Tattling on the new girlfriend's kid

I have a new girlfriend, who has a ten-year-old daughter. Last night was the second time I’ve hung out at their place while Daughter was still awake, so I’m just starting to get to know her. I’ve never had any kids.

While Daughter was eating her dinner, Girlfriend left the room for a moment. Daughter immediately jumped up and dumped her full glass of milk in the sink, then ran back and sat down as Girlfriend came back in the room. Daughter did this right in front of me, and knew I was watching. I chose not to say anything to Girlfriend at that time; I waited a few hours, until after Daughter had been put to bed.

It’s way too early in the relationship for me to have said anything directly to Daughter; that wouldn’t be my place. Hopefully things will go well enough that I’ll take on a parenting role, but that’s down the road, not now. I feel it’s important at this time to build a good relationship with Daughter, so I hate to tattle on her, and possibly start off with her resenting me or hating me. But she shouldn’t be allowed to get away with stuff like that, either.

The thought has also crossed my mind that this could have been a test by Daughter, to see what she might get away with with me. And that there’s probably more to come.

So, what’s a good way to deal with stuff like this?

It’s not your place to “do” anything about it, but you could certainly have said something to make GF aware at the time. I would have if it had just been a friend’s kid–probably in a lighthearted way, “hey, I saw what you did!” (That might be enough right there; let the GF press her for what it was.)

The romantic relationship really doesn’t even need to come into it at this level. The kid shouldn’t expect to get away with such things in front of any of her mother’s friends.

Can you talk to her about it without judging her? You know, open-ended questions–“Marie Ann, can you tell me what you were thinking when you poured your milk down the sink the other night?” She might say that she hates her mom, or that she hates milk, or that she thought her mom would be angry if she didn’t drink it, or a variety of things. I think this is an invitation to confide in each other, and not so major a deal as to create serious issues between you and Marie Ann’s mom.

Gosh. I would have been like “hey! what are you doing!? You just dumped your milk down the sink!”

“Hey Girlfriend ! Your daughter dumped her milk down the sink !!”

Better start reading John Rosemond books and nip this situation in the bud.

What did your GF say when you did tell her?

And, not to be too aggressive, but why didn’t you ask your girlfriend then, instead of us today?

Hm. I wouldn’t have said anything. She would’ve done it had you not been there, I remember being not allowed to leave the table til I ate a certain thing, and I sat there for over an hour.
Maybe ask the mom is shes lactose intolerant. Buy her some soy milk!

I did. This is new territory for her, too; she’s never had a boyfriend as long as her daughter has been alive. We didn’t get to really talk extensively about how we’ll deal with this kind of stuff in the future; we’ll be talking more about it tonight. I just wanted to get some ideas.

Ouch. Yeah, it was a test. I think you flunked.

Look, there’s boundaries involved when dating a single mom, sure. You’re not the kid’s dad, or even step-dad, and you shouldn’t involve yourself in PARENTING roles at this point.

But you are a grown-up, and she’s a kid. There are boundaries and roles for adults and kids, whether they’re related or not. One of those boundaries is that you don’t pull sneaky cheating underhanded stuff in front of a grown-up and expect to get away with it. If you do manage it, you certainly don’t respect that grown-up. And if you don’t respect someone, you can never love them. (Yes, yes, down the road.)

I would not have tattled, but I would have called her out on her actions as they were happening. “What are you doing? Why are you pouring your milk down the sink? Isn’t that a waste of money? I hope you’re going to pay your mom for that.” That’s a valid set of observations/questions between you and her simply by the virtue of you being an adult and her being a kid, whether you’re a parent figure or not.

ETA: I think, at this point, after a conversation with Girlfriend, you need to approach Daughter and let her know, “I’m not a parent, I wasn’t sure where my authority lies, but after talking with your mom, I need to let you know that what you did with your milk wasn’t cool. I’m not going to lie to your mom for you, and letting something like that go without telling her is the same as lying to her. It’s not going to happen again.”

Having been in similar circumstances, I’d say the principles to be guided by are, in order:

  1. You are not the kid’s parent.
  2. You are a responsible adult, and the kid’s parent’s friend.

If everything you do is consistent with everything that those things imply to you, you can’t go very wrong.

Beyond that, I’d say mainly just relax. Be friendly, have a good time, let the kid find whatever relationship she wants to with you, at her own pace. Recognize and allow for the fact that she is a kid, and don’t take anything too seriously one way or another.

ETA: I’m going to disagree with WhyNot’s last suggestion there. Don’t go “approaching” the kid with anything, about this or anything else that will sound severe. It is not your place to introduce or enforce standards of behavior–too close to a violation of #1 above. But I basically agree with the preceding part.

I’d look for a new girlfriend. One that doesn’t have kids.

I don’t think there is an obvious good solution here. At one extreme you have the kids of a complete stranger, where it is not your place to do anything at all. At the other extreme, you are the actual parent and you should definitely do something. Your situation fits in somewhere in the middle, but it isn’t exactly obvious to me where. I think that would be true even if I was in the situation myself, instead of just reading about it!

In your position, I can see myself handling it exactly the same way you did: not doing anything at the time but mentioning it afterward. It sounds like your relationship is pretty new, so this sounds like the safe approach: in addition it naturally leads into a conversation about proper roles, etc. Taking on a more parenting role sounds dangerous to me: early on in the relationship it may be presumptuous to take the lead. That said, if you are going to be around a lot or have plans to move in, etc you definitely want to talk about this. I don’t think you can go too wrong if your priority is to make sure the two of you talk about this and come to an understanding, rather than guessing what the appropriate role is.

Based on only the second meeting with the kid I think this is too early in the relationship for this to be a test that you failed. I can’t see myself passing this test so early on, so I’ll cut you a little slack! :slight_smile:

My personal rule of thumb (no kids myself, but lots of students aged 3-70) is that you shouldn’t tolerate anything you wouldn’t tolerate yourself, regardless of parental presence. In other words, I’m not going to tell the parents, I tell the kid directly. For example, one time my friend’s kid (5 years) was playing around near the car, and almost cut themselves on the license plate. I told the kid (not the parents) to be careful around there.

I think this attitude is What’s Wrong With America. Okay, perhaps not entirely, but it’s part of it. Why on earth* isn’t* it a complete stranger’s place to talk to a child about obvious misbehavior? I’d hope that complete strangers would discipline my kid if she was being a brat when I was out of the room, especially if said complete strangers were invited into my home for dinner.

We’re not talking about a situation where you’re uncertain of parenting styles or personal rules. This is a situation where the kid was clearly sneaking around behind her parent’s back and doing something Mom wouldn’t have been happy with.

You should make a good relationship with the kid. Talk to the child especially when the mother is not around. Talk to her and treat her as a grown up. At 10 she can hold conversations and is aware of her actions. Make a friend and an honest pure relationship. It is not all that hard. No need to discipline, ask her why she did it. Or just talk about milk wig her or that you use to do the same thing. Connect.

I agree it was a test. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer as to what you should’ve done. You’re kind of on eggshells here, and it’s not your fault.

The only thing I can think of to do is try to bond a bit with the daughter, but not in a way that’s “let’s not tell mom”, so you can gain some trust. IF it’s OK with mom, maybe you can talk to her about such things, but this is kind of down the road stuff.

Quoted because I agree.

I think the correct response would have been, “You know I’m going to tell your mom you did that, right?” Yes, you have to build a relationship with the daughter, too, but you don’t want to be her friend - you need to be somewhat of an extension of her mom - if it doesn’t fly with mom, it doesn’t fly with you. She was looking for a boundary, and I think you should have let her know where she stands with you.

And definitely talk to your girlfriend about your boundaries with her daughter and discipline; you’re in a real grey area there, and could be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Next time your girlfriend leaves the room while the three of you are eating, hide your broccoli under the sofa.

I hope you’re kidding.