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My fiancee and her two daughters (8 years old and 4 years old) live with me and my two sons (7 years old and 10 years old). Six people is quite a houseful :)

The girls' father sees them once a week for a couple of hours. When they are with him, they get everything they want and when they get home I usually hear "That's not fair" from my two boys. I am not able to buy the boys whatever they want, whenever they want it, not that I would if I could afford it.

Just last week the girls wanted to get American Girl dolls. So they call their father up and get him to order them some online. They know that if they want something, they only have to ask their father.

How do I explain to my sons that there is nothing I can do about the girls father buying them things all the time? It's not that I want to "compete" with him, but he makes life for me pretty difficult at home each time he buys the girls something.

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Can you and your fiancée sit down and talk about this with the father? It sounds like an obvious first step, but perhaps there are reasons preventing this. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Sep 15 '11 at 19:52

I might say it depends on how much it's affecting your kids, and I would be more worried about the girls than the boys. Your sons probably feel slighted, but your (soon-to-be?) daughters are getting constant affirmation of "You can have anything you want, whenever you want it." At 4 and 8, this is will spoil them quickly.

If it were a grandparent or uncle giving so many gifts, then sitting down with them and politely asking them to stop would be the right solution. And since the step father only sees the girls for a short period of time, I think that places him in the "relative" category, as opposed to the "parent" category.

I imagine talking to the step father is difficult (or you would probably have talked to him instead of posting this question). It might be easier if you wait until you and your fiancee are married, so you can talk to him from more of an official parent position.

How does your fiancee feel about this?

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It sounds like a deal needs to be worked out with the father, not the kids, since the father is causing the problem.

However, you will probably have to look at it from his perspective. He is probably spending money on his daughters to compensate for not actually being there in person. He feels like he is being shut out from their lives and the only way he knows how to reach out to them is through his wallet. Simply asking him to stop will NOT work. Maybe you can find a way to increase the amount of time he has to spend with his children and actually be a dad? Once he has a chance to actually raise them and discipline them every once in a while they will probably see him more as a parent like their mom and less like a limitless credit card

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You don't have control over their father. So while you could ask him to dial it down a bit, there's no guarantee that he will.

But that doesn't mean that everything is out of your (plural) control.

First of all, you can talk with all of your kids and explain the situation. Explain that you can't match everything the girls get from their other father, but that you love all of them very much. Try to make up for the lavish gifts with fun activities and attention for all.

But there's another thing you can do.

Just last week the girls wanted to get American Girl dolls. So they call their father up and get him to order them some online. They know that if they want something, they only have to ask their father.

This is something you can control. If you've explained to your kids (all four of them) that you can't match the gifts the girls get, the girls may feel guilty already. But if they don't, you can make clear to them that begging for gifts will not be allowed. Manipulating their other father into buying them stuff will not be tolerated.

And there's yet another thing you can do. Your living space is finite. If their other father wants to buy them stuff, it'll have to stay at his place. You can't have him filling up your home. That way, at least it's less visible for the boys.

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