I have two sons, the eldest is 6 as this question is about him.

I am separated from his mother, she has a new boyfriend and is pregnant. My son lives with her during the week and I get him 3/4 weekends. He gets very upset when I have to return him after the weekends with me and begs to let him live with me.

There are many problems with the current situation but this weekend I picked him up as usual and he told me that his mother's boyfriend had said a bad word to him, he had shouted at him to 'get in your f*#king chair' and had punished him twice. He had carried him to his bedroom, shut him in there and held the door closed so he couldn't get out. He has also carried him out to his car, put him in the car and threatened to take him to the police.

My son was upset at being sworn at and said it had frightened him and that he was also scared about being taken to the police. He also said he hurt his hand banging on the door trying to get out of his room.

I'm 100% certain that he is telling the truth. I can tell when he is lying and his mother's response when questioned about it confirmed it to me.

This is completely unacceptable that his mother is letting her boyfriend swear at him and punish him. It is simply not his place to do that and I would never let my girlfriend get involved in parenting matters, especially discipline.

Not only that, I feel the punishments themselves were inappropriate and that chastisement needs to come from a place of love and her boyfriend certainly doesn't love my son and that this is simply bullying and is seen as bullying by my son.

I do not want to return him to his mother's care until she acknowledges that what has happened isn't appropriate or acceptable and guarantees that it will not happen again.

Am I being unreasonable or over reacting?

  • Is there an option that your son stays at your place, if the situation doesn't improve?
    – Arsak
    Jun 11, 2017 at 6:46
  • @AnneDaunted Definitely not step-parents, but I'll make changes and add the other tags. This is textbook abuse if the boy is being honest (as the father says he is). Nothing disciplinary about it. Jul 26, 2018 at 23:15
  • I think the title doesn't fit the text. Shouldn't it be The boyfriend if my children's mother instated?
    – Arsak
    Jul 27, 2018 at 6:21
  • 1
    @Marzipanherz yes i edited the title, i was expecting it to be the child's boyfriend's mother who was abusing them. Hope it gets approved
    – WendyG
    Jul 27, 2018 at 8:51
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    Do you have a court order stipulating contact arrangements?
    – WendyG
    Jul 27, 2018 at 8:52

5 Answers 5


I do not want to return him to his mother's care until she acknowledges that what has happened isn't appropriate or acceptable and guarantees that it will not happen again.

Legally, you probably do not have this option unless you can prove to representatives of Child Protective Services that your son is in immediate danger. (The hows and whys vary from state to state.) Usually, the second step is to contact them and make them aware. Once involved, they will determine the danger, and if they deem the BF is a credible threat, they will take this to court. The outcome can vary: they can give you custody, they can make your ex limit your son's contact with BF (basically throw him out), etc. So the first step (which you have taken) is to ascertain the validity of the statement.

The next step is to discuss the situation with your wife. Get a feeling for how often this kind of treatment is occurring and how severe it is. See how that matches up with your son's account.

If your wife has let this happen more than the one time, please do not expect that she will prevent this from happening again. The BF may be abusing her as well. Though it's hard to understand why adults put up with other abusive adults, it's as common as mud, unfortunately.

In order to protect your son from this behavior, it is likely you will need to get Child Protective Services involved. If you want custody, it's probably wise to get a lawyer as well.

  • I like this answer, but doubt the wisdom of jumping to conclusions (last 1.5 paragraphs) based on what the OP described. As you say, "get a feeling for how often this kind of treatment is occuring" and whether it really has the marks of systematic abuse. It could just as well be short-term excessive demands leading to short tempers and emotional outbursts where cooler heads would otherwise prevail. If dealing with the second case, getting CPS involved likely won't actually change anything in the boys home, but make the mother and boyfriend much less inclined to listen to anything the OP says. Jun 11, 2017 at 19:16
  • I agree with you, there is a big assumption. But the mother confirmed what happened, and abuse doesn't have to be systematic before it is dealt with, does it? If a parenting class is recommended for the BF as the sole outcome, it's better than nothing at all. I don't understand your last sentense. Are they listening to the OP now? We don't know anything about that. I don't know how getting CPS involved would make them listen less to the OP. Tell him less, maybe. Jun 11, 2017 at 19:52
  • True, I don't know whether anyone listens to the OP now. And I think this lack of information makes it difficult to provide good answers. But I'm thinking that if you actually call CPS on your ex-wife and boyfriend, instead of trying to deal with the problem between the three of you first, then you're hurting whatever's left of the relationship between you and your ex-wife. I'm giving the BF the benefit of a doubt here - he might just be out of his depth, in which case, he might listen to a suggestion of parenting class by the OP and/or his ex-wife, without being forced into it by CPS. Jun 11, 2017 at 20:14
  • @Pascal - I love your optimism! I really wish I shared it. :( (Off topic, but Friday and Sunday nights, we often saw the same kids in the ER, on Friday with the weekend parent alleging abuse by the weekday parent and wanting the doctor to "document it", and on Sunday with the weekday parent alleging abuse by the weekend parent and wanting the doctor to "document it"! So, so very sad. Maybe that's why I am less optimistic.) Jun 11, 2017 at 23:01
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    That is really sad. It's also a good example of why caution might be in order. There are different motives at work here - the punished boy's, who wants to live with his dad. The OPs, who might want this, too. The ex wife's, who seems to still talk to the OP - what exactly did she confirm? Why? The BFs, who might or might not be abusive. I just think that these people should sit down and talk because while things might be as simple as they seem to the OP, there might be more going on than first meets the eye, and rushing into things (involving CPS) might be to the disadvantage of the OP. Jun 12, 2017 at 13:31

Children don't "make" adults do anything. Adult need to control their tempers, otherwise how else are kids going to learn to?

I would be furious too...Its your ex's responsibility, not her new BFs, to discipline the child. Keep a record of this with video of your son telling you about it. Is there no way you can have him to live with you??? You seem like you care so much...


There's a big difference between disciplining and abusing. What you describe sounds more like aggression and abuse than constructive discipline.

This sort of abusive behaviour is never waranted and can cause long term serious impact (I know). You should talk to the ex and see if you can get her to see that his behaviour isn't OK.


Talk with your state's child protective services agency. It may be part of your state's State Department of Social and Health Services or a similarly named agency. These state agencies are easy to find on-line. Your state probably has a child abuse hotline that you can call. If you call, you can ask to remain anonymous. You can get information and advice without actually filing a complaint.


You're not saying anything about the frequency of the incidents you describe. This answer assumes that this is the first time your son has told you about these two incidents, that the boyfriend has already been living with your ex-wife for some time and that there are no other such incidents - e.g. they're fairly infrequent.

I remember when my oldest boy was 4 or 5 and driving me completely nuts sometimes. I remember one or two incidents that sound a lot like what the boyfriend did to punish the boy (minus the heavy swearing and the threat about the police).

I'm not very proud (read: ashamed) of these incidents. However, looking back, I'm giving myself points for not completely losing control at these times - I didn't hit him even though I wanted to.

Objectively, locking an upset child that doesn't cooperate in his room for a while until he cools down doesn't strike me as such a bad thing to do. You don't know what exactly happened and how your son behaved to cause such a reaction from the boyfriend (only that he was upset enough to keep hammering against the door until he hurt himself). How would you have handled it?

The threat to take him to the police, otoh, was a bad idea, as it's just designed to scare the boy and he can't follow through with it. I'm a firm believer of only threatening what you're actually willing and able to enact. So that does sound like the boyfriend was very upset and his actions were driven by emotion he couldn't control, not reasonable thinking.

Again, what did the boy do to make the boyfriend overreact? I know he's the adult and should be expected to stay in control, but look at it from another perspective: If he hasn't had kids himself yet, he hasn't had time to grow into his role yet. He has to learn how to deal with (possibly) unruly kids, and doesn't have the advantage of getting them while they're still toddlers.

You write your ex-wife is pregnant again - I'm assuming from the boyfriend. That sounds like he's there to stay. So it's unreasonable of you to expect him to not discipline your kids. I also think you're overreacting in not wanting to return your son to his mother's care - you're just creating a huge amount of trouble for yourself if you do that.

What you could do is to ask your ex-wife and her boyfriend to meet, just the three of you, and voice your concerns. Don't blame anyone, just tell them what your son told you and say that you're worried about the swearing and the pointless threats, and that you think that's not a productive way of dealing with your son.

If you do have suggestions of how to deal with difficult situations, offer them as possible alternatives, but remember that it's your ex-wife and her boyfriend who spend most of the time with your children, and any suggestions on how to deal with the kids will have to be formulated very carefully so as not to trigger answers such as "you don't know how they are at home, you're not there to see them at their worst", or "it's not your place to tell me how to deal with the kids" - which is basically true, since I'm assuming you don't have custody any more.

It would of course help if you got along with your ex-wife and her new boyfriend.

  • I'd say that not being able to control your temper around a child is a problem and makes that person a danger to that child. I know how challenging my son can be but there is no reason why it can't or shouldn't be dealt with patience and self restraint. Jun 11, 2017 at 12:02
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    Yes, well, that's what I thought before I had my oldest son. The first seven months, he cried pretty much non-stop every waking minute. I am not particularly short-tempered, but that period of time showed me something about my own limits. So not all humans are perfectly patient, and can muster perfect self-restraint. The boyfriend in question obviously isn't one of them, but we really have no clue about how short his fuse is, or how much of a danger he could present, because the OP didn't say anything about what happened before the punishment. We're only hearing half the story. Jun 11, 2017 at 16:42

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