Hax: Daughter tired of living arrangement

The Washington PostMay 7, 2014 

Carolyn: My mother has been dating a guy for a few years now, and he's been living with her for over a year. In our small house we now have my mom, her partner, me (14), my two younger brothers (6 and 11), and his two sons.

My mother's partner's kids (4 and 6) are, to be honest, brats. One of them we think has ADHD, making him hyper and intolerable most of the time. They throw daily tantrums and make it impossible for us to go anywhere. Their mother is no help, seeing as she refuses to let one of her children get help for his ADHD, and never tells her kids, "No." My mom is forced to handle most of the discipline, since her partner never does. I can see that she's frustrated.

How can I calmly suggest that the whole group of adults in this situation get these kids under control?

SICK OF THIS IN WISCONSIN

It sounds as if you're right about the unhealthy level of chaos in your house - but I think it's safe to assume your mother knows that the adults need to work together to get the little guys under control.

So before you talk to your mom, think about what she doesn't know: that the chaos is affecting you and your siblings. And that her frustration is showing.

Relate them to her in an understanding way and ask if there's any way you can help.

I'll suggest one right now: Purge "brat" from your vocabulary. It's possible there's a clinical explanation for their behavior, and it seems certain they've been badly served by the adults in their lives. There is an age at which their handling of these setbacks will be the kids' responsibility, but ages 4 and 6 aren't it.

These and all kids need love, patience and consistent limits. If their motors run too fast for sitting down with a book, then you can make up goofy relays or kick a soccer ball or establish a 15-minute "freeze dance" party.

You and your siblings, meanwhile, need a mother who holds her boyfriend accountable for providing these things, as a condition for keeping these families blended. At 14, you lack the power to insist on such adult cooperation, but you do have the standing to say what life is like for you in a home without it.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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