Do the kids always come first?
In today's American Society, many single mother's and fathers have this expression:
"My kids come first."
I understand why they might say this. However, in dating, this expression creates a SERIOUS problem.
I'll explain what I mean.
Kids come first when it comes to CARE.
Yes, the kids need to come first in terms of you caring for them, providing a roof over their head, making sure their fed before you go off galavanting on dates, good times, or other self-serving situations. The kids may also come first over your desire of activities or how you handle day-to-day life choices. But this dynamic MUST change when you are in a relationship. How can you put the kids first if your boyfriend/girlfriend (possible husband/wife-to-be) is supposed to be #1 as your friend and lover? The kids cannot come between the new glue you are building in your romantic relationship. And, it is up to the PARENT to make sure this doesn't happen.
But, that's easier said, than done, isn't it?
Now, when it is a matter of CARE, yes, your child will come first. Your husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, or wife ought to be able to care for herself.
Clearly, it is a parent's first reaction to defend their child. So, that is not what I'm talking about.
What I am talking about is when your child IS WRONG and when it is a matter of DISCIPLINE or RESPECT. And, yes, there will be those moments. In those moments, you MUST support your relationship partner over the child. Why? Because, if you don't, then the child can get away with whatever they want (and know it) and this will eventually cause separation or resentment between your new partner and you.
In moments of discipline or respect, your partner MUST come first.
I can attest to this. I've seriously dated six different women (at different times, of course) who each had a son about 10 years old. Anyway, in each of these situations, there were situations where the mother had to discipline her child for the way the child acted around me or treated me. One thing I don't want in my life is disrespect, not from my friends, not from my lover, and not from her children. If the child is showing disrespect (talking back, saying rude things, acting rudely, or doing something threatening) these things would send up a relationship yellow flag - and quite possible RED flag - IF the mother didn't do anything to rectify the problem. I would always consider verbal abuse (saying "f-u" for example) or physical abuse (grabbing something to hit the parent's partner) as a strong RED flag to the partner (and possibly the parent) to end the relationship and suggest both the child and parent get help or counseling.
This is a possible sign that the relationship has already crossed the "no-go" boundaries of respect because the mother is putting the child first and defending behavior (or not properly disciplining such behavior) as to allow the child to create a barrier between her and her partner. If this is your situation, I suggest you get professional help!
There are certain times where the mother can show love but stop the kid in their tracks if they are talking back, being rude, and so forth. But the times the mother or father must be 100% behind the partner is if the child PHYSICALLY THREATENS or CUSSES at the partner. It can happen. I know - it happened to me. The child was completely over-reacting, being disrespectful, selfish, rude, and immature. The parent, whether mother or father, must not allow disrespectful, rude, and immature behavior towards their partner or they are creating a presedence that backs their partner into a no-man's land.
Are you dealing with something similar? Suggest to your partner that he or she put YOU first - when the child is out of line, there is NO other way. Otherwise, your relationship is likely to have significant issues that may eventually derail your ability to stay together. The bond between parents and their children is THAT strong that yes, it can blow the whole thing up no matter how much you love each other.
Are you a divorced (single) parent of a boy or girl? Are you expecting your partner to be a miracle worker, and somehow be loving towards your kids AND remain aloof when it comes to discipline? Do you realize how impossible a situation you might be putting your partner in? This problem gets worse if you back your kid instead of your hopeful spouse when your loving little child is acting like a spoiled rotten little brat! Now, if your partner is out of line, okay, correct that with them. But there is no reason why children should get away with things that a life partner would not, is there?
Can the child try to undermine the relationship?
What if the child secretly wants you and your partner to break up? IF they then act untowardly towards your partner, is it possible they might undermine your relationship? Darn right they will! It happened to me on two occasions! When this occurs, you're dealing with what's known in counselling circles as a "wedge" in your relationship. If you allow your child (and your partner) to build a wedge, you're in a difficult spot as a parent. Try, at all costs, to eliminate any formations of a wedge at first sign of appearance.
What's the solution?
If you put your focus first on your God, second on your partner, third on your children, you will likely have a more healthy and balanced situation.
I wish American society would stop putting this huge emphasis on "they are my everything" because I'd have been pissed if I'd have been my parent's everything. Frankly, I'm grateful that my parents have their own life, their own friends, and their on interests they pursue. It makes them healthy, happy people. If they lived completely, vicariously through me, they'd be only living part of their life purpose.
And, as you all know, I'm deeply interested in living on purpose.
RED FLAGS: There comes a point when it is clear that a child is getting away with murder: when they can physically threaten your partner and you DEFEND their behavior. Are you allowing this? If you are, YOU are likely the biggest part of the problem. Yes, the child needs to be disciplined, but if you're defending your child's behavior you must know you're not helping your partner build a stronger connection with you.
Are you being threatened by a child of the person you're dating? Are you concerned about this? You ought to be! If this isn't a red flag to you, you're clearly out of touch with relationship road signs. Be careful when you are dating. This is why they call it "dating" instead of marriage. You have an opportunity to spot problems and either solve them together or end the affair. Wouldn't it be better to spot a problem BEFORE tying the knot and ending it before someone got seriously hurt?
That's what I recommend if that's your situation.
My philosophy on relationships is simple: eyes first on God, second on each other, third on family, fourth on friends and career. If you live your life in such a way, you'll have a very happy, very loving family situation - even if you're single and trying to date.
This is how it pens out in my mind, in the matter of spiritual balance and in the matter of RESPECT, it MUST be like this:
GOD COMES FIRST
SPOUSE/PARTNER COMES SECOND
CHILDREN COME THIRD
It's the only way it all can work. I know this isn't easy. And, I don't claim to be an expert on parenting. But, I HAVE chosen to be the significant other in a relationship where the mother had children on more than one occasion and I can say that if you ALWAYS put the CHILD first you're giving your partner no way to win in the relationship.
Kids: Be kind to your step parents, and the partner's of your parent - it's hard to be in their shoes! Yes, play with the step or dating partner, but also respect their boundaries and mind them as your own parent. You'll get further in the long run if you do.
To the single parent: give your partner first nod above your child when it comes to matters of respect, discipline, love, and then show your child the care - together - that you ought to show them together. Discuss things with your partner and try to understand your partner's point of view. Your life will be much less stressful and much more on purpose if you can achieve this balance.
To the person who dates the single parent: Be patient... you will need forgiveness to minimize the resentment of the child's attention from your partner.
Try suggesting this position of God First, Partner Second, Kids Third, and be true to your values, and don't let children show you disrespect! As the partner of their parent, you deserve to be treated with respect, love, and care. Show them love, give to them, and they ought to respond accordingly. There will be moments where you must release expectation and forgive if you are to date and/or marry (and remain married) to a partner with children. Don't be afraid to honor the signals you're given: GREEN: love, YELLOW: signs of trouble/disrespect, RED: sign of blatant disrespect, verbal abuse, or physical violence - strongly consider leaving/ending the relationship immediately. Always remember that no matter what you do, love is the answer.
If the parent is defending you, even when things get gnarly, you might be able to work through it. If they don't defend you, consider alternative partners. If you're married and in a tough spot (kids are cussing at you, threatening you, or otherwise violating your boundaries), I'd suggest professional counselling for ALL parties involved. If you are not married, I'd suggest you move on because there are other fish in the sea, so to speak.
I write this article in love and gratitude to all the single parents who read this; in love and gratitude for the children who open up to the person who loves their parent; and in love and gratitude to those who date the mothers and fathers who are trying so hard to raise their children well.
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This article is provided for entertainment purposes. The author may not be a licensed psychotherapist and suggests you seek help if your situation warrants assistance.
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Saturday, April 12, 2008
Do the kids always come first?