If there’s anything that can tangle up co-parenting, it’s remarriage — especially if a new spouse doesn’t agree with how their stepchildren are being disciplined.
It’s why one dad on Reddit feels caught in between his ex-wife and his wife, who reprimanded his daughter in a way both he and his former spouse felt was extreme. The man and his ex — with whom he has an “incredible friendship” — have a mutually agreed-upon co-parenting strategy for their 9-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. That way, he explained on Reddit’s “Am I The A**hole” forum, “The structure stays consistent and we don’t have one parent favored over the other.”
Brilliant! Except the man’s new wife, who has “always been amazing to my children” administered a questionable punishment to her stepdaughter when she stole chocolate from a store. “…Where as my ex and I would have marched her into the store, return the chocolate to the owner and apologize, my new wife took my children home, sat my daughter at the table and forced her to eat the entire lot by herself, making her brother watch,” he wrote. “She continued to make my daughter eat even after she’d complained of a belly ache. My son told me when I got home from work.”
The man confronted his wife about her method of discipline and reminded her to follow the co-parenting agreement. “It keeps everything consistent and I didn’t appreciate her making my daughter feel sick (she slept all night and skipped dinner because of her stomach),” he wrote adding that his wife “is extremely upset” about the punishment.
However, the man’s wife feels she deserves a voice since she lives part-time with her stepchildren. She wound up giving her husband the silent treatment and retreated to her mother’s house. “Of course her mother is now calling me an [a**hole] and saying that I’m treating her as an unequal parental figure in the house and that she should have a say in how the kids are raised as well considering she’s the stepmom,” he wrote. “I spoke to my ex about it and she agrees with my stance and thanked me for standing up for our choices and defending our agreement.”
Reddit was pretty outraged by the wife’s choice of punishment, calling it “abusive as hell” and “horrifying.” Someone wrote, “…I honestly would’ve booted her out of the house and filed divorce papers immediately.”
Although one person, who did not agree with wife’s actions, added, “….She is a stepparent and she can’t be left completely impotent when it comes to authority over the children or they will take advantage. There has to be some middle ground between her being an equal parent (she isn’t) and her being nothing at all (which will lead to divorce).”
But few could understand the wife’s reasoning. “….What is the logic behind this punishment? Apologizing to the store owner would remind the child someone has been hurt by their actions and teach accountability, but this teaches what exactly?” the person wrote. “If you [are] force fed a ton of chocolates, it’ll make you sick? Well, no kidding.”
“Yes, it seems like she’s punishing the girl for wanting chocolate rather than for stealing,” someone said. “This brings up another whole side-issue — does stepmother have an unhealthy attitude to food, and does she model this to the kids?”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, marital problems between a parent and a stepparent are a big cause of unhappiness among children. Therefore, this family would benefit from all the adults coming to an agreement that benefits — and not harms — the children’s mental health and physical safety.
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