Stepson Resents Stepfather

Hello Mark

My husband and I have been using your programme for a few months now and we have seen some improvements but with lapses that have included two suspensions from school.

At the moment my husband and I get along really, really well with each other (as usual) but our son, K___ is barely on speaking terms with us.

We'd seen that he wrote to a friend of his that he hates my husband and I am my husband's slave. We're particularly unhappy with this because a few weeks ago K___ was attacked by a group of young men and kicked repeatedly about the head. He lost consciousness and could have been killed. K___ was not at all to blame for what had happened to him - the perpetrators had gatecrashed a party K___ had had our permission to attend, and had just decided to pick on him. We protected him by taking him to the hospital and supporting him whilst he made police reports, etc about this attack. For him to reward our loyalty with this lack of respect is very hurtful.

I find his behaviour embarrassing too because it reflects poorly on me as a mother.

My husband is the one who cooks mainly in house and we've pointed out to K___ that he won't want to eat from someone who he hates - so now he is living off of egg sandwiches and other fried rubbish - that will soon run out and we're not replacing it with convenience food.

I actually would like for K___ to move out and leave us alone. The only problems we have in the house are surrounding him and his stupid teenage angst. He is rude, disrespectful and frankly, very stupid. He repeats the same negative behaviour whilst thinking that he will get a different outcome. He is draining me and I'm sick of him.

I don't think the local authorities will take him and his biological father won't take him because he simply can't afford to look after K___, his wife, and his three other children.

K___ will be 15 years old next Saturday. I preferred him when he was a toddler.

Any advice you can give would be most welcome.

I look forward to your response.




Hi X.,

Sounds like the problem is typical “step-father resentment.” So maybe I should direct this email to your husband:

You are more of a mentor than a father. You are an adult male in your stepson’s life, much like an uncle, a scout leader or a teacher, but you live under the same roof and sleep with his mother. Being one family unit will require careful planning with your wife. Set rules and boundaries together, but try to disrupt the family karma as little as possible. Decisions about finances need to be made with your partner as well, and not in a vacuum.

One of the major roads to failure as a stepfather is to take on the role of disciplinarian. The teenager tends to resent this new guy with new rules who comes in to disrupt his family. Successful stepfathers and family relations experts suggest that mom should continue her role as the dispenser of discipline when required to maintain some consistency with the children. Your job as stepfather is to support her role, to make sure she is treated with respect, and to show solidarity. If you disagree with something, discuss it in private and reach a common understanding with your wife so as not to undermine her role.

Don't take rebellion personally. The teenage years are the transition time from dependence as a child to independence as an adult. Rebellion in some form is to be expected from all teens, even in intact families. So don't get offended when your stepson is rebellious; take it in stride and focus on the behavior exhibited. It is less likely to be focused at you than it is to be focused on their changing world.

Having come through a time in your stepson’s life when someone "rejected" him (i.e., his bio-father), he has a tough time coming to trust again. Be patient with him and keep on keeping on as you try to show love and build a new relationship. If you are consistent, stay within your role, and show that you care about and love him and his mom, the barriers will eventually come down and a positive relationship will become the pattern.

All the above is easier said than done, but very possible none-the-less.


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