Friday, June 28, 2013

Step son needs to respect house rules.

Comment: Thank you for the insight. I had not looked at it this way and this gives me a better perspective of what is going on.

Dear Kay:

I am part of a blended family with four boys, two of whom are children of my husband's previous marriage and who are with us on alternating weekends, some weekdays and for half the summer. Our children are 13, 12, 8 and 4 years old. We've been together for about 5 years as a family. I am frustrated and feeling very helpless regarding my oldest stepson, who is 12.

For over a year now we have flareups on issues regarding "who is boss" and what the rules of our house are. I have a 13 year old son of my own, so I know this is the age of defiance and independence. However, this stepson becomes very defiant and angry and now has started to threaten not wanting to be here when I impose discipline (with four boys, it's impossible to hands off on just some of them) or house rules, such as bedtime, TV time, computer time, cell phone time, etc.

I strive to have the same rules for everyone at our home. But now it's getting to the point that my husband doesn't want any conflict and I think the stepson has figured this out and it ends up in a good cop/bad cop scenario. Okay, if I had no kids of my own observing this, I'd just say - let dad handle it. But generally dad imposes no discipline...none. I've tried asking dad to take the reigns for his boys, but that never lasts. I don't know if I should just let this 12 year old have his way (he says that at his mom's house he never has to do stuff like go to bed at a certain time, have limitations on cell phone use, etc.). And if I do, how do I explain to my boys that they have to follow the rules, but their stepbrother doesn't.

This is starting to affect my feelings toward the stepson (not in a good way) and it's driving a stake between his dad and me (though my husband has been really good about trying to balance it all). I should also mention that the 12 year old stepson also tries to be man of the house, in some cases overruling me in conversations with his dad. I'd also like to mention that he generally does not play with the other boys and tends to only want to interact with by disciplining them or being a parent toward them (I'm exaggerating a little, but I think you get the idea).

I just feel frustrated and very unhappy in this situation. I know I'm not perfect and I'm sure my reactions and how I've handled things have not always been perfect. How can I turn it into a win-win for the children, my husband and myself.

Thank you.


Dear Susanne:

You may not like my answer however I take my job seriously even as a volunteer so here you go. Your issue is not with your step son it is with your husband. You are doing way to much of the discipline and the hands on day to day interactions from what I can read into your note.

Blended families are tricky. Most parents make the mistakes of believing they just blend everything together and it will be okay after adjustments are made. This is not so. Children of the biological parent need to be disciplined by the biological parent otherwise resentment, anger and defiance are the result of too much of a good thing, in this case the step mother.

Don't forget you already have strikes against you because you are the step mother and unfortunately will be scrutinized greatly by this young ones because of the stereotyping. Why dad is allowing this challenge to happen without stepping in is the bigger question.

I strongly suggest you contact a Marriage and Family Therapist who has successful experience with blended families. What you are experiencing now will only get much worse as these teens grow up. Trust me when I say it will get much worse left unchecked by quality family counseling. The whole family needs one on one, in person counseling to work on communication and boundary issues.

The upside is you can make these changes and things will go much better if you do this now rather than later!


M Kay Keller

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