parenting style differences - FamilyEducation
parenting style differences
10/06/2009 at 17:10 PM

My boyfriend of 3 1/2 years and I just moved in together a couple months ago. He has two daughters ages 14 and 11 and I have one daughter, age 13. All live with us full time.

My boyfriend and I have VERY different parenting styles, and we knew this going in. It has caused issues in the past, but now that we are living together and he is parenting MY daughter, it is really coming to a head. He is a very authoritarian parent. It is his way or the highway. It is not uncommon to hear his girls say "you are so mean!" or "I hate you!" when he parents them. He feels his most important role as a parent is disciplinarian.

I am not a perfect parent, but my daughter and I have a much different relationship. We are extremely close, and she has appropriate boundaries, is a good kid, no behavior problems. I would describe myself as a democratic-style parent (this is a parenting style I found on the web), trying to be a guide and role model, but allowing my child free expression. He thinks she is spoiled.

He does not have much of a relationship with my daughter. Most of the time they don't speak. He doesn't ask her (or any of the girls) how their day was at school or the like. It feels like kids are there to "be tolerated" and that he doesn't enjoy being a parent. I thought this might be due to the stress put on him being a single parent for about 8 years now of his girls. Their mother has been for the most part out of the picture. When they got divorced he had to go back to school to get a new career. He has been under a lot of stress for the past 6 years in pharmacy school.

He just graduated, got a job, asked me to move with him, and I have. But it is really difficult watching him interact with the kids, and I'm about to a breaking point. This weekend he and my daughter got in a huge fight. She came to the breakfast table with smudged eye makeup. He did not greet her or say good morning or anything, just, "Did you wear makeup yesterday? Go wash your face." She responded that she had already washed her face (which she had). It turned into a big power struggle, that culminated in her telling him he couldn't tell her what to do. I was staying out of it, as he has told me he doesn't like me trying to referee (which I feel like I need to do a LOT). So I did not get involved, he ended up leaving the breakfast table furious and feeling like he had no control over her because I don't like spanking or slapping, which is what he would have done next if it was his child.

I am at my wits end. My daughter thinks he is "mean and scary." And I am starting to agree. Can someone change their parenting style or is this doomed to be a conflict forever? I need him to change for this to work. Any advice?

"...he ended up leaving the breakfast table furious and feeling like he had no control over her because I don't like spanking or slapping, which is what he would have done next if it was his child." "My daughter thinks he is "mean and scary." And I am starting to agree." Does he actually hit or slap his own daughters? That IS mean and scary, especially to the children. Did you know this before you moved in with him? This is a major difference in parenting styles. It is possible to change one's parenting style, but first one would have to be committed to doing so. From your description, it seems you are unsure if this this man would. When my husband and I were first dating he mentioned spanking his boys, then 8 & 11. We had a number of discussions about this while dating and I made my position clear, no spanking ever, it is bullying and degrading to the child. One of the 1st times we went out with his boys he yelled at one of them. We later had a discussion about no yelling or threatening behavior. We talked out every aspect of what we did not agree with about one another's parenting well before we ever moved in together so we would be on the same page once we did. Since you and your b/f did not get these issues settled before you moved in together, your child is being made to suffer the consequences, which is unfair to her. I feel for his daughters as well. It is sad they say "I hate you" to their father. Can you suggest to your boyfriend that some changes are necessary to benefit the entire family and then have an open discussion about what your future expectations are? Come to the table with a list of expectations, the big things first, then after the big things are under control, move on to the more minor things. His lack of interaction with the children except for discipline is not good for them. Also his need to feel he is in control of the girls shows he has some issues that may need to be addressed in therapy.

I assume that the reason you didn't marry before you moved in was to make leaving less complicated. He's not your husband, you didn't promise "for better or worse", and this seems like for worse. I wash my hands before I cook, not to teach the viruses a lesson. I do it to protect myself. Leave now! Protect your child, protect yourself, report him to child protective services and protect his kids. I respect 2xstepmom's position, it is a good alternative to mine, but I think the situation is toxic.

Thanks to both of you. This is what my intuition has been telling me, but I just need to hear it from others. It's hard when you're in the midst of the situation. I may make an attempt to talk to him once more about his parenting "style." I don't think he sees anything wrong with it, though, so will be unwilling to change. This is the way his parents raised him, and I guess he feels it worked. It is not the life I want for my daughter, and not the relationship I want with my kids. I feel terrible for his girls, though. I thought maybe when he wasn't so stressed from school, and being a single parent, he would mellow out. But it's not happening.

It is difficult in the midst of the situation, which is why in the future you need to get this all ironed out before moving in with someone. My thought is: if your daughter is being treated in any negative way, differently from how she would be treated by you, then you need to get her out of the negative situation. Try one more time if you'd like, then if he is unwilling to change, take your daughter and move on. When my children were young, I never let anyone treat them badly and they both respect me for that. We were on our own and poor but we were happy. Your daughter deserves to be raised in the manner you describe in your post. It may be difficult to be on your own again, but is necessary. You will be glad in the long run that you chose to put your daughter first. Good luck and best wishes.

Sure, you guys can come together on parenting and discipline but it will take communication, commitment, understanding, and patience. Don't argue about the kids and discipline in front of them. Step away together. Argue and discuss it between the two of you. Then, as parents, come together and back each other up. Maybe even consider including your kids in discussing establishment of house rules/discipline. They are old enough to be included. Establish household rules that are fair for all and enforce them. Don't let him be ugly to your daughter. There's a BIG difference between proper effective discipline and being rude and plain nasty. No matter what age, each person should be treated with respect. Don't expect a kid to respect adults, if the adult is rude and disrespectful to the children.