Widower Wednesday: Man Up and Be a Dad

From the Inbox comes the following:

I’m dating widower who feels very sorry that his daughter has lost her mother. As a result he over indulges her. At age 10, she still believes in Santa Claus he says he doesn't want to tell her the truth because he worried how it will affect her. He also doesn't enforce certain types of behavior, such as having her go to bed on time (she stays up until 11:00 p.m. every night) or eat balanced meals. Basically he doesn't push her to do things she doesn't want to do.It’s very difficult for him to "deprive" her of things she likes, even when it's in her best interest in the long run.

I am concerned that should we get married it will be a rough road getting both he and his daughter to see me as a true parent who has an active role in the discipline process, too. I feel there are more constructive ways to accomplish things than to indulge children. Is there a reason the W is behaving this way? Is it guilt? What can I do to help?

There could be lots of reasons the widower is spoiling his daughter. It might be feelings of guilt about their loss or inadequacy of being a single dad. Maybe he left the parenting up to his wife and really has no clue what to do. Whatever is driving this, you’re right to be concerned. He’s made series of bad parenting decisions and needs regain control before these behaviors are ingrained in her mind and things really begin to spiral out of control.

The problem is, that you’re just the girlfriend and don’t have the same level of parental authority with the daughter as her father. Having you tell her to go to bed at, say, 9:00 p.m. doesn't carry the same weight as her father saying it.

Since you’re just in the dating stages, I would talk to the widower about his parenting (or lack thereof) and see if he even views it as a problem. If he knows he’s not doing the right thing by catering to his daughter’s every whim, then there’s hope things can change. At that point you can offer suggestions on how to be a better dad. Maybe one week he starts enforcing an earlier bedtime. The next week she has to eat her vegetables. The third week there’s another. Maybe everything changes at once. That’s something the two of you need to work out.

What’s important is that you see him manning up and taking his role as father more seriously instead of just giving it lip service. It’s also critical that you’re both on the same page when it comes to parenting roles, discipline, and other parenting issues. If you’re not in agreement on these once you become her step mother, his daughter will learn how to exploit the differences and pit the two of you against each other.

Right now it’s up to the widower to right the ship. And, yes, it needs to be fixed as soon as possible. If nothing changes it’s better to end it now. Otherwise you’re just asking for future problems and heartaches by continuing with the relationship. If the widower refuses to change, he's the one that going to have to deal with the consequences. Next week I'll write about how widowhood isn't an excuse for lousy parenting.

Have any readers experienced something similar? If so, leave a comment how you've handled bad widower parenting issues and successfully blended families.