By Jodie Lynn
My husband thinks every time his seven-year-old son asks for something, he should automatically buy it for him before his ex-wife can. It's like some sort of weird competition. I think his son is totally taking advantage of him but if I mention this, he gets very upset with me. What is the best way to get him to look at the situation as others do and stop trying to win his son's affection with material things?
ANSWER FROM READER:
I do the very same thing with my 9-year-old daughter. It basically is competition between me and my ex-wife. I just want my daughter to know that even though her mom and I are no longer together, I still love her and want to make sure she gets things she wants. I'm going to try to talk with her mom and see if we can agree not to set ourselves up for a rough road for the next ten years by continuing this poor choice we have unconsciously made. - S. S. in St. Louis, MO
Divorce is quite hard on everyone but it can be really stressful and confusing for children, especially around this age. He may not even know that he is manipulating his dad, but simply expects the same results when he asks for material things because his parents have unwittingly trained him to do so. They likely buy whatever he wants whenever he asks for it out of guilt for the failed marriage and shaking up his once secure world. There's even more pressure to try to be the most loved, popular and admired parent if one or both work out of town and/or have busy careers to the point where he is in a ton of after school programs, driven around by someone else or maybe taken care of all summer by others. The downside to this is that he will certainly learn how to manipulate not only his parents but others as well. For now, you will have to try your very best to stay out of it. Just do the best you can with the time he spends with you and do not feed into the current buying frenzy. As he gets older, try to volunteer for various organizations where he can go with you from time to time. Let him help you with an older person in the neighborhood by raking leaves, cooking or shopping for them. Read books and watch movies and TV shows where a child has decided to do something remarkable for the good of others. Hopefully, he and his parents will grow up and see the world as a place that is only made better when we do things for others and contribute to society as a whole.
CAN YOU HELP?
Should parents keep fighting with their kids to go to church every Sunday even if they argue, fuss and pretty much hate it? I just heard this question on a talk show and was wondering what the answer might be. No one there actually had a real answer. We have the same problem with our two elementary school-aged girls and one middle school-aged boy.
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