I’m dating a divorced guy with a 7-year-old daughter. He has no parenting routine other than cleaning teeth and bedtime. He criticizes his ex for the quality of the food she feeds their daughter, yet he is just as bad. There is no bath time, no changing of clothes, No means Yes, and whatever activities she wants to do, we do. I have no idea how to tackle these issues; my normal reaction would be to explode. How do I discuss these things with him without making him feel like he is a bad parent?

Answer: I’m not sure what’s going on out there, but for some reason, I’ve been receiving a lot of very similar questions from women around the country.

The approach to take is to simply offer to help. Acknowledge how hard it is to raise a child and tell him what a great job he’s doing. The more nice things you can say about how great his daughter is, the better – he’ll interpret those comments (as we all do) as a compliment for his parenting skills. Then gently ask, for example, whether he’d be interested in having you shop with him or maybe put together a list of items.

If you think he might be receptive, suggest that he work out a consistent routine with his ex, so that his daughter has the same basic rules in both houses. From what you write it seems that the conditions are similar in both places, but your raising the issue directly could get your boyfriend to pay a little more attention. One of the issues that should be consistent would be bath time. As a woman, you can talk about the importance of hygiene for girls, in a fairly authoritative way.

It’s also important that you emphasize to him that you’re not trying to take his daughter away from him – you know she already has a mother. Explain that you’re simply trying to start building a relationship with her, which is something that will help all of you in the long run.

Finally, don’t participate in any badmouthing of his ex, and subtly suggest that he stop. The only person he’s hurting by slamming her is his daughter.

Armin Brott is the author of many best-selling books on fatherhood. His new DVD, “Toolbox for New Dads,” has been released. You can find out more about it and Armin’s other resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com or by e-mailing arminmrdad.com.


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