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I am living with and planning on marrying my girlfriend. She has an 8 year old son who lives with us. I have 2 boys, ages 5 and 6, who live with us every other weekend.

My problem is dealing with her son. I love him very much, and he is, by far, the sweetest little kid I have ever met. He is very sensitive towards others and never mistreats anyone. My concern is he has no responsibilities, and is very forgetful. He plays with one thing, leaves it on the floor, and moves onto another. I come home at times from work and this is what I find: his bike left in the street in front of the neighbors driveway, hockey goals out in the street, with the sticks on the sidewalk, his scooter on the grass, baseball bats, balls and gloves thrown in the garage, all the doors left wide open, my playstation left on with the game on pause, the T.V. turned on, and the controllers sprawled out onto the carpet, and then I find him playing in his room with something else, and his T.V. turned on.

When I try to teach him to put his toys away before he moves onto something else, his mom makes excuses for why he did that. She says that he is just forgetful and it is not his fault, or "He's only 8", or he had a hard day at school and I let him relax before we start on his homework. Is this relaxing? Not for me to come home to after a long day at work.

Do I give up on this? Should I just learn to accept that the house is going to be ruled by a child, and that he does not have to take accountability for his actions and clean up after himself, or should I move on?

Thanks for your time.


My brother, you're the only man in that house that I know of. If your house isn't in the order you want it to be in (whether it’s because of the kids or not), then you have to make it that way.

I suggest you sit down first with your fiancé and simply lay down the law. No more excuses as to why the 8-year-old doesn't respect you, the house or his things. You are simply going to explain that you have certain expectations and that as the man of the house; you expect them to be met. That is the foundation of any future relationship among any of you.

You also need to decide firmly and specifically what the relationship between all of you is. You are the "daddy" here and what you say goes. Mommy is going to have to accept that is the fact - and stand behind you. She is also going to have to understand that as the daddy, you are one of the disciplinarians of the household and her boy is only going to benefit from that male influence.

Finally, you and she both need to agree to sit down with the kid and explain the new rules to him. Mommy is going to back you 100% and help you handle the kid. No more excusing away the bad behavior. You're going to start taking away toys that are not put back when you come home. You might need to buy a shed with a lock or rent a storage unit to put these in. A few weeks of being toy-free will probably get the message across.

You also need to find little rewards for him when they are put away. Be sure to make these rewards small - but make them. One example is to give back a toy when he's done well. I'd stop however at buying new toys as a reward unless he's done something very well - having put back all the toys everyday for a month for instance.

Eventually, one of a few things is going to happen:

1) The kid will have no toys left to leave around - problem solved. 2) He will learn that his actions have consequences - problem really solved.

I believe the key to bringing up self-assured, responsible kids is one thing: superior fire-power. You are the adult - not him. You decide the rules - not him. You give out the punishments and the rewards based on behavior - not him. You are in control - not him.

However, he is in control of his actions and what happens ultimately by either doing what he's supposed to do, or receiving the punishment for not.

Feel free to tell mom I said so.

Best regards...


Have a love, relationship, sex or man/woman question? I answer all email. You can write to me at for answers. For more information about my books, "Being a Man in a Woman's World" (volume I & II), and other products visit: Check out the discussion group at:

Copyright (c) 2004, Dr. Dennis W. Neder All rights reserved.

posted on Saturday, June 12, 2004 8:21 AM
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