Saturday, April 12, 2008

Do Your Kids Always Come First?

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:


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.

The Magic of Making Up: Get Your Ex Back!

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.

Copyright © 2008 AspireNow. All rights reserved. Want more? Subscribe to the A-Blog.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic article! I connected with it on so many levels and your words were an inspiration for my own current feelings. I think you have to live it to really know that this truly is the only way for things to work. There is always enough love to go around and that should be a lesson to all, especially to children. When alliances are allowed to form with the non-biological adult on the outside, it is more than a RED black, it's a black and white flag signalling the finish line is near. After back and forth with my ex-boyfriend
s children's disrespect for a couple of years, my feelings eroded to a lack of respect for the parent/my partner. With a child of my own, it becomes very clear how differing parenting styles can clash as well as point out that there are some parenting skills that just flat out don't work. I respect my son's feelings and speak to him with respect, it flows back and forth and he is only 6. He is not perfect by any means, but I have no issues correctly poor behavior without yelling or disrespecting. My ex-boyfriends' kids are 15, 12, and 9 and showed constant disrespect and pushed the lack of boundaries beyond what I could take witnessing to others and also myself. I tried so hard to bond with the kids, never yelled at them, took a big interest in each of their lives, never acted like their mother or said one unkind word about her. I followed the rules, took the advice, but the bottom line is if the bio parent doesn't take a strong lead as a parent, especially a single parent, as the partner, you just can't turn against the tide. It caused me grief which made it my number one challenge for a year. In the end, their father didn't even appreciate me, because he is just too wrapped up in being liked better than his ex. Their father was always looking what else I could do for them. Careful too, if you have a child(ren) they will be influenced by poor behavior that the bio parents refuse to see or don't want to deal with. Typically these parents defend poor behavior because there's underlying personal/family issues. I found this to be residual, unaddressed issues left over from the marriage that cause a volleying for position among children. This type of parent makes excuses, and even tries to pin blame on the ex or even on the victim, anything to keep the denial going that "kids are kids." It took me a long time, through my own experiences to see, kids are kids yes, but the ones who are very bratty have been parented to be that way. It all becomes very messy and not worth the effort. As hard as it is, step away and live your life in the positive light. We are all deserving of respect and if you can only give it to children and not get it in return, it's a formula for thinly veiled abuse, rejection, and a lot of stressful, negative family time. The poor parenting permeates and will eventually steal your energy and leave you confused and feeling and create self-awareness for a need for healthy love. It really takes dreams and crushes them into nothingness. My ex-boyfriend and I struggled for a long time, we wanted to marry, but in the end I am happy that I followed my inner truths and recognized my own needs to be a good parent and partner, which makes respect mandatory. Respect is about honoring others feelings, and it helps us all get along. Strength is derived through love and sacrifice, but not at the cost of your very being and value. I couldn't live without a dream, which I thought HAD to be with my ex-boyfriend. Now I know that my dreams are real and they are alive every minute. Please, if you are in this situation, get yourself some help to sort it out, and don't make any permanent decisions until you feel that your strength is very high. My thoughts are always with people who are living in this difficult way, I know how hard it is. Every time I think twice, I think of my young son growing up with this negative nastiness around him and I am 110% behind my choice to part ways.

Seriously Fun Self-help! said...

I really appreciate this feedback. A friend of my ex-girlfriend told me "until you have children of your own, you know nothing about parenting" and, well, she may be right, but being in the position of "step" multiple times, I can say I can empathize with you! Your comment "We are all deserving of respect and if you can only give it to children and not get it in return, it's a formula for thinly veiled abuse, rejection, and a lot of stressful, negative family time...It really takes dreams and crushes them into nothingness." really is why I wrote this - to try to help both the step and the parent/partner realize the only structure that works in this environment. I did a LOT of research on this prior to publishing this article, and I also found that alarmingly, most single-parent partner relationships that have issues are because the kids are getting away with mayhem and the parent doesn't stop it, enables it, and then the kid drives a wedge destroying the relationship. It doesn't have to be that way. The relationships that create a harmonious, loving, supportive home environment have the step get #1 next to God. If you're struggling, adjust, try this, and give it another go! Otherwise, if you have an ugly track record, maybe it is best to just move on...

Seriously Fun Self-help! said...

There was a really good post today at the DailyOM about Building a Harmonious Home, FYI:

Subscribe to the A-Blog

Enter your email address:

 Subscribe in a reader

AspireNow's Amazon Store