Dear Abby: Divorced dad wonders if his girlfriend can discipline his kids

DEAR ABBY: I am a single father of three wonderful children. When my wife and I parted ways, we agreed to a 50/50 custody and property settlement. Everything went well. A year later, I applied for and received full custody of my children. Their mother has visitors, but that’s it.

Shortly after my separation, I met a woman and we became good friends. I waited about a year before introducing her to my kids as I wanted to make sure I got to know her first.

Although we are not “officially” in a relationship, she has been more than willing to step in and help with the children. In a few cases, she disciplined them because of bad behavior. This usually involves telling them about what they did wrong and some sort of consequence – the loss of toys or privileges.

When they went to visit their mother and she heard about it, she was not happy. She called me very upset saying that my friend was not allowed to discipline our children. I see nothing wrong with it, but I question myself. Any advice, please? – WORRIED DAD IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR CONCERNED FATHER: If your friend’s “discipline” has EVER gone beyond conversation, then her mother is right. Because you have primary custody of the children, YOU should be the parent who imposes penalties if they misbehave and a penalty is warranted.

DEAR ABBY: I’m a very social person and part of a tight-knit group of friends, but my boyfriend is on the introverted side. Although he is gentle and caring, he doesn’t have a lot of friends and he tends to enjoy independent hobbies.

Since learning that my friendships are very important to me, he has made a huge effort with my friends and their boyfriends. In the past, he has invited them to movies, reached out, and tried to involve them in a number of ways.

I watched from a distance, hoping they could forge a connection, but they either ignore him or avoid him, and he recently shared his concern that they don’t like him. I don’t blame him for thinking this, and I’m starting to feel sad for him and frustrated with my friends. When do I tell them about it? Should I just let relationships happen organically (if they do)? Should I intervene? – TORN IN TEXAS

DEAR TORN: You haven’t mentioned your age, or how long you and your boyfriend have been involved. I don’t think it would interfere to ask your friends why they don’t seem willing to accept it. Their answers could be enlightening.

At certain ages, circles have formed and it is difficult to break through and gain acceptance. If there is something about your boyfriend that makes him uncomfortable, it would be best if you knew what it was. Ultimately, however, he should socialize with you and those friends at his comfort level. You may also need to find new friends and cultivate relationships as a couple.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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