not sound like it, but he IS getting better! Punishments for bad choices and rewards for good choices is working, believe it or not! I love him very much, but to be honest, how A__ was when I was first getting involved with my BF really made me hesitant to get serious with them. i could tell that A__ has a HUGE heart, and that made me take the chance that he and my BF were worth it! The progress I've seen in A__ over the past year has really been remarkable - my instinct that this bad behavior was remediable and would be worth it was right.
Even five or six months ago, he was going to the other room about 4 times a day and was down to about 30 minutes of Warcraft, for breaking things on purpose (accidents are never punished for of course), for lying at least daily, for dumping his plate upside down onto the table when he was done eating, for screaming malicious things and swearing, for holding the cats upside down by their back legs, for throwing his clothes out the window or in the garbage because he didn't want to get dressed, and so on. The A__ of today is a peach in comparison to the A__ of six or eight months ago!!
I haven't heard him swear in over two months, shouting name-calling fits are down to less than once a day from at least twice, he chases and annoys the cats but is no longer actually mean to them, he complains that he's bored at the table and tries to get up (and spit his food that one time) but his plate has remained upright for five months now, he rarely lies anymore and he'll admit it right away if he does, he'll still spend half an hour getting his socks on but he doesn't throw them out anymore... He doesn't try to sneak things into the cart or run away at the grocery store anymore because when he's good he often gets to choose dessert for that night but he always gets a high five when we get out the door for behaving so well at the store. He (usually) tells us if he has homework now instead of "forgetting" it at Mom's because he often gets to go do cool activities and always gets lots of praise for doing his homework without being asked. If he sees one of us cleaning, he often asks if we'd like his help because he knows that has gotten him 15 extra minutes of Warcraft in the past.

So, yes, he's in trouble a lot, but he's rewarded a lot too! I've really made an effort with my BF about being consistent with him, asking him to do something (like put his socks on) well in advance, asking him to stop something (like using the computer mouse as a lasso) the first time he does it rather than getting angry the third time, telling him what the consequence/reward will be so he can make a better choice, etc. And now instead of more punishments than rewards, A__ gets more rewards than punishments.
It used to be that the second my BF's back was turned, A__ was doing something bad, but now he's not! He's getting better about being good, even when no on is watching him. We "catch" him being good all the time, his behavior keeps improving, and he's getting better about rewarding himself!

A__ being able to self-reward and self-chastise is a big struggle for everyone involved with him. His ADHD prevents him from getting a neurological boost the way that you or I do when we know we do something good and his poor decision-making skills (also a result of his ADHD) make it hard for him to see the right thing to do... But lately, he's been making better choices and telling us what he chose "I thought about ____the-bad-choice____ but instead I did ___the-good-choice___!!!" and we high five and whoop and holler and celebrate with hugs and kisses...
I know this will seem ridiculous to anyone who doesn't know A__, but I almost cried this weekend when he made a good choice all on his own and self-rewarded for it!! Saturday morning, we did our usual routine (he wakes us up when he gets hungry around 8:30, I get him breakfast and go back to bed for a bit while he plays Warcraft, then BF and I get up around 10:30) and once I was up he said "Andguesswhat I got hungry again after breakfast, butguesswhat instead of having cookies that I knew I probably wasn't supposed to have, guesswhat I had the other half of my orange that you told me was in the fridge. Andguesswhat, since no one was up, I high-fived myself for doing what I was supposed to do!"
OMG I was so happy I nearly cried! I think A__ was a little surprised by the extremity of my reaction: a HUGE hug and "A__ that awesome! I'm sooooo happy that you thought about what to eat and chose what you knew you were allowed to have! You did what you should even though no one was there to make you! That's such a great grown-up thing to do! Wow! I'm proud of you kiddo!" followed by more hugs and a high-five. Then when I passed this onto BF, he also came running from the bedroom, pounced on A__ with a hug and said "I'm proud of you A__! Would you like to have a wrestling match??"

So I think what we're doing is working. A__'s behavior keeps getting better and he is always excited to come over, so musn't be too miserable :)

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theotherside

Many behavioral issues are only in the eye of the beholder. When my kids were little, I met several moms who were all upset because their babies didn't go to sleep by themselves or didn't sleep through the night. My babies nursed to sleep virtually every single night until they weaned, and they never slept through the night until around the time they were weaned. The few times I tried to get them to go to sleep without nursing didn't work very well, and I shouldn't have bothered. Since I didn't regard waking up in the middle of the night as a problem, and since I usually nursed them to sleep, what would have been a behavioral problem for some wasn't for us.

Unfortunately, in a blended family all of a sudden patterns of behavior that weren't regarded as a problem sometimes suddenly are a problem for the biological parent's spouse. The new spouse may try to blame it on "poor parenting" when in fact it is merely a different parenting style.

I think it is unfair to the children to change the rules in the middle of the game. I realize that sometimes that is tricky - I wouldn't recommend a family bed if one of the adult occupants is not the biological parent, and if the child is used to a family bed, that change can be devastating (of course the smart thing to do is not to move another adult into the house, especially when the child is still a baby or a toddler). The same thing applies to other customs and rules - if the kids are used to being able to watch tv while they eat (mine were not, btw), they should continue to be allowed to. Unless all parties, including the kids, agree that a custom or rule should be changed, they should remain unchanged as much as possible.

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lonepiper

"Unfortunately, in a blended family all of a sudden patterns of behavior that weren't regarded as a problem sometimes suddenly are a problem for the biological parent's spouse. The new spouse may try to blame it on "poor parenting" when in fact it is merely a different parenting style."

I agree. I also think that a third perspective of a situation is valuable too. Isn't that why we seek advice? In Ceph's situation, she may have given her boyfriend some ideas, but A___'s father was the one who ultimately decided that they would be beneficial and implemented them.

"The same thing applies to other customs and rules - if the kids are used to being able to watch tv while they eat (mine were not, btw), they should continue to be allowed to."

So you should never introduce the child to something new? Where's the growth in that?

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ceph

Those are really good points TOS... I absolutely agree with you that new blendees shouldn't suddenly try to change the rules!
When I first came along my BF was at his wit's end with A__ and dreaded the weekend when A__ would be with him, A__ was usually handed a Ritalin when he walked in the door of Grandma's, BM cried almost every day because of his bad behavior, Papa and A__ fought all the time and my BF's SM tried to buffer it...

About 7ish months ago, my BF cracked and told me that things need to change because he couldn't handle how A__ was... So I helped him. I have made lots of suggestions (many ideas come from the things I see and like or dislike on this board). Any suggestions I've had have been made to my BF and he's chosen whether or not to go along with my idea. Some have been "Yeah! That's a good idea, let's try it" and some have been "No, I know my boy and that won't work for him"...

I can't say for sure how he is with his Mom now, but when he went home to her in a great mood a few months ago and she asked my BF what was different that weekend, he told her some of the changes at his place... And she liked the changes. I don't know if he still makes her cry every day (I don't think it's my business) but I doubt it.
He doesn't fight so much with Papa anymore and SGM has even commented that "I hope how good he's been lately isn't a phase!" So that's fabulous - although the downside is that now they want to spend more time with him, which gives us less time, but oh well.
When we pick him up from Grandma's, he's not always dosed up on Ritalin anymore. When we picked him up for soccer last week he even commented that "Grandma didn't give me a pill yesterday night OR today after school. I must have been being good."

I know that that the better consistency from us is NOT the sole cause of his improvements - I think it's multifactorial and has some complex feedback loops: Ritalin helps him be better behaved at school, which means he has more friends and is learning better social skills, which means he is better with adults too. Consistency from us makes him better behaved with us, but also smarter about exploiting loopholes, so is forcing us to actually determine a fixed set of rules. Determining a fixed set of rules at BF's house (specifically the one about no malicious name-calling shouting fits) is carrying over to Papa's house to help them get along better, which means he's happier when he's over there and gets more positive reinforcement and puts him in a good mood. If he shows up to GM's in a good mood, he's less likely to get a Ritalin and so he has to maintain good behavior without meds and is learning to make better decisions on his own. And so on... So we're just a part of his changes!!

I totally agree TOS - If I had just marched in and said "These are the new rules" that would have been WRONG WRONG WRONG! So, I waited until my BF wanted to change things and have been helping him along. I've certainly made a few pushes in a direction I wanted something to go, but ultimately A__'s rules are not mine to make. Lucky for me, my BF is good about blending what's best for A__ with what's best for us, and making me feel that I play a role too, even though decisions about A__ are not really up to me.

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imamommy

In a perfect world, parent's would know all the answers when the child is born. They would know all they need to know and never make any changes in the way things are done. But this isn't a perfect world.

If you allow your children to eat in front of the TV (or whenever they feel like it or whatever they feel like) but later, realize that they have a weight problem, then it's a logical solution to do something different. As kids grow and change, so do their needs. Older kids might stay up later. Older kids need to bathe more than smaller ones sometimes. Sometimes, the other way around. If the intact family shares a 'family bed', then eventually the day will come when the kids are too old to sleep in a 'family bed' or if the parents divorce, there is going to be changes.

Sometimes it is 'poor parenting' when kids have behavioral problems. When my kids have behavioral problems, it is because I'm not doing something that I should or something I'm doing isn't working.... it's time to try something different. Some of my SD's behavioral problems are directly related to 'poor parenting' on both her mom and her dad's side. It's not an issue of step parent vs. bio parent and nobody should be blaming one side or the other. We all make mistakes, unless someone is 'perfect'.

Anyone have a thought on this situation?:

My SD's mom picked her up for a weekend. She took SD to her half sister's tae kwon do tournament. While she was there, SD went into an office and used the phone to dial 911. We got a call from BM to tell DH how upset she was that SD called 911. The police had gotten on her case because nobody was watching SD when this happened. BM wanted us to punish her when she came home. She saw this as a behavioral problem with SD that she wanted US to take care of.

The next day, we picked up SD from her grandma's house. BM had already left her to go back to her BF's house. SD didn't want to talk about the 911 incident. I made an appointment with her counselor and when I took her the next day, I stayed and talked to SD with the counselor. She was shocked that I figured out that she was upset because her mom had taken her to the tae kwon do tournament for her sister. The underlying problem is that before BM left her kids for the new BF, all three of them were in tae kwon do. When SD came to live with us, she was taken out of tae kwon do (because her studio is an hour away). Even though we have her in karate here, she was upset that her sister is still going to the studio where they went with their mom. Then on the day of the tournament, mom was paying more attention to her sister and she felt left out. So she decided to get attention by calling 911. Her mom considers her behavior as a problem, but she fails to see that her child is crying out for help and attention. When DH told BM what happened at the counselor's, BM's answer has been consistently that all the problems are related to ADHD and her daughter needs to be on medication to calm her down. Isn't that 'poor parenting'?

btw, she has since stopped going to see her other daughter and for the past couple of months, only see's SD. We're not sure why or if that's her solution.

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ceph

I see both sides again - I think it could be construed as a "behavioral problem" that SD called 911 because Mom was busy with Sis instead of paying attention to her, but I doubt that calling 911 was her first step at getting attention, so I can also construe it as "bad parenting"

From the sounds of what you've said about your SD, it doesn't sound to me like ADHD... I've never met her, and I'm not trained to diagnose neurological disorders, but I've never thought "whoa, sounds like ADHD!" when you've talked about her troubles.
Everything you've about her sounds to me like she feels unwanted and isn't sure how to make herself feel wanted and who is appropriate to feel wanted by... So she makes bad choices about who is appropriate and how to get the attention she craves.
In this case, I think the bad choice about "who" is that she couldn't get her mom's attention so chose the police (maybe Grandma or Dad would have been better choices?), and the bad choice about "how" is to do something so drastic (not that I advocate tantrums, but ANYTHING direct to get Mom's attention would be better than calling 911)... My instinct on this (if it were A__ or one of my N&Ns) would be to talk about why those weren't good choices and let's think of a better solution together. Depending on the situation, that might involve thinking about it on their own for awhile, it might not.

A 911 incident with A__ from a few years back: BM went to the building laundry room or to get the mail (I'm not sure which it was, so I'll use both in the story). She told A__ "I'm going to change the laundry so I'll be down the hall. I'll be back in the apartment in a few minutes. Will you be OK?" He said he'd be fine but must not have been listening to what she actually said. When she got back two minutes later, he was SOBBING on the phone with 911 that his mom was gone and he was alone, she talked to them "I was down the hall to get the mail and I told him I was going, but he must not have listened, he's OK and he's not by himself".
I asked my BF how she dealt with this and her solution was to calm A__ down, and explain that 911 is for emergencies like if someone is badly hurt or there is a stranger in the house. Then she asked him to think about who a better person to call might be and they came up with Grandma, Dad and Papa before 911. He didn't get in trouble for it (and he shouldn't have) but he had to think about the better choices.

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theotherside

"When she got back two minutes later, he was SOBBING on the phone with 911 that his mom was gone"

Now that sounds like someone with an executive functioning disorder (common with ADD as well as with other LD's). Also, has he been checked for an auditory processing disorder? Sometimes kids with APD are misdiagnosed as having ADD - and of course it is possible to have both.

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justnotmartha

"Unfortunately, in a blended family all of a sudden patterns of behavior that weren't regarded as a problem sometimes suddenly are a problem for the biological parent's spouse. The new spouse may try to blame it on "poor parenting" when in fact it is merely a different parenting style."

This is the problem that biomom and her husband of 1.5 years is having (more to come on that in a new post.) We have questioned and stressed about mom's parenting style (or lack of one) for years, but any time a discussion was had it went badly. Enter her new hubby who says "whoa - wait a minute. I don't think this is how things are supposed to go" and voices concerns similar to those we have been saying for years. All of a sudden mom *gets it* and sees that things need to change (resulting in the big pow wow with us) But now there is a whole new parenting style going on - one similar to what we have always done, but completely different than what mom did pre-husband. Now she wonders why (after 2 weeks) everything isn't rosey and their family isn't functioning just like ours.

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ceph

I'm not sure what all he's been tested for...
But he was about 4 at the time and playing a video game, so I just chalked it up to that 4 year olds have big and sudden emotions, on top of that he wasn't listening (due to the video game)
He also has some pretty huge fears of abandonment (probably largely due to being constantly bounced between different houses) that make him really anxious when he doesn't know where someone is or when they will be back. So he was probably more panicked about that than another 4 yo may have been in the situation.

I wouldn't doubt that he has some sort of comorbities with his ADHD, but he hasn't been diagnosed with anything.
A__ is most definitely ADHD - there is NO mistaking this diagnosis - but you may be right TOS, he could have something else undiagnosed with it. (I've sometimes thought he might have some mild Oppositional Defiance Disorder, but those behaviors seems to be improving, so maybe that was just a rough patch?)

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ceph

How's the progress at making SD feel like she belongs? What have you decided to do?
I'd love an update!

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