The Truth About Dating Someone Who Has Kids
(CBS Charlotte) — You’ve met someone who is pretty amazing and decide to pursue a serious relationship with them. Great! Just one thing … they have kids — again, great … because you “love” kids, right?! After all, kids are easy to deal with — what could possibly go wrong?
The truth is, even the most well-mannered child has a way of saying and doing the darnedest things, and they will go above and beyond what isn’t expected of them … just to get a reaction out of the new love interest in their mom or dad’s life. This can be very frustrating for both parties in the relationship, as the child can seemingly turn into a different person.
With the right strategy, however, winning over the new child in your life is easy, and you will earn brownie points with your girlfriend or boyfriend.
While some behavioral issues can be hard to ignore, and ultimately puts a strain on the relationship you have with their parent, often times, once a child realizes that you are here to stay (especially if you are moving in,) the easier it is for both of you to adjust.
It’s important to remember that even though you may have your own ideas about disciplining children, you will need to have a conversation with your boyfriend or girlfriend to discuss how they discipline their children. This is especially important if you are moving in together, as you don’t want to be viewed as “just the guy or girl who lives with us.”
The key is to transition into an authority figure gradually, not immediately. Children may not be complex individuals, but they are intelligent in their own ways, and won’t like or respect anyone who doesn’t earn their respect first. Children also know who they have to listen to, and who they have the option of listening to.
Developing a relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend’s children takes time, and it will take several months before mutual respect and trust develop.
While it may seem like you will never earn their respect, there are some things you can do to make the transition easier. There are also many things that you want to avoid doing, for your own sanity and theirs.
Do: Get to know the child and their individual needs. Spend time with them and learn of their interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes.
Don’t: Try to act like their parent, at least not right away. While you are the adult in the equation, let’s face it, you are not their parent and both of you are aware of that. The best thing you can do, especially in the beginning, is try to guide them in the right direction, without yelling, scolding, or overly disciplining them. If a situation arises where you feel they need to be disciplined, it is best to tell your boyfriend or girlfriend about it so that they can handle the disciplining.
Do: Find balance, practice trial and error to figure out what works with the individual child and more importantly, what doesn’t work.
Don’t: While it’s important to make an effort and to be friendly, it’s also important to establish some sort of authority so that the child does not view you as a pushover. Given the opportunity, a child will take advantage of you and your good nature, so be nice … just don’t be too nice.
Do: Communicate often with your boyfriend or girlfriend about their children.
Don’t: When communicating about the children, don’t openly complain about the children, as this is likely to land you in the dog house. Additionally, overtime, this is likely to cause tension in the relationship as your boyfriend or girlfriend cannot “control” everything that the child says or does. A better approach would be to pick your battles and only mention things that bother you, if they really, really bother you.
Do: Raise your voice to get the child’s attention if they are in immediate danger. As in, riding their bike down the middle of the road, or playing with scissors, etc.
Don’t: If you are in a position where you have to discipline them, do so as gently as possible. Don’t call them names, criticize them, or put them down. Explain to them why they are being disciplined, etc.
Do: Eventually, the child will view you as another authority figure. It’s important to note that when this time comes, it is still important that you discipline them accordingly and that you do so lovingly.
Don’t: Over discipline the child or children. If your boyfriend or girlfriend does not use spanking or other measures as a way to discipline their children, it’s important that you don’t spank either. Even if you personally feel that the child should be spanked, if you value your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend, refrain from disciplinary actions that you know they do not approve of.
Remember, once gained, respect can easily be lost. It is important to treat your significant other’s children with respect in order to retain a mutual level of balance and respect. There are days when this seems easier said than done, however, focus on the big picture and learn to take the good with the bad.
-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte