Caring for Your Boyfriend's Daughter; Overcoming Conflicts in the Workplace
Nov 13, 1995
This is a tough one. I've recently moved in with my boyfriend and his nine-year-old daughter. Her mother is out of state, and she [the daughter] has taken to me quite strongly. We have the usual collection of adjustment "issues", but one that bothers me more than anything has led me to seek your help.
This little girl is headstrong and a bit spoiled, and about as demanding as I've ever seen a child be. Her father seems oblivious to that behavior, which I can understand. What I can't accept, however, is that no one but me notices how perfectly wretchedly she treats her friends -- particularly one little girl. She is rude, arrogant, cruel and controlling. She insults them several times while they are together, and orders them to perform tasks for her. I find myself coming to the aid of the friend when I feel I should stay out of it.
Is it appropriate for me to intervene and talk to her? How can I relay my concerns to her father or to her in an appropriate way? It's really become a source of discomfort for me. Thanks.
Jan in Seattle
It's entirely appropriate for you to talk with the girl. Why don't you suggest to your boyfriend that you would really like to help care for his daughter (because every young girl needs a Mom or a mother figure.) If you broach the idea in a very positive, upbeat sort of way, then he may support the idea of you giving the girl guidance and care.
If you diplomatically ask him about what you should do when she is less than perfect in her behavior (as all little girls sometimes are) then hopefully he will give you permission to guide her, teach her, love her, and even scold her, as the case may be.
Assuming that he says yes to all that, have him tell his daughter that you'll be taking care of her with her father, and that she should listen to you. The daughter will then know clearly that you have authority over her. That's all preliminary -- to ensure that you're able to actually do something.
I think that guiding children to grow up to become adults that care for others and love and respect others is a long-term process that first and foremost involves "education of heart". First, start to educate the daughter about the "wonderfulness" of true love -- of caring for others, and being cared for in return. Give her all of your love -- show her how beautiful it is to love someone. Then, talk with her about her friends, and gradually guide her to care for them and give love to them (by giving gifts, or even a smile.) Lead her to experience how good she feels when she loves her friends.
Then, as she begins to understand what she should be like, guide her to apologize to her friends when she hurts their feelings. It's very, very difficult for some children to apologize, but when they learn to do so, they also learn how to make better relationships and take responsibility for their selfish actions.
This kind of thing is not a quick fix. The good news is that as you continue to teach her about loving others, the process will become more and more joyful and exciting.
Describe the procedures for resolving work conflicts that might arise from time to time.
There are general principles that one can follow in a business environment. To me, being "professional" means treating other employees with respect and consideration. Although some work environments might tend toward the "politicking, backstabbing, climbing-over-the-dead-bodies" approach to corporate advancement, one can take refuge in the knowledge that treating others with kindness is ultimately the most productive and rewarding type of behavior.
Overcoming conflict entails communicating with the other person based upon a desire to establish harmony and good results for all. Trashing the other person until they are ground into the dirt is a Pyrrhic victory. A victor is one who can turn an enemy into a friend.
Take the high road of caring for the other side as much as your own and the other side will often turn and support you. If they don't, and continue to treat you badly, at least you can know that you did the right thing. Other people will see how courteous and kind you are, and your reputation as a "harmonizer" will grow. In the long run, you'll be happy with that position.
Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”