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Stepfather and stepson ignore each other...

Hi Mark

I have recently joined your online parenting support to help my 14 yo son D___.

At the weekend he had a fight with his stepfather - caused by D___'s attitude towards me, and now his stepfather, my husband wants nothing to do with him. I don't know how to get him to watch your videos or take any interest in D___'s future. This is tearing me apart, they ignore each other or scowl and swear and I love and hate them both for what they are doing. I understand my husband, he has tried so hard to help D___ and he is just nasty to everyone. C___ has been with D___ since he was 2 years old. I don't know what to do. Can I do it on my own? Will the strategies still work?

Please help me… I want to get away from them both. I want to cry all the time (I don't do it but I want to), I totally lose thought when I'm driving and don't know where I am and it frightens me. I am terrified every time they are in the same room together, I don't know what might set them off. D___ is 6 ft 2" with a bad temper and terrible attitude. C_____ now refuses to be left alone with D___ as he may lie about him and get C_____ into trouble with the authorities. This puts the pressure of D___ totally on me.

I have watched your week one and part of week two videos and read all the pages and I know that we/I have done this to D___ and I want to undo it.

Please help me,



Hi J.,

Re: Can I do it on my own?


Re: ...will the strategies still work?


One of the hardest things for a step-father is to figure out his role in the household. Many a stepfather makes the error of trying to come into the household acting like a biological parent. This is a big mistake. A stepfather who tries to assume too much disciplinary authority will create resentment in the kids and become very frustrated over time.

Your husband has a right to be treated with civility, and to expect that the household will be somewhat organized, but you are the kid's mother. It is your role to do the disciplining, and his role to support you and your decisions. It is critical to talk together to decide how you want to handle the worst situations and the things that the youngsters do that are the hardest for him to tolerate. However, unlike many biological dads, your husband should not be the 'enforcer.' You two need to come to some agreements so that you can present a united front to the kids. If the youngsters see him as the 'bad guy' and you as the 'protector' this is likely to hurt your marriage by putting you on separate 'teams'.

It also sounds like your husband may not have age appropriate expectations for your kids. It will be very important for the success of your family that you get some help dealing with this issue. Yelling, threatening or intimidating kids will lead to avoidance, fear and anger. I am sure your husband is trying to establish his authority, and that is not inappropriate in itself, but parenting through intimidation will lead to a very unhappy household, particularly when these youngsters enter adolescence and start yelling back!

I would strongly encourage you to get some help from a psychologist or counselor. You and your husband should meet with the clinician as a couple to help you both get on the same page about how you would like your household to be (I would not involve the youngsters in the therapy for some time - if at all). Your husband will do a lot for your marriage by learning to parent through positive means (which are more effective than punishment or intimidation). It will probably also help your husband to hear from someone besides you regarding what he can and cannot expect from kids this age.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Things at home have gotten really out of control. Her disrespect towards her step-father reached a point of physical contact (slap in the face). Police was called and now we are dealing with court issues. It started out as an argument between me and my husband, at which point my 19 year old overheard pieces of the argument and proceeded to step in and offer me assistance before I knew it she was yelling profanities at him. I was trying to calm her down, but she got more and more disrespectful and he got even angry with her and the situation and he slapped her and she called the police. Now to get what she wants she has started threatening me about making sure my husband goes to jail if she can’t drive the car, or she doesn’t have to clean her room unless she is ready. My husband has been unemployed since May 2011 so there has been a lot of tension in the house…she feels that because I am the only person working he has no say so in the house. It’s gotten pretty bad…..and no matter how disrespectful she gets, she thinks that if I put her out I’m taking sides. Looking for some help!!!

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