I have been with someone for almost a year now and her children have steadily been getting worse. She has three boys and their father is hit and miss in their lives.

The oldest who is 9 lies constantly, tells his younger brothers to misbehave so they will get onto trouble. Also he yells defiantly at myself and all others. He doesn't listen when I have tried to speak to him and tell him that only bad things come from bad behavior. Lately he has learned that he can lie to his mother and that she will side first with him over me. When I say this I put him in time out by the way he screams kicks, rolls on floor etc. He then calms down. He noticed his mother left the house. As soon as that happened he grabbed his own arm and squeezed while yelling ouch and glancing at the front door waiting for his mother to come and yell at me.

The second child is 5. He is worse than the 9 year old. The 9 year old will throw a fit but listens most of the time but the 5 year old doesn't seem to care. He has yelled repeatedly at me telling me he hates me. Will not do anything I tell him. Does everything to my face I tell him not to do and whines and cries constantly. I have tried to do activities with him. I have even given him fun task to do to no avail. He knows he can holler ouch and his mother will come to aid him no matter what. He called me a nasty names and cussed at me.

Her third son just turned 4. Listens sometimes. Throws fits more than should. Disrespectful. Disobedient. Knows that he will get his way no matter what.

I have told their mother that I can't take much more and I have been loosing my temper more often due to the stress of everything. It's like they want me and their mother to argue and fight. Like they just don't want me around and express that to me daily. Now I just got custody of my 2 year old son and I do not want him to emulate any of this awful behavior.

I feel as though I am getting nowhere trying to communicate my concerns with their mother as she is quick to blame me for any and for everything that goes on. I am at my wit's end. I do not need the advice from any of her children or her and I don't want my son to suffer for it either. Any suggestions other than leave?

  • Hi, Have you got time to chat? I'd like to discuss what you've said further, though we shouldn't do it here.
    – Dom
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 16:09
  • 1
    brian - 2 things. 1) we have a Be Nice rule here, so your response to Dom is not acceptable. 2) chat is a much better vehicle for conversation than editing someone's post. Please visit the chat room Dom has set up for you.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 16:23
  • So you are obligated to fulfill the parental role but not receive respect for the same amount of effort? Your opinion is flawed. You deserve respect and unless your partner correct this behavior with therapy I would leave for the sake of your happiness
    – Lele
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 19:22
  • Hey @Dom though I agree with Lele's reply I would also appreciate your advise on this matter, please let me know if you'd have a moment to chat about this
    – Carlos_E.
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 4:23

5 Answers 5


Its hard to say without more detailed information, but it sounds like your girlfriend needs to change the way she deals with the children. Hence I suggest:

1: Get her to see that there is a problem.

2: Get her to see that she can do something about it.

3: Agree a course of action between yourselves and carry it out.

If she won't back you up then nothing will change.

  • Parents reaching agreement is a basic of education, either as a step parent or as the more regular kind.
    – MakorDal
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 13:52

One of the keys in step parenting, as I've read elsewhere, is one-on-one time. If you think about it, the problems you describe are rooted in two or more of them and their mother ganging up against you. You've got to have an extended time with each of them alone, completely away from the others and away from their mother -- shopping, movie, sports, fishing, whatever. Two, three, or four against one isn't going to work. One to one gives you the upper hand in any misbehavior. Of course the idea is to get to know each other as individuals as well...

  • I think this would definately help. This, and a serious talk with his girlfriend about things.
    – theDADDY
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 21:06

Any suggestions

Consider going on a parenting course. Webster Stratton is one which is well known and used often in the UK. In the US there's the Wonder Years programme.


The Incredible Years® evidence based parenting programs focus on strengthening parenting competencies and fostering parent involvement in children’s school experiences, to promote children’s academic, social and emotional skills and reduce conduct problems. The parenting programs are grouped according to age: babies (0-12 months), toddlers (1-3 years), preschoolers (3-6 years), and school age (6-12 years).

  • Should the adults consider going together, or is this a individual proposition?
    – Acire
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 0:05
  • 3
    @Erica It sounds like she wouldn't be interested. She's the ideal target. But even if she doesn't go he would get some benefit from it, (even social activity with people in similar situations) and maybe him going would help persuade her to go. Ideally both would go.
    – user19912
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 18:35

I hate to say this but I am 10 years into something similar. Run, don't walk! It will not get better, matter of fact it's guaranteed to get worse with age. I am now plagued with anger issues, mental break downs, depression, so much more. I hate to sound so negative but it is the truth. Save yourself before there is nothing left to save :/ I love the kids, I love the wife, but I am definitely not the person I would have been if I had not subjected myself to this life.


Even though you're not their father, and you can never be their father, you should love them like they're your children and be a father for them if you want to be with their mother.

You cannot have their mother without them. When you got serious with her, you got serious with all of them.

It won't be easy, but as suggested, you should spend one-to-one time with them and get to know them and ultimately bond with them.

You may or may not ever reach the status of being their father in their eyes, but you can and should be a lot more than a disciplinarian.

They've already been abandoned by their father, and now you're stealing some of the time and love that their mother has for them, which they so desperately need.

Either man up and be a father, and stick to that decision forever, or leave now and stop making their life harder.

It will take a lot to convince them that you won't abandon them, and for that reason it'll be extremely hard for them to open up and bond with you. You are the adult, you need to understand the difficulties they're going through and stop seeing yourself as the victim of difficulties they're putting you through.

The way they're behaving is completely understandable to me and I wouldn't blame them for any of it if I were in your position.

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