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?