Care and Feeding

My Boyfriend Is Perfect. Except in How He Raises His Kids.

It’s driven a wedge between them.

Young girl and boy back to back.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by studiovespa/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here.

Dear Care and Feeding, 

I’ve been with my widowed boyfriend “Chase” for 18 months and involved with his teenage kids for six. My own kids are in their early 20s, and while I’d never claim to be a perfect parent, I think it went OK—they’re all happy, independent, and on warm terms with me and each other.

I love Chase but he has a huge, bad parenting blind spot.

He plays favorites between his two kids. For example, both his 15-year-old daughter “Trinity” and 17-year-old son “Bryce” have ADHD, but she gets grounded for lateness, missing appointments, grades below an “A” etc., while he is celebrated for “B” grades and forgiven for any missed chores or appointments. Spending on gifts and patience for their interests and growth is radically different too.

I’ve tried to talk to Chase about this but he claims it’s not happening. The kids are clearly aware, and it’s driven a wedge between them. Is there anything I can do to try to get fairness happening? I thought he was the one, but I don’t want to date someone long-term who can’t treat their children fairly.

—Unfair In Illinois

Dear Unfair In Illinois,

I’m sorry that your otherwise solid (are you sure?) boyfriend is such a disappointment when it comes to how he parents his children. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that you can do here. You’ve already attempted to bring his attention to the issue and he’s denied that there is one. At this point, Chase needs to know that his inability to treat his children fairly could be the grounds for you leaving the relationship.

Make him understand that this is an incredibly serious matter to you, that you are deeply concerned for his son and daughter, and that you cannot see yourself remaining with him long-term if he continues to be in denial. Show him specific examples of how differently he treats Trinity and Bryce and how it seems to be impacting them. Let him know that you want to be supportive of him and that as someone who has raised adult children, you have experience in dealing with teenagers and are happy to help him out as much as you can. However, be clear that you are not going to stick around while he shows such a devastating bias toward his son. Be firm in your words and in your resolve. You don’t want to be with someone who can’t treat their children fairly; give him the opportunity to step up and change, and if he doesn’t, you must move on.

—Jamilah

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