Changing Inappropriate Behavior In Boyfriend's Daughter
My boyfriend's daughter is 11 and demands constant attention and appears to have low self-esteem, (perhaps due to her ADHD?). She is always hanging off of my boyfriend, climbing onto his lap, and trying to get him to cuddle with her or sleep next to her, claiming that she is "scared" or "can't sleep" when I know very well that she's just looking for more attention. While this behavior might be understandable from a child HALF her age it doesn't seem appropriate for a pre-teen and I'm worried that if it hasn't stopped by now (we've been together 3 years, so initially I thought it was attributed to the fact that she was younger then, or because I was the "new woman in his life"at the time) it will only get worse and she will display these possessive, jealous (and perhaps promiscuous?) tendancies towards other males in the future as well. What I'm most confused about is that she gets PLENTY of attention and love (if not too much) from her father, so I'm not sure why she feels so threatened by myself or other children (like his nephews and neices, who are just toddlers) that he shows attention to? For example, if he's playing with her cousins or other young children, she'll run up, get in between them, grab onto her father, and yell at the 4-year-olds: "This is MY Dad!!" I even go out of my way NOT to hug or kiss him too much in front of her so as to not make her feel uncomfortable or feel like she needs to compete with me. She has 3 other siblings at her mother's house, so she is not an only child. I think her mother may be somewhat neglectful of her, so I don't know if that's why she acts this way, but I still see no reason for her to act so attention-hungry and insecure when she is at our house, since there are no other kids there, and as I previously mentioned, her father shows her plenty of attention and love. Is this behavior just a sympton of ADHD? Is it normal? And even so, is there a way to alter this behavior without making her feel even further threatened or insecure? Even if this possessive behavior is normal, I think it's suggestive and inappropriate for a father-daughter relationship at her age, when she should be acting more modest and showing self-respect and control over her body and emotions, particularly when it comes to her own father. Can this behavior be modified? And if so, how? I certainly don't want to make her feel like I'm trying to come between her and her father's close bond, but I also don't want to feel uncomfortable witnessing it. What should I do?
well, this is tricky. First, I'd say that a child with adhd is NOT like your typical child. They are often more immature and do not handle things in the usual manner and often not the best manner. They have a developmental delay that involves their nervous system. It is real and it comes into play quite a bit with behavior.
A child with adhd does best in routine and stable environments. Unfortunately, the split between her parents is the opposite of that. Divorce is really hard on kids and even more so on a child with a challenge. Doesn't mean that the parents shouldn't divorce (although, I always hope they try to work it out to the best of their abilities)------- but special considerations should be made towards the kids. Knowing that it is hard on them is important. So here is a girl that already has her time short shifted with her father . . . and then she feels that she must compete for him. How sad is that . . . a child should never feel like they have to compete for dad.
I think Dad needs to spend a good deal more one on one time with her. This will help her overall ability to cope. Does dad have a problem with the way she behaves in terms of wanting his attention and being with him? If so, HE must address it. I wouldn't get involved and I wouldn't yak his ear off about it. I say that woman to woman in that it may create waves but it can ultimately cause resentment to build.
The rule of thumb that I have for couples that have the partner's children involved is that the significant other is supporter, friend, confidante to the child and the parent sets the limits and rules. You and her dad can get together and come up with a plan together but he needs to implement it. Especially since you are not yet married to him.
It is hard to take on someone else's responsibility. But his child and her well being are number one. I think most of us that are parents are not bothered by our children seeking our attention and affection. We dread the day they no longer want it. AND . . . do you know that one of the things that soothes the nervous system is hugging (deep pressure) and touch? She may be trying to calm her nervous system.
Okay, so try to be supportive of this relationship no matter how it looks to you as it is his main priority. As he proved when he left the girls mother, the adult women in his life may not be forever, but his daughter is. You have to remember that. Be supportive. good luck
Thank You! I greatly appreciate your insight into this matter, though I still feel a bit confused. Perhaps I did not share enough details to give you a decent perception of the situation. I'm not being the stereotypical unsympathetic step-mom. It's quite the contrary--I'm a very compassionate and non-judgemental person, and when I encounter a difficult or different person, particularly a child, I do my best to put myself in their shoes and relate to them--just as I have struggled to do with my boyfriend's daughter. I do share a great deal in common with her, and yet can't seem to relate to her at all, no matter how hard I try to sympathize with, or understand her behavior, and I also think there may be a great deal more on the table than just her parent's divorce and her ADHD that may be contributing to her behavior (she's also incredibly spoiled and unappreciative and has had little discipline of any sort throughout her life--perhaps because her father is young, I think he often treats her more like a friend than a parent, and I think he tries to "win" her over and relieve his guilt over not being there when she was younger by buying her EVERYTHING--a cell phone, I-PAD, TVs, pets, toys, clothes,etc-- she wants and letting her always have her way, which maybe confuses her understanding of a healthy father-daughter relationship and a boyfriend-girlfriend one).
The inappropriate behavior (trying to get my boyfriend to sleep in bed with her, etc) is only a slice of the behavior issues she displays--and these have existed long before I came into the picture (if anything, I've actually helped her better control her outbursts and disrespect towards others) but this is one behavior I think she is getting to be too old for.
Her parents have not been together since BEFORE she was born (and I too was raised in two separate homes from birth) so while I know it's difficult, it's not really unusual when that's the structure you've always known and have been familiar with since you came into the world. Although, I can see how bouncing back and forth between two different households with two different sets of rules and atmospheres can take more of a toll on her than it did on me, since she does require more structure as a child with ADHD. On the other hand, while my parents had a VERY tumultuous relationship (even as they were separated), my boyfriend and his ex-wife maintain a friendly, civil relationship, which appears to be supportive to the child. Both of them remarried when she was around 5 years old, so I don't see why my presence should seem like a sudden and unusual change for her, since their divorce wasn't recent and they've both had several other relationships since then.
No, we're not yet married, but I know we intend to be soon, and we also intend to have more children. I'm just doing my best to prepare for being a step-mom when the time comes (or before the time comes, I want to be sure I'm not continuing down a path that seems destructive to myself, my boyfriend or his daughter, or my future children), and I do try to be a friend to her, especially because as I said before, we have a great deal in common and I want to help her, though I feel like she doesn't really want much to do with me. I'm doing my best to improve the situation for ALL involved, because I don't think letting HER control our relationship or what becomes of it is the answer either. My goal was to find a way for all of us to be happy, without her feeling like the only way she can get attention is one-on-one from her dad.
And yes, it is very sad that she feels like she has to compete with myself and other children, and that is why I am seeking help--because I don't want her to feel that way, and I don't see the need for it. I simply can't understand this behavior because as I said, my parents were not together either, I had a step-mom I didn't like much, and yet I never felt the need to climb on top of my father and/or straddle him, or manipulate him into sleeping with me in a desperate cry for attention at that age, but then again, I wonder if it has something to do with her mother not paying enough attention to her or because she has low-self esteem?
Again, these actions would not be as questionable if they were coming from a younger child--but 11 years old, to me, is just crossing the line. My issue isn't that she needs attention from her father. Of course that's normal, and I want her to have a tight relationship with him. The problem is the WAY she seeks attention--which at her age is no longer cute or appropriate, but unintentionally sexual. He'll tell her to stop sometimes, or point out that she's acting like a baby, but at other times he doesn't really seem to notice how her actions may look to others. I think he just thinks she's being "daddy's little girl" but I think it's important to teach young girls what's acceptable and what is not, especially when entering the teen years. I know he wouldn't want her doing the same thing to a 13 or 16 year old boy and I think a father is a role model for that sort of behavior.
What worries me is that I've heard stories of possessive, attention-seeking daughters that continue this behavior on into adulthood (sitting on their father's laps, kissing and holding them in public, as if they're romantic partners and not their parent, which is intrusive and unhealthy for both the father and daughter's other relationships as well) and I wasn't raised that way and don't want to things to get to that point. Yes, it's great to give your kids attention, but the right kind of attention. I wouldn't want my own daughter to think that the only way she can be loved is by inviting a man into her bed, and I fear that because many girls model their own relationships after those of their fathers, my boyfriend's daughter is going to equate love to clinging to males and hanging all over them, generating negative attention from boys. I want her to know that she is loved and can spend quality time with her dad just being with him, whether there's others around or not, and she doesn't have to be coy in trying to arrange for alone time with her father. I specifically try to plan things we can do that are exclusively for her; things that she's interested in, so I feel like I've done my part to show her that she can have fun with me AND her father, and actually I think she spends more time with him now than she did when he was single, since he would often be out with his friends and would leave her at his mother's house before we started dating. So, I don't think I'm the problem, I'm just looking for a solution. I'm not trying to come between their bond, but hopefully show her that she can be independent and confident, and still be loved. I don't think she was ever taught this because her mother hasn't instilled much self -esteem in her, as mine did when I was growing up. And no, I'm not trying to replace her mother either, but I do feel like her neglect has contributed to this problem as well, so I do feel like someone should step in and say something since one parent is oblivious and the other is absent. I'm not trying to implement any rules on their behalf, but I do look at things in the big picture. I believe that what you're taught as a child can influence how you behave as an adult, and maybe I'm just paranoid, but if I am going to be a part of her and her father's life and future I would like to see her turn out to be a mature, confident adult and not one of those drunken messes you see hanging off of guys and getting passed around at the bars 10 years from now.
I'd go see a family therapist, with boyfriend in tow. Your judgments might be right on but they are still just your opinion, and it would be good to have a professional weigh in.
I sure didn't like my stepmom, I had a great relationship with my dad but not enough of him, and she apparently didn't have enough of him either, so she was with him literally every moment. There was never a chance to just hang out with Dad. Sometimes a kid just wants to be alone with her father. If the 11-year-old has stepped up the velocity and the weirdness, it might be because she doesn't get enough of him or of anyone else (such as her mom) either. My stepmom would not have been a substitute for my longing for time with my dad. Her presence meant the effective end of my relationship with my father, and that was very hard.
Not saying you aren't letting them have time alone, but am just saying you never know how a child is reacting to the presence of a step parent, whether she has been around 3 years or not.
I am sorry if I did not give the answer that you were looking for but wanted you to know that I was not intending to sound like I was being harsh at all.
It is really tough to integrate a family sometimes. I think that there are some time proven things that are recommended and one is to allow the bio parent to handle the disciplinarian issues with the child. Doesn't mean that the significant other has no say (and if in this, your bf is not on the same page as you then it is really an issue between you and him at that point)------ but that the bio parent should be the one to carry it out. If not, then the child immediately blames the signficant other and the relationship takes an even bigger step backwards. That is why I talk of the bio parent setting the rules with her and enforcing them. You can help him with what they are but otherwise, you are just this positive person there that can't be blamed for changes in her life she may not want. Does that make sense? It is not to take away from your power------- it is your life too. But to keep the peace so that all will work through this.
My point about add/adhd is that kids with this are often immature. And the usual things that work for other kids don't for them. That is why they write whole books about it. Would it be helpful to google some info on it or read a book about it to maybe better understand her? I don't know. But I always do that myself just so that I have the whole picture and maybe think of something I haven't before to help the situation.
And I agree with AnnieBrooke that she sounds a bit starved for his attention. One on one attention may help with that and then rules at home (especially about sleeping) might be easier to enforce.
so, just thought I'd clarify and hope it all works out for everyone's happiness.
I do appreciate your clarification on the matter. Your first response did provide many helpful tips to me that I hadn't previously considered, however, to be honest, yes, I was initially turned off by the presumptuous and defensive tone. Prior to your last response, it appeared to me that you were attempting to blame me for her behavior--as if I had broken up her parent's marriage and stolen her father from her, and that's why she was acting out, and that I was unsympathetic of her and her ADHD, which couldn't be farther from the truth.
I feel like I was also a bit misunderstood regarding addressing these concerns--I have no intention or desire whatsoever to be a disciplinarian to her. I don't think this is even a matter that requires discipline. (Perhaps just a brief talk--with her Dad or her grandmother about "You're too old to do this and this is why"?) There was a time, probably when I was about 9 or 10, when my mother told me that it wasn't ladylike to do certain things, like jump up on my dad, or sit with your legs uncrossed, etc. and so I stopped doing those things and it didn't ruin my childhood or my relationship with my father. It's nearing an age where it's almost embarrassing in public--and I'm a pretty open-minded person.
And I'm also not trying to force my beliefs upon them either, but rather just mention it to him as something to consider. A parent's goal isn't to preserve the child as they are, it's to grow with them, teach them, and help them transform into young adults, and if he were to continue treating her like she's 5, she's never going to act her age, regardless of whether or not she has ADHD. Men try to avoid anything uncomfortable--especially when it comes to their daughters. I'm sure if I weren't in the picture he would probably never even have the sex/drugs conversation with her until she was 30!
I do support my boyfriend in his parenting and because he is young, and because he needs to also compensate for the mother who doesn't parent at all, so I give him advice on certain things. And while I may disagree about the way he handles (or doesn't handle) certain situations, I by no means try to control or dictate the choices he makes or what he/she does. He was raised with 2 brothers--he doesn't know what it's like to be a girl or a child of divorced parents, so I try to give him some perspective-- Especially because he doesn't see things from the outside--guys can be completely oblivious to that sort of thing. He would like for me to be the one to step in and say something to her, when it is time to discipline her, because it would be easier for him, but I refuse to, because I don't want to be the "bad guy." So instead, I serve as more of a behind-the scenes advisor--I don't tell him how to raise his child, but if I feel like I can help him with suggestions when he's struggling, I do. In the same way that people come to this forum to provide or gather new parenting ideas, I try to do the same for him. If caring and trying to improve a bad situation makes me a bad person, then I don't know what to tell you.
Anyways, I was really just curious as to whether this behavior was something that was questionable or would be grown out of. I don't have children so I don't know, but I didn't do it as kid, my sister who is 12 doesn't do it, and no other girls her age do it, so it seemed strange to me, and yes, somewhat bothersome--kind of like a reverse Oedipus complex. I wanted to know for my own knowledge and NOT because I'm planning an ambush on this little girl and her father. Afterall, if I wanted to be a nag I would've just brought it up with my boyfriend and not asked about it on here instead. If anything, I think I'm being overly sensitive and cautious by consulting others and seeking their opinions first.
Again, I do appreciate your advice and warm wishes and wish all the best for you and your family as well!
Just wondering if you got any resolution to this problem. My live-in boyfriend of six years has a grown daughter (she's 24) who behaves exactly in the way you described. When we first started dating, she was 17, so I found her behavior more, well, approrpriate. Now she's a grown woman and has no interest in forming healthy relationships with any male other than her father. She sits on his lap, refuses to let him answer the phone if it's me on the other line, baby talks him, sleeps in our bed when we're on vacation, etc. She rubs his shoulders, puts her hands up his shirt to scratch his back, calls several times a day to tell him she loves him. They treat each other like boyfriend and girlfriend. Like you, I go out of my way to NOT kiss him or hug him in front of her, because I don't want to cause any problems. It's actually quite disgusting. And now she wants to move in with us since she's experiencing financial problems and doesn't want to live with her mother. I'm about to end my relationship with my boyfriend, which kills me because we've been together so long and I DO love him. I've never told him how I feel about her, and I don't have the guts to do it now. This has been going on for so long that I've accepted it, but now she's moving in. Just wondering if you've approached your boyfriend with your feelings about his daughter. I have, of course, been told a million times to tell him how I feel, but I guess it's really not that simple. He is constantly defending his kids and telling people that the divorce he had from their mother was hard on them (it was over ten years ago). I want to tell him that half the world is divorced, everyone I know is divorced, but I don't know anybody that has a relationship like they do. I'm tired of not being able to spend one evening with him without her constantly calling. Or, if we've got plans to go out for dinner or drinks, he invites her along. She gets jealous of ANYBODY that talks to him, whether they're men or women or kids. I swear, she's even jealous of our cat when my boyfriend holds her. My boyfriend has admitted to me that his daughter doesn't want "any other woman" talking to him, but, if you ask me, it's not just limited to other women. He's been allowing this to happen her entire life, so I suppose it's his fault. I feel horrible about this. I'm extremely depressed, but I can't find the words to talk to him about her inapprorpriate and embarrassing behavior. She's now taken to hanging on his friends (when we're all out in a group) and a few of his guy friends have made comments about the sexual way she acts with him. I want to tell him what I overheard, but I don't want anybody to get mad at me. I'm so sad about this.
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