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Parenting beau’s children an issue

Wed., April 10, 2013

Dear Carolyn: I am in a relationship with a wonderful, intelligent man. He wants me to join him in a new home with his two kids, ages 7 and 9.

Here’s my issue: I have never wanted kids and I have no experience with them, and my experience with his kids has me wanting to run the other direction. These kids behave abominably. They are allowed to protest every decision the parents make. At the table, both kids smash their faces into their food, chew with mouths wide open, make odd noises and faces, and generally make a spectacle.

Is that behavior normal for kids this age, or are these kids out of control? – Balking by the Bay

Odd noises and faces! I’ll nod sympathetically and try not to smirk.

I don’t mean to ridicule your concerns. You’ve flagged a serious problem if indeed the kids run their parents. But it would also be easy, and a mistake, to slap on the “symptom of real problems” label every time these kids blow a raspberry.

Kids need limits. But how firm those limits need to be depends so much on the temperaments of the kids, as well as the parents’ skill, consistency and warmth at articulating their expectations.

All of which is to say, this family could be misery or magic depending on the way a few key variables break.

What you know is you: kid-skeptical, unimpressed, balking. And, of course, smitten with the “wonderful, intelligent man” whose choices shaped the family dynamic you describe.

Add up everything so far, then add the fact that prospective stepfamilies have more than enough challenges already, then factor in that criticizing a person’s children is generally a nonstarter, and here’s what I suggest: Get out …

Or get help. Specifically, request “training wheels” in the form of a parenting class you take together.

The issue may make or break your relationship, I agree – but either outcome beats the status quo of leaving your aversion unaddressed.


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