Time for the Kids to Grow Up

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Dear Hoopers,
Wondering if I am being selfish….I am living common law with a father of three girls, twins 16 and the other is 19. He is a very doting father that spoils these girls a lot and the twins are very possessive and clingy towards him. I get along with all three girls but I feel sometimes like the third wheel. They live with their mother who uses them as weapons to hurt their dad. She doesn’t buy them very much ..we buy them their phones, cars, anything expensive. I don’t have a problem with that I just hate how they manipulate their dad and I feel they use him and me also. The twins are hanging off him all the time and seem very immature for their age especially one of them. I get frustrated and admit a bit jealous. Is this normal? I want him to let the girls grow up a bit and feel when they are with us they don’t need to be all over their father all the time. What is your take on this?
-Time for the Kids to Grow Up

Dear Time to Grow Up,
Frustration and jealousy can certainly be a product of inadequate quality time and cause feelings of insecurity in a relationship. You chose a partner who had three women in his life before you. Trying to strike a balance in giving and maintaining a healthy relationship with his daughters seems to be the goal.  To build these respectful relationships it will be fundamental to set boundaries.

If your partner has always given his daughters doting attention and endless resources, then he’s set the groundwork for their expectations of him, which from your view looks like enabling. He has set a standard of normalcy by never saying no and giving them what they want. While it’s easy to look at his daughters as being manipulative and clingy, this is what they know. Some questions you may both want to consider and discuss include: Is our helping actually unhelpful? Is it disruptive to long-term autonomy? Why do we feel a need to set these boundaries?


Aligning on your views is going to be most helpful in implementing and setting boundaries.

-Kate

If you feel like your giving has turned into enabling and promoting dependency from his daughters, then you need to talk this out with your partner. Aligning on your views is going to be most helpful in implementing and setting boundaries. You also need to be real with your partner about how you feel and keep that communication going as you consider placing limits on your giving and encourage his daughters to be more independent.
-Kate

Dear Time to Grow Up,
It is time for them to grow up. I would call them girls, but I think even in our language we can reinforce the same thing we are trying to change. They are young women and the only way for them to take the next steps in their development is if you and their father allow (and push) them to do so. This may be more difficult than you imagine. Some teenagers will naturally push their development and are eager to take on more responsibility and independence as they age. Many teenagers have to be coaxed into adulthood and often need that coaxing from their parents.

Most people, especially children, are very responsive to how they are treated. If they are treated like babies, then they will act like babies. If they are treated like adults they will slowly, eventually, act like adults. The only way that this happens is if both you and their father are on board for this approach. If their father consciously or subconsciously wants them to be young girls that need him forever, he might subtly reinforce them to remain that way.


If they are treated like babies, then they will act like babies.

-Dr. Ryan

If both of you are behind this approach, I would recommend having a conversation, an open and honest conversation, about coming changes. Establish a different set of responsibilities for each of his children, with clearly defined expectations and outcomes. This doesn’t have to be an extensive list, but even small changes on your part can result in big changes on their part. They are becoming women and it is time to slowly set them free.
-Dr. Ryan