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New Stepmom and Need Advice

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I'm new to the stepparent role, and I feel like a fish out of water.  I have two sons of mine from my first marriage, but I don't feel like I can parent my stepson the way I parent my children.  It's hard to feel like I'm being fair all the way around though.  How do I find balance?  How do I ensure that I don't overstep my bounds?  Even when we were just dating, my husband told his son and myself that I had my husband's blessing to discipline his son.  However, I also know that the ex-wife doesn't think to kindly of me at all.  (I'm hoping that will change in time, as it did between myself and my ex's wife.)  I don't want to create any trouble.

At the same time, my stepson is significantly different than my sons.  My sons are quite independent and self-sufficient for their ages - which is how I raised them to be.  They can take their own showers, trim their own nails, can do some cooking on their own, etc.  (My sons are 11 and 10.)  My stepson is 10 and doesn't do anything for himself.  He can't shower without someone getting the shower ready for him, he can't trim his own nails, doesn't get himself anything to eat or drink or pick up after himself - he expects it to be done for him, he can't tie shoes, etc.  He wets the bed every night unless someone gets up to wake him up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  (We've had times even during the day where he wets himself too; and the boy had admitted to knowingly doing it.)  I hate to say it, but it drives me crazy!  I keep trying to teach him how to be a "normal" 10 year old, but he sulks and spouts a serious attitude.  Often his father will get so angry that he ends up doing the things for his son, then carries on about how useless his son is.  I really can't stand that.

But I also can't stand the lies this child spins to tell his mother, which gets her angry at us.  He's even done it between his father and I, and to my sons.  My sons have even been witness to things that he's lied about, who have told the truth to my husband.  Sometimes, though, it's been turned around that my sons and I gang up on my stepson because of our telling the truth to his lies.

Unfortunately, it's getting to the point that I'm starting to resent my stepson... to the point where I'm starting to not like him.  What do I do?  How can I help him without crossing the line with his mother?  How do I stop myself from not liking him?  How do I repair the damage to my relationship with my stepson?

by on Feb. 23, 2013 at 1:00 PM
Replies (21-23):
by Platinum Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 12:50 PM

 At the highlighted part below.... Why do you get to dictate how this child's father parents him? How would you feel if someone did that to you with one of your boys? And from the child's point of view how would you have felt if your parent had up and changed the rule and parenting style you were accustomed too for someone else and their kids? Let dad take care of his kid.

Quoting amylynn98:

We have my stepson every other week for the entire week.  Sometimes more if his mother needs help.  I do want my stepson to want to come, and I don't want to take his mother's place.  My husband and I have tried our best to merge our routines, and we make adjustments when we see an issue.  Bedtime is one of them.  My sons, because of my work schedule, have always been allowed to stay up until 9am (way too late for a child, I know, but that was what worked for my ex and myself at the time).  My stepson was always put to bed between 8 and 8:30 (more respectable for children).  Visitation has changed between my ex and myself, our sons see their father only on weekends, but I still don't get them until 8:30 on Sunday nights.  My husband and I have realized that an 8pm bedtime just won't work, even though it is preferred for his son - we also want to be fair.  So we decided that 8pm will begin our getting ready for bed routine, with lights out  no later than 8:30.  My kids love to push the buttons, so we know that starting a bedtime routine any later than 30 minutes before bed, and my kids will still be up.  (Another problem completely.)

I like what you said about picking battles and looking at it from his perspective as an "outsider."  My big thing is disrespect.  I can't stand it and won't tolerate it.  My kids have been made well aware of this.  And my relationship with their father and his wife prevents them from even trying to tell lies to pit us against each other.  They know we check with each other.  And my father never remarried, so I never got the chance to know what it was like to be a child going into someone else's home that was shared with my father.  While I do try to make things equal and fair, maybe I'm not doing enough?  My stepson went grocery shopping with me the other day and was thrilled that I let him pick some things out, and glowed under my praise for making healthy choices.  Honestly, it was one of the best times he and I have ever had together.

And you're right about my husband wimping out.  He is a serious helicopter parent and I won't let him do it anymore.  He's not helping his son.  Instead of working with my stepson on things, my husband will just swoop in and do it for him because it's easier that way.  I have been working with my stepson to teach him things to help him develop a sense of self-worth.  But, it frustrates me that he has this self-defeated, I-can't-do-it-someone-else-do-it-for-me attitude.  Asking him to do anything for himself is like asking someone to donate you a gold-encrusted kidney!  He lacks the desire to even try.

My parents and stepfather did not get along while I was growing up.  (My mom and my stepdad have been married since I was 5.)  It was a horrible way to grow up.  So I don't let my stepson know when their is an issue between his parents and myself - especially between his mother and myself.  I don't want him to feel the way I did.  But I also don't want him to think I hate him either.  I want to love him.  I want to have a good relationship with him.  My frustration over everything has begun getting in the way.  I don't want it to.  I don't want to feel the way I do now. 

One thing I thought of tonight is to ask my stepson's mother if she would be willing to get some coffee together so that I can understand her perspective and what she expects from me.  I'm hoping that this would help as far as discipline goes.  I'd like to explain to her my routines with my children as far as rules and consequences go, and see what hers are... maybe then we would be able to work out a way for me to discipline my stepson when it is necessary that won't overstep her preferences.  But, regardless, I will not tolerate disrespect in my home.  Would it be overstepping my bounds to seek her out in getting help for my stepson?


Quoting IloveElephants:

My step kids were 3 & 4 when I met my husband.  They are now 32 & 33.  My approach was different.  I wanted the kids to WANT to come out and see their dad.  I didn't want to be called "mom" by them.  I wanted to be their friend.  Yes, their daily routine was different than ours, but okay, I can work with that.  I don't know how long your visits are, but we just had them friday night through sunday afternoon.  Can't really train or change too much in that short period.  So...

1) you have to pick your battles

pick one thing that you want to be firm on and forget the rest.  The kid isn't going to make a bunch of changes FOR YOU in a couple of days.  He's still angry about the divorce and YOU are the reason.  Doesn't matter if you are or aren't.  That's how he see's it.

Look at it from his point of view:  when he comes over he's an outsider.  That's tough.  Plan something that he will like.  What are his favorite foods?  What does he like to do?  I made sure that my step kids had their favorite ice cream sandwiches, sodas, I made them their favorite dinners.  We would go on late night ice cream runs to the store, we'd go camping, to the snow, swimming, whatever they wanted to do we did it.

And remember this:  the ex-wife has ALL the power.  It is your responsibility to work with her not the other way around.  Your husband will wimp out..they all do.  You will be nice.  You will maintain a friendly relationship with her so that when you are all together your kids and the step kid will see that everything is fine and moving forward.  

If I had to do it all over again, I would've run the other way from a divorced man with 2 kids.  It will always be there.  No matter what you do or don't do, you can't escape his other life.  Granted I have a beautiful daughter with him and I would never change that because she is the light of my world.  As for his kids, well we're left out of a lot.  We're not included in a lot.  And that had nothing to do with me.  Your husband needs to get on board.  Sounds like he's passive.  He needs to communicate with his ex on what's going on and together with her find a solution to the bedwetting and other behaviors.  Have the 3 of them talk to find a solution.  They're still his mom and dad.  If they do it together, maybe the son will  act out less.  Your husband needs to talk to her about the lies the son tells.  address each one.  You all need to be united on this or you are in for lots of pain, hurt, and trouble.




by Ruby Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 3:47 PM

 i would have his dad handle him and only be with him without dad for short periods. talk to your SO in a tactful way about the issue. get his feedback. youa re not required to do all that for your skid if you dont for your own. show him how to do it and tell him he is now responsible for doing it (turning on his shopwer, clipping his toes etc) if he asks again, remind him that youve already showed him. but dont compare him to your kids out loud. that can create division.

once in awhile, my skids will hang my son out to dry. i tell my son to have nothing to do w them for a period of time after. they look up to my son and HATE that worse than anything. he is 14 and the skids are 11 and 9. ds14 and ss11 are close. for example... ss9 will get annoyed at ds14 and whine to SO, ss11 backs up ss9 story (whether or not entirely accurate, they dont outright lie but the truth is not fully told) SO tells ds14 something. for the next few hours or rest of day, ds14 will be "too busy" to do anything with or for skids. they hate that. it works better than them bickering, thats for sure. SO cant say shit and skids see how their actions result in not having hang time.

by on Mar. 4, 2013 at 5:44 PM

I want to clarify that I don't compare my sons and stepson audibly.  I have not shared my feelings with either my son or my stepson.  It's not something I would ever do because that can really hurt a child.  My "comparing" is done solely inside of myself and was shared on here because I feel horrible about my feelings regarding my stepson.  And, I was not adding bedwetting as something he can't do for himself.  (By the way, medical tests have shown that it is not a physical medical problem.)

I WANT to help my stepson.  Obviously, I'm not his biological mother, so I CAN'T do what I WANT to do... which is to get him the help that he needs.  Yes, he does display behavior that makes it difficult for me to bond with him.  But I have NEVER told him that he is useless, etc.  My husband does that. Amantonacci, you are missing what is being said by focusing on one statement.  Would you let your spouse talk down to and name call their children - biological or not?  I will not accept verbal abuse in my home.  I don't care if it's not my biological child.  It's WRONG.  This is something my husband does in the process of helicopter parenting his son.  And, when he's not degrading his son, but still helicoptering, I don't stand by like some evil dictator telling my husband what he can and can't do for his son.  I talk to him about it in a place where the kids can't overhear.  (I also don't believe in having parental disagreements in front of children - it can give them the impression that they can pit parents against each other.)  When we do talk about it, I suggest strategies, I don't dictate them.  And, yes, I'm open to constructive criticsm as well from my husband.  My sons aren't perfect by any means, and I am not a perfect parent by any means.  My youngest son is ADHD and ODD, and I often struggle with him.  My husband has been a huge help and source of constructive criticm for me. 

Between the criticism I've received here and advice, I have learned some things to help me.  Which is what I was hoping for.  I received positive feedback, support, and welcomed advice from those who offered insight without criticism.  For those individuals, I am incredibly grateful.  I have been putting some of those insights and advice to work, and had a much better week with my stepson.  There's still a long road ahead, but it was definitely positive progress.  I am still struggling with my feelings and how to be a good stepmother, so I am hoping to continue receiving constructive advice and support throughout my journey.

I have even talked to my husband about him being the one to handle disciplining his son while he's in our home.  I told him that I don't want to be the evil stepmother, and I am also frustrated with his son saying that I'm ganging up on him, even when my son(s) is (are) being the ones who are being disciplined and my stepson - who may have been involved in the situation - was not disciplined at all.  (My oldest son is starting puberty - another topic all together - and tends to be snippy with my stepson.  I don't allow that.  This happened again a few days ago when my son told me that there was an "issue" while playing a video game.  I called both of my boys and my stepson into the living room to determine what went on.  It turned out to be that my oldest son said my stepson wasn't any good at the video game.  My son was the one who was punished, but my stepson still told his father that we ganged up on him.  Am I really that wrong to be frustrated with this?  It's not the first time my stepson has done this, and I know it won't be the last.  Coping with it is something I need to know how to do.)  Anyway, my husband wants me to be a "real" parent to his son, and was upset that I had said that it should be him.  My husband was upset at me for what he said was "trying to get out of being a parental role model that his son needs."  So, I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't.  But I am trying the advice I'm being offered.

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