I have been divorced for nearly 10 years and I have primary physical custody - joint custody of 2 sons now 14, 17. My ex and I have a great relationship, we are good friends, but I had and still have issues with his relationship with our sons. He has always tried to be the "friend" over buying gifts, anything but the "father". They stay with him nearly every weekend, he only has a 1 bed room apartment, the kids sleep on sofa beds, still - nearly 10 years, even though he makes a six figure salary, pays no alimony or child support - I didn't want it, but he gives greatly, I have no complaint there. But, there has never been any discipline and he spends money like water on them, and lets them listen to rap, any kind of rap music, and in my opinion it is destroying them. I don't like rap in my house and I am a disciplinarian.
The kids have way too much freedom of speech which in my opinion becomes disrespectful, and he tolerates it. My 17 year old is defiant with me and combative and ditching classes at high school now. We had such a heated argument over his sagging pants, I had to put him out of my house. They don't want to stay with me, it is so obvious to me, and I am so upset, but maybe they need to live with their father now, especially as I believe their father has done nothing but nurture the behavior. I am so frustrated, and my 14 year old is starting to act up as well, grades are falling, following right behind the other brother. I see his teachers and principal more than I see my own family members.
I have always fought to keep us together, it was for that reason I declined any payments by my husband, leaving him to do the right thing, but now, I'm worn out, and their father is no help. I hate to see my sons leave, but I think it may be for the best, let their father deal with it 24/7 instead of 2 days a week, and maybe it will change the way he's been handling them -- I just don't know.
You may not like my answer, but here it is anyway.
These teens are both boys. They may just need more time with their dad. As for his changing his behavior maybe or maybe not. What I don't think is helping any of you is your judgmental attitude. If you are happy with your parenting and how you handle your sons then let your ex work his relationship out with his children himself.
Often parents make the mistake of believing their parenting style is superior to the other parent. This is NEVER helpful to their relationship or the relationships between them and the child.
Your husband maybe trying to be their friend because he feels guilty about being a weekend dad. Many father make this mistake however they often figure out how this work when they have the children full time.
You stated above that he lets them have too much freedom of speech. These are 14 and 17 year olds growing into adults. Being able to speak their minds is important and critical in any relationship with the exception of emotional abuse. If they are just "talking back," then maybe it is you who needs to loosen the rope a little.
As for the falling grades it sounds like something else is going on here. Have you checked to see if alcohol or experimentation with drugs is a possibility?
If you ex is game I strongly encourage you to get into family counseling now. A successful family counselor will get to the bottom of these problems. Even if your ex won't go it would be good for you and the children.
Being a parent is the hardest job in the world and being a single parent is an incredible task. Your sons are lucky you care so much and may not appreciate you for many years however, things will work out. Have faith that what you have accomplished so far will stick with them in the long run.
M Kay Keller