Differences in parenting styles-do I have the right to complain?

darfawndaMay 29, 2010

I love my fiance and have a good relationship with his 7 year old daughter, but I wonder sometimes about his parenting judgement when it comes to SD keeping herself entertained. He was raised playing video games, watching tv (had a tv in his room) and playing on the computer. He feels it has been an asset to his life since he now works as a web developer. I on the other hand was raised with limited tv privileges and no cable tv. I played sports, with dolls, and did card games and puzzles with my family.

Today (as is typical on the weekends), SD spent pretty much the entire day on the couch in front of the only tv we have. She watches shows and plays on the wii. I mentioned to my fiance that I think the tv time is excessive and I worry about it with summer break coming up so soon. He responded that since he was feeling a bit sick and sleeping much of the day (on the couch also) that she didn't have anything else to keep her occupied (apparently he thinks it is his sole responsibility to entertain her). I reminded him that she has an entire room full of toys she almost never plays with since she spends 90% of her time at our house hanging out in the living room.

I am primarily concerned with the tv issue because I think SD lacks imagination and has very little ability to play by herself or have any amount of alone time without immediately getting bored. I also think she needs to be doing more active things since this is setting her up for a sedentary lifestyle. At the same time, I don't think fiance and I should be responsible for entertaining her constantly just because she is an only child - she's old enough to play on her own imho. Finally, my selfish reason for the tv thing is that she takes over the tv which means we can't use the living room for other things (like when I want to sit and read a book and drink some coffee in the morning). It sort of adds to the childhood view that life revolves around them since she is controlling the main room of the house for hours on end.

Our parenting style with his daughter has been a very cooperative one and I have made a number of suggestions that we have implemented (like starting a weekly chore list and making sure there are fruits/veggies at every meal). Is this something that I just should leave alone since he is ok with it and I don't see him ever thinking "tv turns your brain to mush" like I do? It's just one of those things I would NEVER let my own kid do so it drives me crazy that I can't tell her "time's up for the day" and ask her to do something else. I feel like if I don't make some progress here it's going to eat away at me since I feel so strongly that it is a horrible habit for a kid to have and will probably only get worse as she gets older.

Suggestions on websites with good craft/game ideas for the summer would also be greatly appreciated since I know I'm going to loose it if she spends most of her weeks with us plopped on the couch. Oh, and to clarify, SD is with us every other week, so I deal with this quite frequently. Thanks in advance for any advice/suggestions. I'm getting to my wits end.

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I bet a lot of people can relate. I can certainly relate and I found only one solution to work for me: leave it up to FDH, not my kid not my problem.

If he thinks kids can watch tv all day and not do anything productive, so be it. If he thinks it's ok they don't drink milk, eat fruit, have a glass of water, then so be it.

I'm no longer trying to implement my own desires into the mix and it makes life a lot easier for me and the skids. They are not my kids and if they were I would certainly do things differently, but they are not.

I grew up playing outside a lot and being restricted watching tv. For example it would be unthinkable to get up in the morning and switch tv on and just hang for a while. My skids do this every morning, I don't like it but I zip it. If FDH doesn't see a problem, then it's not for me to worry about it.

Or like reading a book at night, I think this is very important, it's time to wind down from the day, it's good for their reading skills and you can't start young enough. I've tried, FDH didn't get on board, the skids couldn't care less, so I've given up. If FDH doesn't want them to do it and he thinks it's ok to hang in front of tv and then straight to bed, then so be it.

But it doesn't mean that I don't care, because I do. So when I do my own thing (I like to paint, knit, draw etc) and the skids get interested I make sure they can join in. But I leave it up to them to come to me I suppose.

So yes I would get some activities ready, I'm sure SD would be interested to join in. (And if not, switch the power off to the tv and then pretend you don't know why it's not working :-)

I'm not really familiar with any websites for activities, but I'm sure googling it will do wonders.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 6:28AM
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Raising the girl is NOT your responsibility, just let the BF and BM do whatever they think is important for their daughter. Just treat her with love and compassion for I am sure it is very difficult to grow up in two separate households.
Save the expectations for your own children. THis way your EGO does not get involved in telling others how to raise their own children. You will feel a lot lighter and happier.

By the way, it does not mean that you let her run your life. There will be certain household rules's like safety, politeness, no unlimited occupation of the SOLE TV in the house. May be you can do something with her (think as if she were your own d, what would you do with her? - talking, joking, walking in the park, cooking together ...).

I recently learn this :

Enlightenment is not about creating and expecting perfection in others, it is about revealing their hidden perfection.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 10:00AM
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I don't think complaining will do you any better than the timer at the table did last week.

Yabber hit a possible solution above for you, but it will take some time and effort on your part to try it. From two posts now you've mentioned reading your books. You have the little girl most days by yourself while dad works. Open her to the library.

Most libraries have special child activities during the summer, check out what your library is offering this summer. Some even have educational/learning dvds, if she is going to watch the tube, offer her ways to to do it learning rather than turning it to 'mush'.

Also many libraries have access from your home to log in and use programs like Tumbling Books...kid logs in from home and can read online .

If you can't beat the computer useage, again, make the effort to look into purchasing educational software that teaches and broadens over just playing on the computer.

As Yabber suggested, use the goggle. Keyword word in child crafts or childrens educational software and you'll find lots of hits for websites with ideas.

Offer her new and different things than sitting around and odds are she will follow, most kids are raring and ready to do or at least try new things. Maybe you could sign her up for a few hours of actvities at your Y, she could take swimming lessons and be with kids her own age part of the day.

Fruits/veggies...I would not let dad and/or child stop me from serving these items at mealtime. If they want to eat unheathly does not make you have to. I don't always serve fruit at dinner, but it is always here waiting to snack on and is what is offered when little tummies think they need a fill up at nonmeal times.

I don't think you're going to get the child to go off to her room and play all day byself or go outside and play in the yard for hours at a time (she might some if she has a playmate though), but I do think you could help open up new and different ways to spend her time without dad/child thinking you're complaining and making a fight out of it.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 10:13AM
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Yes, my reading time is important to me not only because it is a hobby I enjoy but it also allows for some quiet time in the house. I am a person that very much enjoys and needs some alone time each week so this is often my way of getting that during weeks where it would otherwise be impossible.

I definitely don't expect FSD to play for hours on end by herself but she currently NEVER plays alone, NEVER plays in her room and very rarely asks or wants to play in the yard (she's never had a yard until we moved about 3 months ago, so I know she still isn't used to it). We have offered to get her involved in soccer, which she expressed an interest in initially and then seemed to shy away later. She is scared to death of swimming lessons (BM can't swim and she won't even put her face in the water and can't hold her breath - I even offered once to run her a bath so she could practice in there instead of the chlorinated pool water). She got a scooter for Xmas that she has played with 4 or 5 times and a bike for her bday that she doesn't seem to care about learning to ride. She has lots of friends in school but never asks to do things with them (maybe because she still doesn't realize that she can actually have friends over since we have a house large enough to accommodate them even though sleepovers being an option has been mentioned to her several times). She is a very timid kid when it comes to actually doing new things, although she always acts excited during the idea stage she very often gets anxious when it comes time to do something new. The only thing she seems comfortable with is playing and socializing with her favorite game characters.

I did tell dad though that I think she should go to a summer camp or two in order to learn something new, socialize with other kids and get off the couch. He initially said "I don't want to impose on you by having to take her to/from day camp" but I let him know the time spent taking her was worth the time we would both get to work (yes I'll take a trade off of 2 hours carting her around so she has something to do for 6 hours during the day and I can clean, relax and not have to watch her/entertain her all day long.)

I guess it seems weird to me that many of the regular posters here feel that step parenting often requires not parenting. It's easier said than done (although I'm sure many people saying it learned the hard way). I definitely find it difficult to know what my role is in all of this and some days I wonder what I'm even doing here. I'll be so glad when I finally get a few days all to myself at the end of this week - a mini-vacation in my own home. :)

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 11:25AM
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Do you work? I guess I don't understand the summer camp thing, if she is entertaining herself by watching tv, then why can't you read or clean then? Not saying that means she should be able to watch tv all day, think that's pretty boring for a kid to do all day long, Dad should be doing activities with her. But I'm not really understanding the situation -- where is your boyfriend at? Is he watching her? Watching her watch tv?

Really confused, if I'm reading this correctly you're babysitting her a lot during the summer? And on the weekends too? And while she is home with you, she is just watching tv, so you haven't scheduled anything to do with her? And then when Dad is home, he doesn't either? So the summer camp is to get her out of your hair so you can read and clean?

Sounds to me like it's a pretty complicated way of saying that no one wants to watch her or wants to actually do anything with her.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 1:33PM
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Daycamp a couple weeks this summer might be something she actually enjoys if she will give it a chance.

You might also suggest to dad that you'd like say two morning (or afternoons) a week that allow you to be free of caretaking. Time to clean house, do your errands, book club at library or whatever. That would not be unreasonable.

When dad goes off to work along the lines of 9 to 5 Monday through Friday and you're the 'stay at home' caregiver, your correct that the 'not my kid, not my problem' is something that's easier said than done. Dad is leaving you at home in charge of watching his daughter for 8 to 9 or more hours a day until he gets home.

While I agree with others that you can't tell dad his daughter can't watch tv if dad thinks it's perfectly okay for his daughter to be a couch potato, that does not mean you have to be the one there taking that responsibilty all day, day after day. And if you plan an outing such as a walk or a trip to the library, she has to join in as she can't stay home alone.

If you really have no hope of motivating activities other than tv/vids, you might also try setting her up in a place other than the living room. But not her bedroom. A playroom with the tv, books, crafts, toys ...and declare 'quiet time' for an hour (but not sshhh, no noise allowed)...just a simple 'we are going to clear the livingroom for an hour, it's time for our quiet time'. Maybe she'll go off to her playroom, maybe she'll go outside, it's her choice what and how she spends the time, it just can't be in the livingroom.

Lure her outside, set yourself up a place for your 'my space', a cozy corner of your deck or under a shade tree where you can go out and read. Who knows, maybe with you outside daughter will venture out and ride that scooter.

I think what most have been trying over your different posting threads in telling you in their opinions, is that you can't tell dad how to raise his daughter (example, too much tv, no veggies, inactive sedate days) but you do get some say in how *you* spend the day.

It's unrealistic to think one will have lots of relaxation, quiet time, and self entertaining kids all day when there are children in the home...if you know how that can be done without affecting normal childhood, write a book, it'll be a best seller LOL... it is not unrealistic to think that you have to be the one doing all the caregiving in dad's absence.

Shakti above had some good ideas with "May be you can do something with her (think as if she were your own d, what would you do with her? - talking, joking, walking in the park, cooking together ...)"

If you do intend to remain the sole caregiver during dad being absent, you are going to have to come up with ways to make it workable for both daughter and you without complaining and fighting. If SD is not there one week, maybe that's when you need to focus on the main housework. Maybe folding towels and putting her own laundry away could be a regular assigned chore. Helping set the table. Little things that are actually helpful to you yet gives her a sense of not only responsibilty but also a sense of being a part of what's going on in the home...being included.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 1:46PM
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Thank you very much for the suggestions! There will definitely be park & library outings during the summer but obviously not every day. Dad actually works from home so has a little bit of a flexible schedule and tries to make himself available in the evenings (after school time) until bed and then he goes back to work after she goes to bed. In our old house he had his work area set up in the living room so he could supervise her and work at the same time (although it certainly wasn't "quality time" by any means). It was extremely difficult for me to share that environment since ALL activity was happening in the living room and I had to hide in my room to be by myself. Now we have some separation with him having a designated room for his office. This also means SD doesn't "see" dad as often although he is much more focused on her when he is out of work mode so it is a positive change.

justmetoo: I love the suggestion of having a separate space for her to play in with a variety of activities and wish we had the room in our house to create such a space. I'll have to see if I can come up with some type of variation of this idea... Getting another TV though is probably not going to happen, but setting up an old computer for being able to watch DVDs is a likely alternative... Gives me something to brainstorm on...

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 4:25PM
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watching TV all day long is awful for a young child. I don't think it is your job to entertain, but dad simply must sign her up for sports or crafts or some other groups, and he must take her places.

My niece is 8 and only watches TV at designated times. She is enrolled in many activities, I think too many, but better than sitting watching TV!

How about Sunday school? Choir? Crafts? my local art center has crafts and arts for children, library? Find her play dates?

I used to take DD to a library every weekend, i could not afford expensive entertainment, but library trips usually took care of a half a day on Saturday! By the time you get there, and look for books, and maybe participate in activities, stop by a park and the way back, look at flowers, stop by farmer market people watch, all day passed! and it was all free. But it means dad must get off the couch.

But again I am not sure what could you do? It should be dad's job.

PS there are things one can do laying on the couch too, like board games? dad sounds lazy...

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 5:46PM
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The way I see it is you have three choices: 1) convince DH that this is not healthy for a kid, which doesn't sound like it will work as you've been trying, or 2)figure it's not your kid and let it go (which would be hard because I think you feel, and I agree, that it's not really fair to SD, or 3) take it upon yourself to help her learn other things to do, which isn't fair to you but could be the most rewarding.

One of my favorite compromises (SS wants to do something but I really need quiet time) is to take SS to the playground. He gets to run around and play with the other kids, and I get to sit on a bench and read my book! Playgrounds seem to be good places for even the shy kids; there's no pressure on them because they don't have to talk to the other kids but they seem to eventually run around playing with at least one or two.

Will SD let you read to her? Maybe you can spend some time reading her books that you enjoyed as a child. Fantasy ones are great but I've learned not so much ones that were made into movies, because then the kids just picture the movie characters rather than using their own imaginations. Maybe after you read her a chapter you can ask her to draw you a picture of a scene from the book, or even play with her in acting out a scene.

You seem to be in a bad spot; either you sit back and watch SD's life heading in a direction which you feel is not in her best interests, or you take on responsibility which shouldn't be yours.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 10:31PM
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Daycamp is an excellent solution. She will be occupied with activities, meeting new friends and off of the couch. Even when I was a SAHM, no longer-sigh, DS went to camp a couple of days during the week because they have more than I could ever hope to offer myself. And I'm a very involved, planful, see all of the sites kind of mother.

Mattie is right, get some reading going. Trade reading for Wii time. Wii and TV are privileges, not rights. Also, she's 7. Do you have any friends or neighbors with young kids? Start setting up some play dates. She will love being with kids her age to play with, her dad will appreciate her being more social and you will have gotten her off of that couch. Plus you will make new friends yourself with the mothers of the play date partners.

she's not your daughter so I'm suggesting a lot of initiative but she is with you. What she is doing is not healthy and is tying up the one TV and the common room you should all be able to use.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 9:27PM
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Ditto everyone else that says if Dad won't get on board, then you *should* wash your hands of trying and let him do what he is going to do as a parent.

This is much, much easier said than done.

I used to hear this and even think it a lot in regards to my stepson. But it was alwayshard for me to disengage because my daughter is the same age as SS. So it's really tough to do for one and not the other.

Thankfully, my relationship with SS has blossomed over the last two-ish years and it is honestly GREAT now.

DH & Bm have 50-50 custody, with week by week in the summer and I can truthfully say I am 100% excited about having time with SS this summer. (DH works during the day---I do some part-time work from home, but it's super flex/per diem and I won't do much of it this summer, anyway.)

We get a pool pass every year and spend lots of time there. This is the big community pool with slides, lazy river, etc. This is a fun, active thing and the great part about getting a pass is then it's "free" all summer; I can run up there and only spend a couple hours and not feel guilty. Or we'll go as a family for an hour or two after dinner---for a quick evening swim.

I told the kids this summer we are going to do 1 "fun special activity" every week. We've already come up with a list together of what some of these will be: ice skating, painting pottery at a ceramics studio, going to a movie, going to the zoo, the Science Center, the Botanical Garden, etc. The kids are super excited and I am, too. I figure one weekly "bigger" activity keeps it affordable and it's something I know they will enjoy planning.

My kids are pretty active---love to play outside in the backyard, go to the park, ride their bikes or scooters, etc.

They are each signed up for one day camp so far---DD will do a camp at the zoo and SS will be doing a soccer/sports camp. Both are excited. DD also does swim team, and SS plays soccer in the fall and winter.

Keeping kids active definitely reqires planning and thought. IMO there is nothing wrong with a lazy afternoon of cartoons or Wii playing, but it's got to tempered with much more active things.

If DH doesn't see this and you can't convince him otherwise, then you have two choices: either disenage OR you pick up the slack and start parenting like she is your own child.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 10:05PM
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