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Should I tell him that I am not his biological father?

Hello Mr. Hutten,

I have a question for you. I have a 14 year old step son who does not know that I am not his biological father. His mother and I have been separated for 9 years. I get him and his brother, who is my biological son, three times a week. I have had this visitation arrangement with their mother for the entire 9 years.

I met the boy when he was 8 months old, and he really has no idea I am not his biological father.

That said, the boy treats me with no respect, gets into trouble and generally makes the time I have with him and his brother a nightmare. I could go on, but I am sure you can imagine what I have been going through.

My question-- Should I tell him that I am not his biological father? I really want to tell him because I do not think he appreciates exactly how good I have been to him. I spend a lot of time being angry at him and I think if he knew the real situation he might have a little more gratitude.

Please let me know what your professional opinion is.

Thank you so much for your help and your program.

Sincerely,

B.

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Yes! You should definitely tell him, but out of a sense of keeping the relationship on an honest level – not out of a need to apply your own hidden agenda (e.g., to lay a guilt-trip on him for how he has been treating you). Also, break the news to him at a time when things are calm – not after a heated argument or during conflict.

For all intents and purposes, he is your son – and as such, you should use all the disciplinary strategies in the eBook exactly as they are outlined. Some stepparents try to deal with the daunting task of being stepdad by taking the approach of "I won't interfere with your life." Unfortunately, this approach says to the stepchild: "I don't care that much about what happens to you." Stepchildren may resist involvement, but they will benefit far more -- and form a better relationship -- with an involved stepparent who applies both nurturing and discipline.

Give your stepson the gift of limits. Children need limits for healthy development. If they don't learn in the home that there are limits on their behavior, they'll have a harder time functioning in the outside world. If they resist limits -- and they will -- it will be easier for you to deal with it if you remind yourself that children do the same thing with their biological parents.

Use clear and explicit rules to establish limits. "You never told me that" may be a legitimate objection when you try to punish a child for breaking a limit. Limits should be clear, consistent, and invariably enforced. And there should be clearly understood consequences for following or disobeying them. Don't overwhelm your stepchildren with rules, but have enough of them to create a moral order in your home.

Let stepchildren participate in making the rules. Have regular family meetings. Use them for sharing positive experiences, openly airing grievances and concerns, and formulating rules. Children should not have the final say in establishing each rule. But they should know that they have been heard. It's a basic principle that people are much more likely to conform when they have participated in the decision-making process.

Encourage openness about feelings. "I hate you. You're not my father." It's tempting to reprove the child and forbid such language. But that teaches stepchildren to suppress their feelings. Instead, tell the child why this kind of statement hurts and how it makes you feel. Then explore with the child why he feels this way, reminding him that you still want to be his father. Be honest with your stepchildren about your own feelings, and encourage them to be honest about theirs.

Plan special times and experiences with your stepson. Shared experiences build intimacy. Spend time alone with him. Do something that the child considers special (e.g., going hunting or fishing).

Maintain your sense of humor. Humor helps keep matters in perspective. It helps relieve tension. It builds intimacy when you laugh with someone else. Sometimes you can use humor to resolve a problem with a stepchild. Humor won't cure all problems, but a lack of humor can kill the relationship.

Other than these items above, use the techniques outlined in the eBook.

Good luck,

Mark

My Out-of-Control Stepson

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh boy. First I want to commend you for being a great dad and caring about both your boys. Second, proceed with caution. Before you tell him, really look at yourself. Do you treat him with respect and fully accept him as your son, has there always been some underlying anger on your part? Kids know these things as a matter of survival Understand yourself and your motivations prior to telling him. Remember, biological parents get treated the same way you are describing - you are a safe person for him to take out all his confusion on - give him a safe way and a safe place to do this....physical activities with adolescent boys are generally good times to talk and a way to blow off some of that steam. Model for him how you would like him to deal with feelings and upsets - give him the coping skills he needs. Be very cautious about pulling the rug out from under him....make sure there is a solid foundation below it first, and don't expect his new knowledge to make things better. Sorry so long. I forgot to say - don't forget we're all here pulling for this to all work out. You are not alone.

Anonymous said...

What exactly do you want if you tell him the truth? I think it's ridiculous to expect respect if you tell someone you aren't their biological parent. You are the adult and he is a child. I don't care if he is 16...his mind isn't fully mature yet.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely be up front and honest about who you really are to him but don't do it on hopes he will treat you better and respect you more because that is not Lilly to happen but rather he is going to be, at least initially, much more angry that he was never given this knowledge right from the get go.
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