Q: I have been dating a man for four months now and he has three daughters. I have two sons. Everything was fine at first but now he has a lot of resentment toward my son. When I ask him why, he tells me my son gets on his nerves. He said my son lacks discipline. Mind you, my son is 10. My son has never met his biological father and I have been the only one raising him. My son is not clingy or needy. Why does he feel this way toward my son?
A: You shouldn't be asking us, you should be asking him! If you are serious enough with this guy that you have introduced him to your kids, then you should be able to discuss things like this with him. If you can't, take a good look at that. It could be a huge red flag that you're going way too fast.
That said, it's not uncommon for other people's kids to get on our nerves. We may not approve of the way they respond in various situations -- we perceive that they act entitled, sarcastic, disrespectful, etc. Bottom line, the kids seem spoiled, and that's enough to retreat. But, here's another red flag: Your guy has daughters. We know it's dangerous to stereotype because every child is different, but it's important to acknowledge that there are huge differences in boys and girls right from birth -- and there are huge differences in how parents parent them. If your boyfriend has only raised girls he may see a boy who is just rambunctious as over-the-top. If this seemingly over-the-top little boy doesn't listen to you -- say it takes two or three times to get him to clear the table because he's distracted by a favorite TV show, then you could find yourself with a frustrated boyfriend mentally counting each time you have to ask your son twice. That's a dangerous place to be. As the relationship continues, you may find yourself running defense for your child -- which will ultimately pit you against your boyfriend. We have to say it -- beware of anyone who tells you that your kid gets on his nerves. Huge R-E-D flag.
The first rule of good ex-etiquette for dating is "Be true to yourself and don't concede your morals or self-esteem for anyone else." The first rule of good ex-etiquette for parents is, "Put the children first." Translated, this means if you're going to date this guy, don't be afraid to take a stand for your child. Granted, you have raised him alone and if you have been too lax, you need to step up and take note. But if you sense that your boyfriend is being judgmental, have that conversation now before more time is invested and you realize it just won't work.
Next time, try to use a little better ex-etiquette and don't introduce your kids to your new guy until you know for a fact he's in it for the long haul.
Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of 'Ex-Etiquette for Parents,' are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com). Reach them at eebonusfamilies.com.