Dear Mr. Dad: I am a divorced father of a 9-year-old boy, sharing custody with my ex-wife. The problem is that she’s overindulgent, and after a week in her house, our son co
A: You’ve put your finger on two of the biggest problems single parents face these days. First, dealing with inconsistencies between houses. And second, one parent spoiling the child. In many cases—as you’ve already noticed—the two go hand in hand.
Ideally, you and your ex-wife would have similar parenting goals, which you would discuss on a frequent basis as your son grows. However, as you’ve discovered, that’s not always practical, especially if the two of you aren’t on the best of terms.
The bad news is that you can’t change your ex-wife. You can try to talk with her about the importance of consistent rules, but there’s no guarantee she’ll cooperate. And you could tell her that children who don’t learn to be independent may:
· Become very frustrated at the simplest of tasks or give up when things don’t go their way.
· Have trouble accepting responsibility for their actions, instead putting the blame on others and never taking the initiative to change their situation.
· Lack confidence in their own abilities.
· Blindly follow others—often straight into trouble (drug or alcohol abuse, truancy, crime, teen pregnancy, and so on)
· End up as overly dependent adults, without the skills they need to be successful in their work and social lives
The good news is that you can change your perspective on your ex’s intentions. Moving from, “Arrgh, now I have to undo everything she did and start from scratch, again!” to so
This shift in thinking is important, because when you’re constantly fighting against so
Here are so
- Acknowledge the differences between the ho
mes, and that this may be confusing to your son.
- Review the rules and expectations in your ho
- Engage your son’s help in making a list of things you both believe he is capable of doing.
- Stick to it!
- Post your list in a prominent place in the house.
member to appreciate his contributions.
- When your son gets ho
meafter his week at his mom’s, go over the list again as a reminder.
As you and your son beco
Continuing to take steps to teach your son to be more independent, teaching him life skills, and helping him understand that he has choices will reinforce his sense of competence. Teaching your son that he can make choices (and if he makes the wrong one, how to accept responsibility and learn from his mistakes), will help him develop the skills he needs to be successful as an adult.