Parenting advice please . . .

Just to bring any new readers up to speed with my family situation, I have a (nearly) 9 year old step-son Curly, a 2 year old daughter Little Bean and our next baby boy is due in September.

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On the whole Curly and Little Bean get on quite well, she worships the ground that he walks on and he loves her 75% of the time and finds her annoying the other 25% of the time.  Curly actually told a friend of mine last week that he hopes his new baby brother will be more fun than Little Bean because she gets on his nerves!!! Something me and Hubby weren’t really very happy to hear!

Little Bean now knows when to expect her big brother to be coming to stay and gets very excitable.  Once he is in the house, no-one else will do – it has to be big Bro or no-one!

Now that the school holidays are upon us, Curly is spending an extra 2 days per week with me and Little Bean.  Last week the first day went really well from Curly’s point of view, he was an angel whereas Little Bean was basically a little sod!

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But over the weekend, the two of them have driven me and Hubby to distraction with their behaviours and attitude.  We put them both to bed half an hour early last night because we had just reached our wits end!

On Saturday we took Curly to see Karate Kid whilst Little Bean had a sleepover at Nanna’s.  It was nice to spend some time just with Curly as we often feel like he gets pushed back a bit because of how much we still have to do for Little Bean.  It was a late night, not getting home until nearly 10pm so we knew we would be in for a fun day with him on the Sunday.  He still woke up at 7am and then remained grumpy and sulky for the rest of the day.

But the problems began the minute we brought Little Bean home.  Curly keeps claiming that Little Bean is hitting him with her hand, toys, teddies or anything which is close at hand.  To begin with we asked her if she had hit him and she’s a pretty honest little girl when she has done something wrong.  She said that she had hit him, so we put her on the naughty step and then told her to say sorry to Curly – which she did.  This carried on for the rest of the day but sometimes she would say that she hadn’t hit him and so we didn’t know what to do.  Should we punish for something which we haven’t witnessed with our own eyes.  Are we encouraging Curly to be a “tell-tale”? We told him that we will only punish her when we see it happen ourselves and that the rest of the time he should just be firm with her and tell her “no hitting”.  But is this right?  Should we be encouraging him to discipline his little sister?  We really don’t know how to tackle this situation at all?

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To give you a bit of background on Curly, we used to have a small dog and Curly used to tell similar tales on the dog.  Initially we would tell the dog off, believing that Curly was telling the truth.  That is until we started watching through the crack in the door to see that he was telling tales about the dog – scratching, biting etc when she was the other side of the room to him minding her own business.  From then on we told him that we wouldn’t tell the dog off anymore unless we witnessed it with our own eyes.  It’s starting to feel like groundhog day and we are facing the same issues again.

How do you deal with issues like this? Obviously we don’t want Little Bean to go around smacking others, which she does when she gets frustrated, and when we witness it she is reprimanded but likewise we know that Curly has told white lies about her before and there is the history with the dog.  He likes it when someone else is getting into trouble because it makes him feel better.

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We find disciplining Curly very difficult indeed because he is only with us on a part-time basis and we don’t want to be constantly nagging him.  We are very aware that friends and family “feel sorry” for him because they feel that he is left out or treated unfairly but honestly, we discipline Little Bean far more often than we do Curly – probably because of the age she is at.  If we buy them new things; clothes, toys etc. we do it fairly and they each get the same amount of money spent on them but because of the difference in their ages/taste/sex we can often buy more for 2/3 things for Little Bean for the same price as 1 thing for Curly.

Are you part of a split-family – how do you manage discipline and people’s reactions to your family?

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6 Comments

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  2. supersinglemum
    August 2, 2010 / 3:56 pm

    I have similar issues in that B is 7 and H is 2, although they arn’t seperated like yours are. I think you do right and don’t see an issue in encouraging Curly to tell Little Bean to stop, thats what I tell B. I also tell her that I don’t like tell tales and so I found that now B only tells me when it’s the truth. Plus I have a smaller house with just 1 room and a small kitchen downstairs so I tend to see most of what they do which is a bonus. Both the ages you are dealing with are difficult in their own right – and sending them to bed early is a fave with me if it’s been one of those days!

  3. parentingforpirates
    August 4, 2010 / 11:39 am

    Gosh I sympathise! I have driven myself nuts quite a few times trying to make sure I discipline my own two daughters and my part time step daughter fairly (and often getting it wrong!).

    In our family, the step child is the youngest (4). When she comes to stay, the first days are always the hardest, she is an only child and has everything done for her, she gets to choose what kind of drink she wants, what colour cup she wants, if she wants ice, would she like a straw?…… When she stays with us she has a hard time adjusting to not being given those choices. My partner and I just don’t have the time. ‘You’re thirsty? Here’s a cup, there’s the tap.’ After a few days of tantrums, she settles down, starts asking for things nicely, sharing toys well and even makes her own breakfast in the mornings like her step sisters. Then the next time she comes to stay…we have to go through the tantrums ALL over again!

    I feel horrible sometimes, I want to ignore her behaviour and just let it go but I can’t let my children see me ignoring behaviour they know I wouldn’t let them get away with. And sometimes I have to ask them to be more tolerant and remind them that she’s younger than them and still learning.

    Generally they all get on fairly well but my 10yr old and part time 4 yr old really don’t have much to do with each other and well, why should they? Nine, Ten and Eleven is an awkward age because they’re too old for ‘babyish’ things, but too young to be into ‘teenager’ stuff so they get bored easily. It’s a mega challenge to find things to do together as family that engages each different aged child at the same time (If only I had an adventure playground in my back garden!)

    I’ve seen my ten year old spitefully winding up her younger sisters and starting fights simply because they’re watching ‘baby’ stuff on the TV and she’s got no-one to play with and is fed up and bored. Does Curly have any friends his own age to play with whilst he’s staying with you? Maybe that might help?

    And don’t be afraid to question him and accuse him of lying. If you find out you’re wrong you can always aplogise and show him it’s OK to make mistakes and get things wrong even when your a grown up. it won’t traumatise him for life or damage your relationship with him, it’s just normal messy, complicated step-family life!

    Best wishes xx

    • mummymatters
      August 5, 2010 / 10:28 am

      That is such a relief to hear that I’m not the only one who struggles at times. In my heart I know that I’m not but many people put on a brave face and don’t actually say when things are tough.

      One of the really hard parts is that in the house we have just moved from, his friend next door had to move away when his parents broke up and the only other people with children nearby were young families with babies closer to Little Bean’s age. We have just moved house/town for a few months whilst our new house is being built but the children who live near us here are either lots older and dare i say, not the sort of children Hubby feels comfortable about Curly spending time with. Or there is a little girl next door who he sometimes plays with but she often seems to be away on his weekends with us. We are due to move house again in the next month (hopefully) and this time we are keeping our fingers crossed that there will be a few more children around who are closer to his age. We have had a house built which faces onto a large open green so it would be ideal for him to play out with friends – will have to wait and see.

      I guess I don’t like to question him too much as I don’t want him to feel picked on, especially when he is only here for short periods. Both me and Hubby dread the day that he will turn around and say that he doesn’t want to come to us for the weekend. We try to make allowances for him but we’re not sure that is the best route either. No-one ever said it would be easy but this is definitely one of our most difficult patches to date.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, it means a lot. Good luck with your family life xx

  4. sunflower71
    August 7, 2010 / 10:47 pm

    Hello!
    I do realize that I don’t know what it’s like in a blended family as mine isn’t. However values are values and I think kids do expect us adult to have a firm set…both is they are our own or not. Now obviously there will be other issues and we adults will have good and bad days but I think that talking openly and squarely to kids is always better. And then repeating the message. They will still play up but I think they also expect our reaction to be as usual – repeating same said values. Good luck…to you and to us all mothers who are trying our best to be the best mothers.

    • mummymatters
      August 9, 2010 / 11:25 am

      Thank you, I think that is a really good piece of advice – I do have a very firm set of values and I hope that they will help my family to grow in a well rounded manner. Being a Mummy isn’t easy all of the time but its a job I wouldn’t change for all the money in the world!

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