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Question
Posted by: Anon | 2011/03/28

Boyfriend &  son at odds

Dear Cybershrink.
I''m a mother to a 4year-old boy. I also have a boyfriend of a few months, the only man that my son has seen me with in 2 years since breaking up with his father. My son, boyfriend and I spend a reasonable amount of time together.
The problem is that my son acts up whenever my boyfriend''s around. He''s usually such a reasonable child, not a saint of course, but when it''s just the 2 of us, my word is law and he knows it &  I hardly ever have to do ''actual'' discipline like taking away toys &  favourite TV programmes because he listens the 1st time, understands me and apologises, etc.
&  when the boyfriend''s around he just becomes a different child, punches, pinches &  throws things at my boyfriend, which is quite off-putting even for me. I talk til I''m blue in the face &  I must say I''m hesitant about disciplining him right there and then cos then I''d feel guilty that I''m humiliating him in front of a man that he has to simply put up with because I brought him into our lives. My boyfriend''s quite patient & , being a mother, I feel uncomfortable to see him getting angry with my son for quite valid reasons. I''m the one who''s always mediating between the 2 of them because my boyfriend isn''t firm enough with him, I think. At the same time, I don''t know what I mean by being ''firm'' enough cos I don''t want him spanking the child, which I don''t believe in. &  children are very perceptive so I think my son can tell that boyfriend''s sort of obliged to ''suck up'' to me so he''s ''not supposed'' to seem overly angry when he''s misbehaving like I would, for instance.
Please advise.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Apart from confrontational sessions aroused by his misbehaving when the bf's around, have you had a calm, mom to son chat with him about this new man in your life, how he feels about it and how you feel about it ? Does he understand what's going on ? What does HE think is happening ? What relationship does he still have with his dad ( sometimes a separated dad encourages a child to cause problems with the new man in mom's life, for instance ).
As you say, kids are awfully perceptive, and inclined to take advantage of situations they encounter. It would be best for you to clarify the rules of conduct and behaviour you expect from the boy - at ALL times - with or without the new man, and a code of consequences such as TV deprivation for a set time for a specific infringement of the rules. It won't work to have different rules when the other guy is or isn't around. And you should remain in charge of declaring the rules ( clarifying that the new man agrees with these ) and in charge of administering them.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Penny | 2011/03/28

Hi Anon
What steps are you taking to ensure you can all have one home language? I cannot think of anything worse than an a child in the home your husband can only talk to through you.

Reply to Penny
Posted by: Anon | 2011/03/28

Thanks Penny. Yes, this particular man and I have long-term plans, we''re already discussing marriage, that''s why I wanted an opinion on how to deal with this instead of just minimising the time that he spends around my son.
Many thanks, Cybershrink for very insightful advice.

Reply to Anon
Posted by: Penny | 2011/03/28

If you have long term plans for this relationship all parties will have to speak a common language.
If you do not have long term plans it is probably a good idea not to introduce your son to men.

Reply to Penny
Posted by: Anon | 2011/03/28

May I also add that there''s a language issue as well. My boyfriend speaks English &  my son doesn''t so most of the time they even rely on my translation for communication between the 2 of them.

Reply to Anon
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/03/28

Apart from confrontational sessions aroused by his misbehaving when the bf's around, have you had a calm, mom to son chat with him about this new man in your life, how he feels about it and how you feel about it ? Does he understand what's going on ? What does HE think is happening ? What relationship does he still have with his dad ( sometimes a separated dad encourages a child to cause problems with the new man in mom's life, for instance ).
As you say, kids are awfully perceptive, and inclined to take advantage of situations they encounter. It would be best for you to clarify the rules of conduct and behaviour you expect from the boy - at ALL times - with or without the new man, and a code of consequences such as TV deprivation for a set time for a specific infringement of the rules. It won't work to have different rules when the other guy is or isn't around. And you should remain in charge of declaring the rules ( clarifying that the new man agrees with these ) and in charge of administering them.

Reply to cybershrink

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