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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
  • What is your fiancee's opinion regarding the girls being spoiled? Do you act as a step-parent to the girls (day-to-day)? Would your boys be able to understand that someone having more stuff may feel unfair, but it simply is how it is? Do they consider it unfair because they feel entitled to more? How would they react should you (gently) tell them "there's nothing I can do about the girls' father buying them things all the time"? – user25972 Jan 11 '17 at 14:47
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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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    A note: the man buying the presents is NOT the step-father, he is THE father. The man leaving the comment is the step father to the girls. – kc m Jan 10 '17 at 20:39
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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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Good for you for realizing that your problem is explaining to your own sons, rather than interfering with the girls' relationship with their own father.

Let's start with the adult truth: the boys don't get the same level of supplementary gifts because their mother doesn't behave in the same way as the girls' father. Perhaps the boys' mother doesn't have as much money as the girls' father, or perhaps she doesn't think lots of gifts is the best way to help bring the boys up.

The question then boils down to how to explain that to your sons. If it's that their mother doesn't have as much money, for example, you might say something like, "your mom doesn't have as much money to buy you gifts as [girls' father] does, but she still loves you very much."

  • I'm not sure speaking on the boys' mom's behalf is a good idea. If they need affirmation from their mother (note there is no evidence of this in the question), it needs to come from their mother. The mother may not appreciate her ex saying she doesn't have much money. – called2voyage Jan 11 '17 at 20:16
  • @called2voyage Yes. I give it as an example only; presumably the original poster knows enough additional details to come up with something more appropriate if that example isn't. – Warren Dew Jan 11 '17 at 22:58
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This is old, I know, but I still want to answer.

I would sit down & have a real talk with my kids about the inequities in life & that is simply one of those things. Some people are born with more abilities than other. Some are brilliant, some gorgeous, some are incredibly talented, some have major health issues right from the start, this is life. And the same happens in how much money various people have to buy superfluous items as well as how much time someone has in the day to spend with you, etc. There are kids who get their parents with them all the time, some seldom see their parents at all. Some kids are super tall, some very short, some wealthy, some wear all hand me downs. This is life.

I actually like opportunities for my children to witness obvious inequities. Life is full of them. Learning to be happy despite those inequities is a major life lesson most of us will have to learn because most of us will not be born into incredibly wealthy families where we are gorgeous & riding the top of the social wave all our lives. I point out people near & dear to us that have been given the bad deal in life, like a close relative with a severely debilitating disease. They need to understand there are worse things than not getting all the toys you want. I also show them children that live in seriously tough conditions, like refugee camps and then I get my children involved in saving money & raising money to go to relief work for people who have it much much worse than we do. The ongoing fundraising helps them remember their own blessings & that someone, somewhere else, thinks they are incredibly lucky & is jealous of all that they have.

Life really is not fair. It's not. People who want children desperately sometimes cannot seem to get there. Others do not want children at all & end up with unplanned pregnancies. Some work very very had every day with little reward or pay & others hardly lift a finger & make a lot of money. Some live terribly unhealthy lifestyles & live to be in their 90s, while others do everything they can to live well and die young. This is how it is. The younger you start to actually learn how to accept this as fact, the better, because it isn't going to change. I have a son who was recently complaining about his BFF's new headset (very expensive one) and so I said, "I think I can help you". We are currently saving up for a clean water project for people that have to walk to get water. So I had us each grab a gallon milk jug, we filled it with water, and walked one mile. He wasn't thrilled about it initially at all. We did that every day for one week & then had a real talk about how some people are doing that every single day of their lives or they do not drink, can't cook, can't live. And we only did one gallon and only for 1 week & it wasn't a good time. I haven't heard another word about the headset.

I am a firm believer that my children's real happiness in life long term will never be dictated by the things I have bought them. I will never feel guilty about what they do not have or worry about what someone else does have. That isn't what makes or breaks your enjoyment in life, it's what you have happening inside. You can have nothing & be full of joy & have it all and feel empty. Fill your boys up inside & what they do or don't own won't even matter.

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This is something you should handle together with your fiancée. So you need to talk with your fiancée first, to make sure you two agree how to handle this.

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.

(Read every you and your below as plural — you and your fiancée).


Talk with all of your children

First of all, you and your fiancée 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.

Compensate in other ways

Try to make up for the lavish gifts with fun activities and attention for all. Do not compensate just the boys, since that would make it a competition between the boys and the girls.

Don't allow begging for gifts

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 and your fiancée 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.

Don't allow your home to be a gift storage facility

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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    -1 OP has no business policing the relationship between the girls and their father. – user7953 Jan 11 '17 at 3:01
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    @fkraiem I had already emphasised the plural you, but I've edited to make that clearer. And yes, the OP and their fiancée do have business policing the relationships of underage members of their family (together), especially when those relationships influence other members of the family. – SQB Jan 11 '17 at 9:14
  • This is a confusing situation, but the girls are almost certainly not part of the original poster's family. Most likely, given the visitation situation, the father retains joint legal custody with the mother, and the original poster does not have such custody; this means, for example, that the father can make medical decisions for the girls but the original poster cannot. The relationship between the girls and the original poster is more like being roommates than being family. – Warren Dew Jan 11 '17 at 21:33
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    @WarrenDew yes, but they seem to be forming a family together (English doesn't make the distinction between Dutch "gezin" and "familie"; the former being a family living in a house together, the latter being a family in the sense of (close) relatives). In this case, the OP isn't their father, but he is part of the family living together in one house: the OP, their fiancée, their boys and their fiancée's girls. That makes it their business as well, since they're (again, presumably) raising those four children together. – SQB Jan 11 '17 at 21:38
  • @SCQ I agree with fkraiem, the OP has no legal or moral authority to police the relationship between the girls and their father. It is simply not the father's or the girl's responsibility to manage their relationship in a way that makes the OP's children feel good about themselves. Not only that but any attempt to try to do this is likely to lead to a lot of conflict with the father and resentfulness from the girls which will lead to problems much bigger than the one the OP is currently dealing with. – user1450877 Jul 19 '17 at 14:46

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