All Boy or All Dad?

by mssinglemama on January 15, 2010

When Benjamin comes back from his father’s house he is a little monster.

Straw6And that’s putting it nicely.

When I ask him to clean his room he says, “NO. You clean it.”

When I ask him to pick something up he starts growling, something I am now convinced his father’s girlfriend’s son does. It’s awful. It’s like my son is a miniature version of someone else’s kid. Not that said other kid isn’t a sweet, darling little guy (because he is, I’ve met him) he’s just not my kid.

Typically, I would imagine, creating a co-parenting relationship to work out these kinks would be entirely possible. But not with my ex. Unfortunately trying to change Benjamin’s father, or even communicate with him, is virtually impossible. He just doesn’t listen. I should know – I tried for two years. And while he loves Benjamin, he pampers him. Couple that with Benjamin emulating his pseudo step-brother and you can imagine the outcome.

Or is it just that Benjamin is nearing four and turning into a full-fledged little boy with an attitude.

I can’t tell but I’m hanging on for the ride and practicing my yoga breathing moves so as not to completely go crazy on his little ass.

How do you handle the decompression time after a visit at Dad’s? Benjamin is there every other weekend, but it seems as he’s getting older – it’s taking longer to correct his behavior, get him back on a sleep schedule and down from his sugar highs of the weekend.

Any advice would be appreciated.

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica January 15, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Consistency is key. Stand your ground with him and with the rules you have put in place for him. It’s always painful when a “different” child comes home than who you dropped off. I also deal with this every other weekend and I believe it’s painful to watch because you see your ex.

I keep telling Lily that I love her and I’m so glad that she’s home, but I would like her to calm down, stop talking like a baby (she’s 6 1/2), speak in a normal voice (versus a roar), and interact with me because “I’m right here and I love you, but I need you to xyz123.”

I know girls are sometimes easier than boys at this age so my advice may not work for you, but I figured it was worth the shot. Good luck!


Melissa January 15, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Oh, I’d love to hear the advice on this one! I have the EXACT same issue. My little guy is 4. He used to (restraining order against dad right now, so I say “used to”) come back like a crazy man! “Daddy let me watch ALLLL my shows today!” “Daddy let me have FIVE packs of fruit snacks!” “Daddy gives me McDonalds for breakfast AND lunch.” “Daddy lets me sleep in HIS bed.” “Daddy lets me stay up until HE goes to bed.” Awesome. Communication doesn’t work for us either, so I just learned to take deep breaths and remind DS that Mommy has different rules. Makes me very popular.


Amy January 15, 2010 at 9:24 pm

But when your child is older he will understand, he will..


Nicole January 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I find the same thing happens with my son, although I’m lucky in a sense, I guess.
He only sees his father for weekend every month or two.

It’s difficult and frustrating and I, honestly, don’t know how to fix it.
The only thing that works around here is time.
It takes time for him to decompress and get used to mommy’s routine and not getting every single thing he wants at the exact second that he wants it.
Sometimes it takes a little over a week and reaffirming the rules of OUR home to get back to normal.

I don’t know how I’d deal with transitioning every other weekend.

I wish I had an answer for you!
I’m sure one of the great single parents out there that read your blog will have some amazing suggestions though!


Theresa January 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Wow, Yeah been there done that. Luckily, he is at the age where you can start to reason with him and he gets it. I explained to my kids that the bad behavior was unacceptable at my house.Them: “well daddy lets me”, Me: “yeah well are you at daddy’s house right now?” Them: No. Ok then… Now they are 9 & 10 and they tell me about Daddys bad behavior. When their father lets them dink soda or koolaid they promptly tell him that “Mommy doesn’t let us drink that!”
Stick with what you are doing girl, you are so smart. I’ve been doing this whole single mama thing alot longer and have learned so much from you! Thank you!
Persistance and consistancy. Good Luck 🙂


Nicole January 15, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Oh! and the roaring thing?

Is that just a boy thing?
My son does it on particularly difficult days and well, I just don’t get it.

“James, can you tidy your trains?”
“James it’s time for dinner”
“James can you help ME tidy your trains?”

yeah.. awesomeness.


ashlea January 16, 2010 at 11:36 am

The growling may be a boy thing….but if you have a girl….it’s lots of DRAMA and WHINING. I have a boy and a girl and Daddy’s GF’s kid is younger so he is the new “baby” of the “family”. Yeah…awesomeness here as well.


Stac January 19, 2010 at 6:20 am

My boy has taken to speaking in a “hardcore” growl. I just assume it’s a boy thing and it would happen no matter if he saw dad or not.


Tricia January 15, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Wow Alaina. This post hits home, only because I’m struggling with the very same issues every second weekend. And it’s driving me nuts too. I am consistent with the kids, I have structure, a healthy diet and definitely firm boundaries. They do fine with all of this and we have a great week, UNTIL they go to his house. Like your ex, he doesn’t pay attention to anything I ask him to respect. I try to iron out the issues I have when he returns them. He promises he will do what I’m asking and then, you guessed it, we’re back to square one the next time. My son, who’s always been sweet tempered and easy comes home being defiant and sassy. He tests the limits for at least two days afterwards, until he gets back into our routine. My daughter is even worse and she’s just turned twelve. It’s like she reacts to the lack of disipline and structure, by testing me on every single thing for at least two days. It’s exhausting. And overwhelming. I actually look forward to the weeks where I have them for the weekend, because I know that the new week will transition smoothly. It’s been suggested to me by the school counselors to have a therapist intervene and speak to him on the kids’ behalf. I honestly don’t see that helping. We’ve even had “family” meetings to suggest the way we want to see things happen and I never get any follow up. He feeds the kids food that I specifically ask him not to and allows them to watch TV that they would never see with me.

I wish I could offer some sage advice but I can’t. I think with ex’s like ours, all we can do is continue to be the “rock”, the person who will always set boundaries and the one that they can rely on. That’s not to say it doesn’t suck. It does. And it’s unfair. On us, and the children.

And it’s obvious that you’re doing a lot right with your sweet boy. Hang in there. : )


Kelly January 15, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Consistency is key. Consistency of what you’re expectations are. What you expect from your son, in your (both) home. You can’t control how “ex” parents or what is accepted in his home. You can only control your own home. That transition has to be hard on a little one, but one that will teach him that different environments require different behaviors. My daughter is 10 – I think this one gets easier as they get order and expectations become solidified in their minds and behaviors.


Susan January 15, 2010 at 7:44 pm

To let you know it is not all the mom’s house then dad’s house – I think it is any break in consistency. Because my hubby travels alot, my Dad and Step Mom take both kiddies about once a month. Something I love Friday and Saturday and then loathe on Sunday afternoon. The transition back is a challenge and I have to say my step mom is very decent about trying to feed them something other than sugar, limiting the TV and aiming for a reasonable bed time – most of the time 😉

I think it is the excitement of something fun, the excitement to be back and after all I sometimes have trouble decompressing – think about it in their tiny energy packed bodies.

I also think they want to test and make sure their safe limits are still there – you know? Are you still the same loving and firm mommy.

I remind them they are home and we have certain rules. Sometimes it takes a time out in their rooms or sometimes it just takes me digging deep, reminding them over and over the rules and gritting it out til bed time. Monday morning – we are almost always business as usual again.

Also – never letting them see you sweat! If you lose your cool – they will explode…


Samantha January 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm

i can’t relate as far as the “dad weekend”, but i do have an almost 4 year old (Feb.) and he is CRAZY right now!!! the growling. the pretend play/fighting/superhero moves, etc. and he has “claws”. and he tells me “No!” at every other request. i don’t know if it’s the age. or the weather. OR WHAT! i’m having a really hard time dealing. we’re in this together 🙂 hang in there!


Rachel January 15, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I’m with Samantha. There are no custody arrangements here and I am getting a whole lotta attitude from my four year old GIRL. She randomly doesn’t speak english, loves to jump/wrestle/fight, and demands me to do things. I keep trying to remind me that she doesn’t act this way around other people (my husband included) because she feels safest with me and therefore can act out knowing I will always love her.


christine January 16, 2010 at 12:32 am

it makes me feel so much better to read this. my daughter is a few months away from 4 and at times i think she is regressing. she’s started growling and barking when i speak to her, and is incredibly rowdy. i’ve blamed it on the fact that she is going back and forth between her father’s house and our home, as well as changes in our household structure. but it eases my guilt something fierce if some of this is just developmental.


Sarcastica January 15, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I’m not too sure what to suggest, but hopefully you get some good advice 🙂


Odeyemi February 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Auntie Leah and Cousin Alexander – Sara D- you have once again captured the fun paolrnesity of our adorable nephew/cousin! 1 year olds are loads of energy! Well done!! We LOVE them!


Juli January 15, 2010 at 8:18 pm

First, let me explain: when I married my kids’ dad, that made me stepmom to his daughter from his first marriage, of whom he had full residential custody. Now we’re divorced and my two sons go see their dad on weekends. So, from 9 years of experience in blended families I can say this with some authority: it’s not your son. They all act a little off when they come back from their time with the non-custodial parent. It generally takes a day or two for my boys to get back to “normal.” For my stepdaughter, it was a little longer.

The age doesn’t help, either.

A good book to read on the subject of dealing with visitation and custody arrangements is Mom’s House, Dad’s House by Isolina Ricci.


Erin January 15, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I’m with the consistency crowd. I have the same problem, but because my ex doesn’t EVER come see the kids (the next time he visits them won’t be until NOV ’10 at the EARLIEST) – but my ex-inlaws see them twice a week. They come back sugared up and CRAZY.

If I let them even have an INCH of wiggle room, it’s like the Planet of the Apes at my house. The little critters TAKE OVER. Flour spilled everywhere, chocolate syrup in the carpet… I have to HOLD MY LINE as if my LIFE depended on it. It sucks, it takes forever to “break” them, but they eventually give up the deviant behavior.

LUCK, Momma! You’ll need it, even if you respond “perfectly”. Kids are tough!


Bobbi Janay January 15, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I don’t have any advice for you just wishes for luck.


Jennifer January 15, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I have this problem w/Noah’s behaviors most the time but after daddy’s house it’s over the top insane. Boundaries get tested big time and it’s harder than normal for a few days after. He gets everyone’s devoted attention all weekend long there, and that’s just not possible at home because I have to work. Since I can’t control what happens there, nor are suggestions welcome, the time out chair gets a lot of use for a few days and I keep the rules firm. If I give in at all those few days it takes even longer for Noah to get back to following the rules & he gets worse. I feel so mean like daddy is fun & mommy sucks, but that’s life as we know it here.

I know some of it is just normal for a 3.5 yo, and I do love that he has fun with his dad and the in-laws & lets loose a few days a month. I just can’t wait until I can rationalize with him how it’s only a sometimes thing not an all the time thing. Kind of like eating candy is a sometimes thing & it can’t be Christmas everyday! lol

Samantha – that is so my kid you just described exactly, to a T.


megan January 15, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Coming from a former single mom, with a blended family, it is a combination of a lack of rules, and just his age. I have a four year old, and he is all about being a dog, or a super hero, or jumping off things. Thier little brains are growing so fast right now. You may have him getting some nightmares and other very strong “imaginations”.
any you gotta know, the “other house” is always the bad guy. I am sure that your ex probably makes it seem like you are mean to not let him do xy and z. He may not say it outloud, but the implication will b there, esp. as Benjamin ages. Then, Benjamin will get to apoint where he just gets it, he’ll be difficult for a few years until he understands that you are the one who “has his back” but when he does finally understand that, he will begin to understand what you went through to be able to give everything to him, and not be the Disney land parent.
As the other moms have said, keep all your rules in place, but let him have room to roar, and growl, if that is his new cool thing he likes. There are worse things. If he comehome screaming bad words, then I would comment, but kids emulate each other, especially if they have had a good time playing together. At least you know he probably had fun. Hang in there, it gets easier, and it all changes. Right now my husband and I are trying to get his daughter to get a job, which is really hard when the “mommy” she hasn’t lived with since she was very young keeps handing her cash. She’s 19, doesn’t want a job, and totally knows that her mom is trying to buy her love, but doesn’t care as long as the cash keeps coming so she doesn’t have to get a job. Ahhh! So frustrating! At least she is in school, but we thing she should have a part time job. Oh well. Hang in there!


Speedgirl January 15, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Kids very quickly learn that rules and expectations are different with various people. Don’t forget that he juggled the law of the land in his day care with your own rules at home!
He knows your rules and expectations, but since he is experiencing a “new” set of boundaries with his Dad, he is going to test you. I suggest reminding him that “we don’t do ____ at home” or “You can’t talk that way to Mom”. If he throws the oh-so-famous “But DAD lets me!” back at ya, calmly tell him that you are not his father. Dad has his rules, and you have yours. Don’t criticize his dad, just explain that you might run things differently than he does. Benjamin is a smart kid. Stay firm, and he will be able to transition more easily.


Zoeyjane January 15, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I’ve had this problem since Zoë’s started having sleepovers every few weeks at her grandma’s (slash father’s) apartment. And I do the opposite of the advice: I give her a day and a bit of leeway. Instead of my usual “ExCUSEe me?!” to her behaviour, like I would on a normal day, she gets a gentle, “I know you just came home and you have different rules there, but in our home, we don’t speak to each other like that.”

And it seems to be working – each sleepover has taken less time to ‘wear off’.


Jac January 16, 2010 at 4:14 am

My step son is 7 and we have found Christmas Holidays really hard, as he is at his mum’s one week, then back here one week, during the school year he lives here most of the time, and visits his mum 2/3 weekends (confusing arrangement but anyway!) The attitude that is coming from this little boy, the constant back chat, enough to do my head in. I’m not sure i have actual advice, but I think that advise of consistency is on the money. Step son’s mum has different rules, and from all accounts is much worse over there at the moment. But knows that level of behaviour isn’t tolerated here, there are rules and routine.
I used to find his manners went out the window when he got home, and use to show him my hand clenched and say “i have a present in here for you”, and would laugh and say “it’s your manners”, it was a bit of fun, with some serious undertone that once through our door, manners were used.

Good luck, i hope it works out ok…. just stay firm!


Jenni January 16, 2010 at 5:50 am

I’m not a single parent, but my son displays the same types of behavior after a sleepover with my brother’s family (and my nephew). I would first wonder if you have said anything to Benjamin? Possibly: “You don’t usually talk to mommy like that, I don’t really like it. if daddy and “girlfriend” let “sam” talk like that it is OK, and if daddy lets you, its OK, you can do it at daddy’s but when you come home to me I need you to remember the way we talk to each other in our house. In our house we….”


Travis January 16, 2010 at 8:49 am

My kids where much older when I got the divorce. So they had a solid foundation of rules and guidelines and when I left.

But… I saw in the beginning half of the kids exhibiting a passive aggressive behavior. Very non-confrontation, as they will indirectly have their mom be the aggressive one.

Nothing is perfect, we just have to keep maintaining the rules. Do it with love, kindness and respect, and over time you see a quicker “winding down” as previously stated.


bad mummy January 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

Some of it is the age.

To make the transition from Daddy-week to Mummy-week easier, I keep our activities predictable. I’ll pick her up from daycare and we’ll eat pizza while watching a movie. If she knows what to expect when she gets home

It also eliminates some of the issues that come up when she transitions from one house to another – ie: what’s for dinner, eating at the table, etc. The next morning, we’re back to our usual rules, once she’s crawled into my bed to wake me up and we spend an hour or so lazing in bed while we talk and giggle and tickle.


Lara January 16, 2010 at 10:12 am

I think it happens regardless of the age and the type of home one’s ex has. My 5 year old daughter is with her father 2-3 days/week, and I know there will ALWAYS be a tantrum w/a mandated time-out when she returns. It may take a few hours or an entire day before she needs to decompress, but it happens every time. My roommate is getting divorced and has an 18 year old who recently started spending the night at her dad’s, and it happens with her, too. She doesn’t necessarily have a tantrum, but she does “act out”. It just is what it is. Continue instituting your rules and expectations, and as Benjamin gets older he will adjust quicker. I have also started planning some down time when she returns to avoid tantrums while we are out or at someone else’s house. Hopefully, we won’t have to do this forever, but for now it seems to work best. Best of luck!


Nell January 16, 2010 at 11:49 am

Just a thought…have you tried talking to him before he goes to Dad’s? Telling him that last time he came home from Dad’s he did X, Y, and Z that were unacceptable or broke certain rules or said certain things that were unkind (you get the picture) and letting him know in advance what you’ll expect of him when he returns? And then talking with him as soon as he gets home or even in the car on the way home? It may not work the first time, but helping children learn to take another person’s perspective is something that takes time.
I work with 3-5 year olds and, while some people might think that they are too young to be reasoned with in such a manner, I find the exactly the opposite is true (on a daily basis).
Good luck, mama! I’m sure you’ll figure out what works best for you and your little man.


the silent k January 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

i have no idea. no advice to offer. just wanted to say though, that the picture for this post is perfect. sending compassion and co-parenting mama love.


Star January 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Thanks for bringing this up Alaina! It was so helpful for me to read all of the ideas and be reminded of how this age groups works. I really liked the idea of talking about it more as…Daddy’s feelings don’t get hurt the way mine do when you…that’s why it’s ok at Daddy’s house and it’s not ok here. Every person is different and has different things that hurt their feelings and we need to remember what the rules are with each and every person. It hurts Grammie’s feelings when you scream and growl loudly because it hurts her ears, but it my ears don’t get hurt by loud noises so I let you be loud sometimes. It’s also more fun to be loud outside because there is so much more room for your noise so it doesn’t hurt our ears…that kind of reasoning? I get overtired, over-sugared kids too…can’t solve that problem…maybe get them some milk immediately to calm them down? I never thought about having a set routine for when they come home each time…I like that idea too and could see how it would work. I am a firm believer of “overtalking” the situtaion…before they leave for Daddy’s, the minute they get back give the same talk…it really does work. I also think that it’s the way our brains feel about these particular tantrums because we think, “This just shows what a crap dad he is and how much he screws up and I shouldn’t have to be dealing with this if he would just listen” and that’s not the way we feel about all the other tantrums during the day because we think, “Did I give in too easily last time and that’s why he’s having a tantrum this time?” or “Is he tired?” “Is he hungry?” and we don’t get so upset about it because it’s noone’s fault and we take responsibility for it. Anyways, good luck Alaina!


Nancy January 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Before my ex moved to another state I would go through the same thing. I think it is common, now is it a boy thing? Maybe. Is it a Dad’s house thing? Maybe…a combination of both? Totally.
Like the other folks have said – consistancy. You are the constant in his life and the routine while hard to get back to after a weekend away – is still his routine that he knows and will always be the better for it.
I always needed to take some deep breaths, and go to my happy place sometimes, but I had to maintain our house rules for the boys, because sugar, TV, and anarchy are the easy way out, anyone can mind children by letting them rule the roost. It’s much harder to be a parent.


nicky January 16, 2010 at 7:09 pm

It is tough–that transition period every other weekend. Part of it is being four and the personality of your child–mine is strong willed, great quality many ways but not always easy to deal with, you learn to go sideways around things sometimes. My kid is not worth taking head on at times–it just doesn’t solve a thing.
I will say this 4 year old boys have a crazy amount of energy, and out of control sense about things and are completely vulnerable and heart breaking but can drive you nuts. IT is like they are under a spell or the control of some hormone beyond my understanding.
My recipe is–when they get home, give them 45 minutes to an hour for whatever they want, aline time, tv time, craziness, time with you–they need to decompress and you can’t have any expectations. THen we do a bath because that is what works for us, a big bubble fun toy bath and even if they are going a bit crazy the warm water works on them, then dinner–if sugar is the worry make it healthy but a favorite–my son loves to help cook. In the middle of a normal week the mess that his help creates is not worth it but every other weekend we deal with it. THat first night home after a weekend away is about making them feel secure and forgiving their craziness. OF course there are limits that need to be set if things get really out of control but my son seems to pick up the fact that I am all about him that evening and relaxing, movies on the vcr, massages, whatever it takes. SOmetimes I think how hard it would be me for me to make that transition every two weeks, it must feel so discombobulating–I just try to focus on a sedate and accepting atmosphere. I just try and not react to all his outlandish behaviors–after all I think he must be looking for a reaction, but again I don’t let things go to crazy. I don’t put up with complete nonsense but I let a lot of things go. The routine and the rules are back in place Monday evening and I let him know that. I also try to keep a journal and pictures of his time and ask his dad to snap a few so we can keep a simple journal of his life and so he can feel a continuity between both homes. I try and give the message that I am sane and I will be there and our home will be there steady and secure always and forever and it is okay to go a little crazy here and there, I will not run away but there are rules and you have to come around.
One thing I try to enforce with my ex is that he gets him home by 4 on Sunday–it give us the time we need to regroup by bed time. IF he doesn’t come back until 6, we feel all crazy and everybody ends up upset and stressed out.


~Monica January 16, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I haven’t read all the other comments so not sure if anyone else has touched on this yet BUT, is it at all possible that his Dad is somehow causing this to happen in an indirect way? That possibly to avoid looking like the “bad guy” when it’s time for Benjamin to go back to your place, or if he cuts the visit short, he possibly says something like, “oh we have to go or else your Mother will be mad” or scenario: “Benjamin you have to clean up/stop playing/leave the fun you’re having with ________ because your Mom made the rules” …….. or something/anything similar to the above?

Perhaps Benjamin comes home acting that way because he’s already been indirectly set up to be mad at you for “taking something away from him”.

I know that my 4 yr old has come home and blamed me before for this visit being cut short as it was stated, “we have to go back now or else Mommy will get mad at us for being out so late”.

My son’s Dad so desperately doesn’t ever want to be the “bad guy” but indirectly sometimes he, by default, makes ME out to be one.

Food for thought.

Other than that, yeah, 4yr old boy = I want to be the boss/don’t tell me what to do. LOL *sigh*


Hil January 17, 2010 at 8:29 am

I hear ya!!! Co-parenting can be absolutely in-FUR-iating! Sometimes it’s not even worth it to get the break from your kids because the aftermath is such an ordeal….

My son’s father smoked in their house, as did the teenage stepdaughter, whom, at 14 had relations with both genders in the room right across the hall from my son’s. When she wasn’t doing that, she and the stepmother screamed at each other all day and night (I found this out later) while the daughter would destroy and break various things around the home. They would let my son watch scary, inappropriate, R-rated movies at the tender ages of 5 – 8, after which he would have crying nightmares in my home from which I could not wake him. My normally sweet, happy son would arrive home on Sunday dazed and shell-shocked. It took daaaaaays to get things back to normal….Eventually and fortunately, I listened to my gut instinct and refused to let my son return to that house. His father divorced the woman soon after.

Ignore everything you possibly can. When your son growls, make light of it (“Are you a tiger?!”) or playfully growl back.

Since the time when I went through this, I have learned that

1. It doesn’t matter how the other parents behave. Kids will adapt to the rules / policies of two households if we just stand firm.
2. Don’t wait for nor expect your ex to change. It may never happen. Instead, keep doing what feels right / makes sense and stick to your convictions, whatever they may be.
3. Since your son only goes there for the weekend, that environment is fantasy-land, while yours is reality. It can really stink to be the fallguy. As time goes on, your son may idealize his dad and criticize you; see it for what it is and know that you’re doing and have done the best you can.
4. Don’t ever ask a child to do anything; it’s like requesting their permission. Instead, as per Love and Logic (which worked 95% of the time with my two boys), say, “You’re welcome to play with Legos as soon as you get your room straightened up”, or, (and you have about 3 more years on this one) “Would you like to walk to the car or be carried?” (wait about 2 seconds, then pick him up around the middle and carry him all the way to the car [who needs a gym?!] and I guarantee, he’ll promptly skedaddle to the car next time or the time after because he wants to be independent).
5. YOU are the boss, period, with decades of life experience, thus you get to call the shots. This is hard to forget because as mothers, we want our children to be happy; we want them to like us. But, we are here to be guides, not to be liked nor admired nor approved of by our kids.

An hour or two before your son returns, take a hot bath or do some other relaxing, soothing activity while imagining yourself in a calm state while Little Monster Boy acts out. Make a plan for your responses to growling, backtalking, etc. If he protests loudly and whinily that, “Daddy let me eat a whole cake and watch 14 shows in a row!” either smile or say, “Really?” without judgment in your tone. If you don’t argue nor defend, there’s no fight.

What the child is REALLY expressing is this: “There weren’t good boundaries over there, Mama, and I’m really confused. I’m gonna push extra hard to make sure everything’s still the same here and that you’re still an adult.”

The best thing I ever did was call anyone / everyone to ask what they did in tough situations, so good for you for being open to that. You can do it! – Hil


mommybella January 17, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Geez for a long time I thought I was imagining it. Jayden would always have a bad night when he came home form daddy’s house. He would tell me he didn’t love me, but cling to me like he had super glue on his hands. He is almost 3 and this has been going on for 1 1/2 years. I still have to hold him all night and I can’t leave his sight. I have no idea how we can deal with this except stay strong. We are all good mommys because we care about their well being. Because we care that they act this way


The Dumbest Smart Girl You Know January 17, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I read through your comments looking for a miracle fix. My kids will be coming home from their dads tomorrow morning, and as excited as I am to have them back home, I dread that first day. When they were littler, it was just the hassle of getting them back into our routine, our sleep schedule…but now that they’re 2.5 and 3.5, it’s bad behavior. FIGHTING. They act so unlike themselves, and I’m baffled. It’s (somewhat) comforting to know that I’m not the only one not knowing how to handle it…if you find a good solution, please please please BLOG IT!


thisnewplace January 17, 2010 at 5:30 pm

tell me about it. try having two girls coming home from their dad’s on a Monday. It is a nightmare. Now that they are 7 and 9 and speak their mind, it is worse, “Daddy doesn’t make us clean our room” and “Daddy let’s us have donuts when we want them” and the worst, “we stay up until ten at Daddy’s” (bedtime here is 8)


Kris January 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

UGH…It’s so good to hear that a lot of others struggle with this too! I got a great piece of advice from a friend of mine that has seemed to work wonders for my 2 1/2 year old (at least for the time being). Every other Friday before I drop her off at her dad’s, we talk about what she would like me to make for dinner that Sunday when she comes home and what movie she would like me to rent. Being a single parent that works full time plus some, movies are not a usual occurance at our house so that is a special treat. I also have tried my best to give her a little space when she gets home to decompress and readjust to our home. I used to try to hug/kiss/cuddle her all night on the Sundays she got home and that was just met with sassiness and grunts which is SUPER FUN…grrr.

Anyway, that has fixed her behavior issues for the moment so hopefully that helps some of you.

Now I have a question….anyone have struggles getting their little one to get up in the morning? My 2 1/2 year old girl is SO DAMN groggy in the morning and resists getting ready which is making mornings impossible! It’s good thing she’s so darn cute!


Susan January 18, 2010 at 11:30 am


I don’t usually participate in these forums, but I am struggling with a similar problem, albeit from a different angle.

I divorced my ex-husband for numerous reasons, lying, committing ID theft against me while I was fighting in Iraq, and more. More importantly, we have never been on the same sheet of music, when it comes to raising our son. As a result, our son was growing more agro by the day. Although counseling can sometimes reconcile differences and even betrayals of trust, but ours were irreconcilable. I recognized that our relationship was a very unhealthy example for our son. So, we began divorce proceedings, when our son was about 5 years of age. Their was a terrible custody battle only because Dad wanted to take “all he could get.” Mind you…he had no job and started sucking money out of me. Long story short…Although he was ordered to find work by the court, the court (here in CA) gave him primary custody for the following reasons:
– Dad was the parent who was always around/at home
– I was the one who went to work every day
– I was the one who was in the Marine Corps
– I was the one who had a career

I told the court I would get out of the Marines, and so I did. But, it didn’t matter. What’s worse is that I couldn’t prove or show what family life was like for us. I did ALL of the work. I was deployed for a total of one year of our son’s life and went to work every day. Dad refused to work and was content to mooch. He never helped with the housework, bathing our son, putting our son to bed, etc….and he rarely helped cook. In short, he did the bare minimum for our son, while I was at work, or he called his mother to come do it for him.

So here I am, a mother (and former Marine of over 13 years), who has joint, legal custody of her son and has been relegated to being the weekend parent (and who pays alimony and child support to Dad). In the summers (and holidays) it’s 50-50. Otherwise, I am the weekend Mom.

My problem is the same, except that my son comes back from a school week with Dad to be a sassy, attitudinal, disobeying type of child. Keep in mind…I have two days to undo this behavior and reinforce a healthy lifestyle. I believe in good food (no fast food, except when he earns it as a reward), exercise, playing outdoors (and not video games and TV all day), reading, and more. I also live with a man…my fiance…. My son likes him very much and has asked us to marry on numerous occasions (so here we are engaged). My son listens well to this step-dad to be, but he also rebels (as boys to to most anyone). We both agree, that my son is a wonderful kid, but his lifestyle at Dad’s (video games and TV after school, fast food, TV in bed at night–30 min–instead of bedtime stories, soda-pop, junk food, etc.) turns him into a spoiled, sassy brat. Moreover, Dad has neither the time, nor inclination to help get our son involved in after-school activities, such as sports. We live in 2 different counties, and I would drive our son wherever he needs to go, or to see any friend he wants to see. Dad will not. I have to nag Dad simply to take our son to his weekly Cub Scout meeting.

The other dynamic: step-dad to be never wanted kids and doesn’t want his own; however, my son has picked up the most wonderfully positive traits from him. My son has transformed over the last 2 years to become better. Unfortunately, we must battle my son’s behavioral problems every weekend, all weekend long. I work full time, have a 60-min commute, and I get tired. Here I am with my son, who has no siblings, no friends in the neighborhood, and who wants to play with me. I play. I try to get him to the park to meet kids to play with. We take martial arts together (so he can meet more kids). Anyway, the step-dad to be likes my son. He wants to help him grow up to be a good, strong man. But…I think he’s too over the top and yells too much. On the other hand, he has much more success than I do with my son. I think he is the only person my son truly likes, dislikes AND respects…all at once! Yet I still battle with my fiancee…out of fear. I have lost so much already.

Either way, I find it hard to let go and let this step-dad to be act like a Dad, and I vehemently disagree with how real-Dad raises our son. I feel as though my wings have been clipped. My son turns 8 years old next month. I am not sure I should re-marry. I don’t know if I am doing things right or wrong, or if I am just acting out of fear. All I know is that I want my son to be an independent, well-behaved, strong man someday. On the one hand I have his real dad, who very much loves his son, but limits his potential and reinforces unhealthy habits and lifestyle. On the other hand, I have this man, who likes my son, but lacks patience…yet is somehow successful with him. Then…there is me. I am utterly frustrated, tired, and well….confused.

Thank you for letting me vent. If anyone has some reassuring, or even non-reassuring, words of wisdom, please do not hesitate to write. Thank you.


Arber February 4, 2015 at 2:40 am

Borrowed! Borrowed! Borrowed! … Ahem. Not to freak out at the idea or anything. She’s alluacty the mellowest little thing, but man, I’m glad to be past the baby stage.


Kelly January 18, 2010 at 11:32 am

I think this happens whether the other parent is totally lax or or not. My kids’ Dad doesn’t do everything the way I would like, but he is alright. I notice they sass him for the beginning of their visit to him and they sass me when they get back. It takes a while to remember which house they’re at and they’ll get used to the rules at each place. Just like they call me Dad for the first hour they are back since that’s what they’ve called for the last couple of days. For me it’s worse when they go to their other grandparents for a visit- a week with them and they come back totally wound. Part of it is the different rules, part is just the excitement of seeing me again and I think part is them testing and trying to see if anything’s changed.
I agree that consistency is key and I do talk to them on the drive home or right when they’re dropped off to remind them that they are at my house now and to remember the rules. They’re 7 and 9 so they’re beginning to get it and the transition time is shorter than it used to be.
I know that someday they will realize that I am the one that is always there and and willing to do anything for them (or give up anything).
I always think of the big football players that say “Hi Mom!” whenever they get in front of the camera- Dad may be the one who taught them the game, but Mom is who made sure the uniform was clean and they got to practices and games on time.


Ken January 18, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Why are you ASKING a four year old to do his chores?

When you ask, you imply a choice. That he chooses other than the one you desire should not surprise you. You ARE the grown up. You have ALL the power in this relationship.

Telling a child to do something need not be bossy or derogatory. Be nice. Be respectful. Make it clear what the child is to do. Do not imply a choice.

Most choice comes MUCH MUCH later… around middle school in my son’s case. For now, things like picking up toys should not be couched in optional terms (“would you pick that up” does in fact offer a choice of yes or no). Age appropriate choices are ok (would you like the banana or the apple for your snack).

Check out John Rosemond for some no-frills, straightforward coaching tips on parenting, then trust your good instincts!


girlplease January 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

This is what is stopping me from filing–the lack of control. Even being married my husband blurts out STUPID things about our son’s future or even now for example, he’s sick and the idiot takes him out to the car without shoes. Are you testing pneumonia to happen (he has bronchiolitis right now). Pisses me off to no end.

I hear stupid things like “can’t wait to take you to that hot dog stand” (DH eats like crap with 300 cholesterol count; yea he’s awesome model for health) or “meh boys can lose their virginity at a young age, it’s no big deal.” Um moron, it wasn’t right when you lost yours at 11 to a 30 year old lady, it’s not right for our son to lose it at 11 to whomever either!

I hate this. I can’t stand being married to a complete moron yet all a divorce will do is not having him be in my life for what? 3 hours and during sleeping?


Eileen January 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Consistency will help, but some of it is just his age, and some of it is having another adult (your ex’s girlfriend) in the picture as an additional co-parent. My son’s father and I separated when he was 5. We co-parented pretty successfully until my son was 7 and he started dating the women that he would eventually marry. My son is now 19 and we talk about the two households a lot and how confusing it could be at times. So many different expectations to negotiate. If it helps at all I will tell you that my son is a smart, well-adjusted sophomore in college with little contact with his father and stepmother…he figured it all out himself.


Jennifer January 19, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I just wanted to say thank you for the topic and posts! As an officially soon-to- be single mama (awaiting Judge’s orders this month) of a 14 month old daughter, I already notice challenges when she goes to her dad’s house every other weekend. The first time she threw her head back in a tantrum was the Sunday night she returned from her Dads’.

The re-assurance to do the right thing is so important! Some days it’s so hard and so exhausting. I am relieved to know I’m not alone and am so grateful for all of your priceless knowledge.


Prep&Priss January 24, 2010 at 8:07 pm

She lets her kid growl?! Interesting! Sounds like he might be a little animal 🙂


Simon January 25, 2010 at 8:41 pm

a little advice from a dad…
I think part of what he is going through is definitely his age. LIttle boys are, well, little boys. You know the whole ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ nursery rhyme? Well, it’s true. I am sure that is playing into it.
The other side, with his dad, and how he pampers him is frustrating, but in my case something that happened without me realizing it. I had (have) a daughter and was on the every other weekend plan. I adored her and fought to have her longer but it never worked out (something I am still trying to figure out). The times I did have were special and the last thing I wanted to do during the precious seldom moments was be the bad guy when it came to disciplining. That has since changed (she’s now 9), but it took a few years, and the constant reminder of my girlfriend (now wife) for myself to see that I was letting her get away with murder just because I didn’t want to “ruin” the time with her.

Was it right? No. Was it normal? Probably.

Alaina, I don’t know Ben’s father anymore than most of the other people here, but I know what it’s like to not see your kid much and then when you do, feel like you’re being a ‘bad’ parent because all you seem to do is punish them when they are with you. To be fair, even now that I am much better at disciplining I am still the one who puts up with more crap from the kids. I am just easier going. Bad manners and talking back, maybe not, but in general I do.

Hang in there. Boys will be boys. Even the bigger ones. 🙂


Simon January 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm

and for susan the marine….
I really feel for your situation, and it sucks that you have to go through seeing what you do, but it seems like there is a little animosity between yourself and your ex based on different parenting styles.
Unfortunately, your situation is faced by (quite literally) millions of dads every year who go through the divorce process. Flipping it and seeing a woman go through the same thing makes me sadder. Not because it is worse, but because it drives home how f’ed up the courts are.
Kids should have equal time with both parents. Period.


Sarah January 30, 2010 at 11:14 pm

I consistently create the same food, music, smells and sounds as possible when they arrive home. Often takes a few hours, if not days for mine to get back to some form of their old selves. Sometimes all my efforts to routine them doesn’t seem to work at all. Sometimes it’s like I instantly have my little family back in tact. I don’t have any real advice. I’m just happy it’s not just me that struggles with this.


Anonymous March 10, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I agree with so many of these posts and find that consistancy is indeed the best answer when dealing with young ones. But I also know that everyones situation is entirely different. After reading these posts I almost feel like the fathers or the “every other weekend parent” are always to blame which is really not fair. Everyone wants to blame someone else for their child acting out because that could never be their own fault. Set the rules straight, don’t give in and don’t blame the EX for all the wrong things. Period!


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