Friday, September 22, 2006

When Stepfathers Claim Their Stepchildren 1

Being a stepfather is not an easy task. There are often impossible expectations resting on their shoulders just because they are "the man of the house."

Discipline is often viewed as the stepfathers role. This can be very hard because the stepchild may view obedience to the stepfather as disloyalty to the bio father. Stepfathers may feel like they need to overdo discipline and parenting with a strict posture in order to gain compliance and therefore be a successful stepfather. Typically, this strict posture backfires either by non-compliance or by the stepchild building resentment over time.

Another challenge for stepfathers is knowing how to balance the emotional/relational distance with their stepchildren. How close can I get? How close should I get? How "mine" are my stepchildren?

This leads into the question of what extent stepfathers should "claim" their stepchildren.

I am curious of there are any stepfathers out there dealing with this stuff. Or are there mothers out there seeing their husbands struggling with this challenge of being a stepfather. What's your story?

23 comments:

Jacki9278 said...

These are the very same issues that my husband deals with as well. He has become the strict step-father and our (his step-daughter) daughter is resentful and does not feel any love from him. I do understand where he is coming from and he is struggling to find that balance.

Fajita said...

Balance is a great thing. However, it is not something you come to and remain there easily. Imagine standing on a basketball. Tough thing to do. Now, if you do find your balance, it does not mean that you are going to remain there. All it means is that you had balance once.

A balance beam might be a better anaolgy. With practice, a gymnast gets really good at balancing on that beam. However, she must not get careless or assume balance. It must be maintained. Balance is an active verb, not a description. Balance yourself.

tamiluvsnorm said...

Myn husband strugges with this as well. Anger that he preforms the function of "Dad" in supporting the kids and feeling like he does not get the "respect" he deserves. He often says he "can't stand the kids" He functions like an "original" family and wants to be the controller and has been harsh and even vindictive at times with the kids. Its like the adult/child line is blurred. Funny thing is he is most annoyed with my youngest who happens to be the only child who has wanted to take on my husbands last name!

Katrina said...

My husband struggles with the same issue. My ex is very involved with my kids but I feel very strongly that we must provide a unified front with discipline. He isn't sure where the boundaries are, but we are working on it. I think it's really important for us moms to support our husbands in this, and not disagree in front of our kids.

mcmommy said...

My husband and I attended one of Ron's conferences a year and a half ago, but all the good we heard has seemed to wear off. My husband makes no effort to forge a relationship with my recently turned 6 year old son. He has had my boy in his life since he was four -- young enough to have an open heart towards a step father. But, my husband put nearly zero effort into the relationship, yet is an extremely harsh disciplinarian. I must say that he doesn't put much effort into his relationship with his daughter either (my stepdaughter), or our daughter. He says he was raised with strict rules and doesn't think I am consistent with discipline, etc. But, he's not around enough to really see what goes on in a full day. I am beginning to get to the point where I feel the need to protect my son. I want to tell him that if he thinks he will break our bond, he is wrong and that he will be the one living outside of the family. I don't want to divorce again, but I can not bear to watch the harshness. I can not bear to watch the twinkle leave my boy's eye. I don't know what to do.

Fajita said...

Powerful stories, each of you. Your courage and strength to persist is what I would call heroic.

For those of you in tough situations, please don't give up. It is worth it.

If you have been to Ron's seminar, maybe try to find a way to revisit some of his material or look through his book. It is such good information.

I know that the seminar effect can wear off after a few months, but what you learned there is as true today as it was back then.

tamiluvsnorm said...

mcmommy,
I understand where you are. But the battle is the Lords and sometimes its better to say those words to God than to our husbands. If you truly want to keep this marriage you will have to pick your battles. God can speak to dh, an sometimes its little things we can do to let the husbands know they are valued in all this. Giving in on the little things, going out of our way when it seems they whine about something, giving them something to hold on to, to feel part of the family. Does this make sense? We are not responsible for their actions or how they respond, they will bear the consequences, but we can make things easier.
I'm far from perfect....far far from being sucessful in this step family deal....but I do know that God wants our marriages to work. Love and Respect, is a good book that has been helpfu to me, and Dr Laura Schlengers book, the proper care and feeding of husbands. Practical advice to help us alone.
blessings, to you,
tami

tbgmomof4 said...

My fiance and I have struggled with the right balance for discipline. As it stands right now, he is striving to be a mentor to my children (4 living at home - 16, 14, 9, & 7). This is working very well and the kids like and respect him. He is usually the first one they ask for help with homework and often pitch in to cook dinner just to have time to talk with him alone.

We run under babysitter rules - fiance will discipline to the level a babysitter would be expected and will discuss with me if further action needs to be taken. There is only one issue that will make all of the above null and void - kids will not be allowed to speak to me disrespectfully (fiance's rule). They know that he will not allow this and he will take appropriate action immediately - mom just better step back!

Of course, we still have 7 months until the wedding and all bets are off once we are under one roof.
(Remember the soundtrack from JAWS - it gets louder everyday!)

Anonymous said...

I'm a stepfather that has sucessuflly raised three stepchildren. Its very difficult to say the least. I'm a strict person by nature - because of my religious background. It has worked for a long time but it seems to be backfiring with my step-daughter.

Two of my step children have the same father that has done nothing for them but has managed to remain in communication with them while sponging off me. Twenty-two years and has never paid child support. I have to divide what I make equally among the step-children and the one that my wife and I have together.

I'm not a rich man, and now the daughter is moving away to another state to attend school funded by the bio-father's, sister inlaw. My daughter loves me but there is an undying loyalty to the bio-father. Her love for me is because of what I did - her love for him is unconditional - because of who he is. Stepfathers must earn love its never automatically given.


I have learned they will never be "yours". I thank God for helping me raise them, but I will never raise step-children again. The hurt is too great. Someone getting as much (or in a way - greater) respect as/than you when they have done nothing...that hurts.

One thing that none of children (including my bio-son) have realized about me - I've never been a deadbeat father - I've always taken care of my responsibilities, but when you leave home - I cut ties. I don't stop loving - no, the fellowship just changes with time and distance. When I left home, I told my divorced father and mother if you don't hear from me - I'm alright, if you hear from me - it will be by way of Amcross (American Red Cross) message. I will be dead or near death. Other than that, I'm fine. It's been that way since.

The option to communicate with me is always there - if you call - I will talk but don't expect me to do a lot of calling or taking (I prefer email). I look at it like this, you're grown now - live your life -Like a smooth mix, I like to fade my way out of it.

Anonymous said...

I am a husband and father to 3 children. I have two stepsons, 13 and 10. I have one daughter, 5. The boys have two fathers. One is a dead-beat. The other's dad passed away in a car accident. He was very influential in his sons life. My wife and I have been married for 6 years. We have been together for 9 years, however.


We were raised differently. My wife's mom and step-dad treated her and her sister differently than they treated their son that they had together. My wife feels as though she and her sister were always a burden. Therefore she sometimes is a little too nurturing in my opinion. I was raised under the old spare the rod... mentality. I feel differently than she does about discipline. I expect the same respect that I have given to my children. I treat all of the children the same.

We had a problem a couple of years ago. I lost my temper and unintentionally left a small red mark on my oldest sons cheek. He went to my in-laws to live for a while. My in-laws have never liked the way I have raised the kids. They were faster to come to the "rescue" than they were to offer advice to help us keep order in our house. They have disrespected my wife and I in front of our kids. Telling me that I am just too hard on the kids instead of encouraging then to cooperate with our rules in our house.

My oldest has come back home after being gone for a year. This was all after I went through counseling. I also told my son that I handled things improperly and that I was sorry that we had the problems. I feel as though my in-laws allowed way to much freedom however.


The main arguments now are that he thinks he can do what ever he wants. He is out of school and thinks that he can stay up all night and sleep all day. My wife and I have no alone time and often she is up to 1 am until he gets off the computer. He is always jamming his music while others are watching TV. When confronted with his behavior he argues about it. I feel that he is teaching our other children how to be disrespectful.


I know that he is hurting emotionally. His dad had another child with an unfit mother, and now he alone raises his other son. He has next to nothing to do with his oldest son. But he doesn't hold it against his little brother. He loves his little brother very much. When his grandma calls to pick him up he asks if his brother is going to be there. When our younger sons dad died, he told my wife that he wouldn't even care if that would have been his dad.

I know that he knows that I love him very much. He just doesn't realize how badly this tears at all of us. I don't know what else to say or do. When the boys and I do things together you can tell that he appreciates it. He just likes to push every ones buttons.

My wife and I have gone round and round on this issue and I have tried to back off. Unfortunately, she has threatened to divorce over this. I don't feel that I have changed other than softening up a little. I feel like my wife is stuck in the middle of a crazy maze with our son, the in-laws, and myself.

Anonymous said...

I am in a blended family. My husband is the stepfather to my son. My husband has two boys from a previous relationship. I see so much difference on how he treats his two children and how he treats mine. I know my son lives with us and his kids well one is an adult and the other is 15 and he lives with his mother. His 15 year old son is a good kid and I love him with all of my heart he just makes really bad decisions. He has been in and out of trouble at school been kicked out and now is on probation from stealing and having possession of marijuana. He resently ran away from his mothers home. My husband calls his son up on the phone and says quite calmly "Son why did you run away from home you had us so worried" He said this as well about the drug situation as well. No sterness in his voice. However my son will forget to put soda's in the fridge and he is yelling in his face on the top of his lungs. I know my son is around a lot more but I feel his mistakes are not as big as his own son's. I worry a lot about my stepson because his mom and my husband are so lenient with him. I have tried to talk to my husband about this but he just tells me I am compairing the two. It is just hard being in a blended family

Anonymous said...

I too am a stepfather. I fell in love with with stepson's mother, and would do anything for her. I have never loved so much in my life. My stepson, while a good kid, he is now 10, is the definition of hyperactive. He will also test me by doing things he isn't to do, like go in my private office at home, and close off the cooling vents. We go round and round, with good days and not so good. I know my wife is worried, and is withdrawing from me because she doesn't understand why I am having such a difficult time with her son, who never leaves her side, nor does she leave his. She still puts him to bed every night until he falls asleep, leaving little time, if any, for us. This has been going on since we got marrried, 3 years ago.I love my wife. I want our marriage to work. Where is the balance?

Anonymous said...

I met my husband when my son was about 2 years old we married a year later. Before marriage the relationship was rocky between my husband and my son. With my son's biological father not in the picture at all I was hoping that the relationship will grow, after all my son had no other dad to depend on only his stepdad. Through the years things has just become worse I also found out at the age of 4 that my son was
ADHD, now that alone is hard enough to deal with. My relationship with my son were lost between a mother and son, I was not allowed to comfort him at any time he was not allowed to sleep with us or lay in bed watching TV with us. My husband also didnt want to hear about his ADHD and just believed that my son is naughty distructive and does not respect him as the man in the house. I started accepting the fact that I'm not in control of my son anymore only my husband what he say goes. It became so bad that in January this year I decided to sent my son to my mother about 1000km away to go live there and finish primary school down there. I just didnt want my son in that enviroment anymore cause I could see that he was hurting being 9 years old know he understands and ask me why does he not love me, to keep in mind he does not have his real dad to fall back onto. This was the most heartbreaking thing to do for me we also have a 4 year old son together which my husband is very protective of. I'm standing between 2 kids and dont know where to pull and where to let go off. I love both my kids to death. I was thinking to leave my husband but then I will be having 2 kids with no dad, this was not fair as well so I let my son go stay with his grandmother. This year was bad not being with my son I only saw him holidays. My husband cant even live with him for a week or two then I get told my son is not welcome in our house. How does any mother deal with this. I do love my husband and my kids and I cant choose between either of them but one big happy family we will never be when my son is there then we fighting all the time when he goes back then it is a perfect family. My son came yesterday again for the holidays and this morning my son was framed by my husband for stealing money out his wallet and now he does not want my son there for the remaining of the holidays what does a mother do?????????????? I cant tell him to his face that I know he framed my child then there will be hell in the land of the living he does got a bad temper when I not siding with him when it comes to my son. Dont get me wrong my husband is a wonderful man and are always helping others but when it comes to my son he is the worst of bad stepfather you can get.

Anonymous said...

I've been a step-father for the past 6 years and inherited my step-kids when they were 13 (boy) and 8 (girl). The boy has never accepted me and has done his utmost to break the family up whenever and however he could. Things got better when he left but now my wife has asked for a divorce and my step-daughter (with whom I previously had a very close relationship) has now started to be *very* rude and disrespectful to me.

I'm not too sure how much "encouragement" she gets from her mum but it's sure making my life a misery. Going home every night to a very obvious "we don't want you here" sign hurts.

I've been the best father / partner I can be and I just don't understand. I have done and continue to do the majority of the chores, work fulltime and generally give support wherever it's needed.

My rational assessment of the situation says that step-daughter is angry and can't be angry at her mum (ie I'm the only easy alternative) but it's killing me. I'm losing everything and I can't understand it...I sacrificed everything to make the family work and now all I'm left with is isolation.

Anonymous said...

I am a step father of 3 children two boys and a girl. They are nine and under. I am also sharing some of the same frustrations I have read here. Thank you everyone for your honesty and openness. I met my wife almost two years ago and have been married for 4 months after courting for over a year.

We went through one counselling class after another through our church to be prepared for dealing with children of mix marriages. Dealing with mixed family issues. We have read numerous books such as "His Needs-Her Needs", "Five Love Languages, and other informational sources. Even after all the effort to becomed informed and mentally prepared I can tell I am still coming short of the chosen mark.

I lose my cool, get impatient, become firm, and authoritative when I feel like my position is being hurt or threatened. I have already made a couple of bad calls which I have had to humble myself and ask forgiveness for.

There is a huge difference between the way moms operate and the way dads operate. The one thing that is most important to me, is how my wife and I cleave to each other through all events dealing with the dynamics of family development.

I think it is in the definitively parse nature that men want respect and they want it now. And when we do not receive it, it crushes the male ego. So, to protect this inate part of our character, we react instead of act. What do I mean by this?

Instead of ordering the step child around like they are a hired servant treat that child like you are personnally given charge over an irreplaceable being given to you by God.

Each child is different and like it or not they will not conform entirely to any parents perfect will. We cannot do it for God, so how can children do it for their parents. This is not my idea, but a biblical idea. Teach the children the precepts of love by having your own personal lived out relationship with Jesus.

I pray with my children. Sometimes they do not want to pray, I do not force them. My children my not want to listen to my counsel, so I give them choices that are legitimately geered toward their learning potential and age.

All children are delicate emotionally. I do not ever run their father down, but encourage them to honor their father no matter what his behavior is like. I do understand that I am not their father's replacement and never will be.

I am in a unique position to impact their life for the rest of their life however. I am in a wonderful place to show them how good love can be. How know and trusting Jesus is special and unique and available for them if they want it.

I do believe in spanking and discipline. In reality, I would prefer not to exercise spanking, but it has its uses. Above spanking the greatest form of discipline is positive reenforcement and the spending of time together while embracing the truth. This is all I am required to do. It is to do my best. Ask for forgiveness when I don't. And seek to change me not them.

I have found that when I change the way I look at things things get much better, but when I make others, included the children the blunt of my problems, then the problem seems to intensify. But when I do all I can to pray, believe, confess, and trust God, then I believe God will do his part also.

Every child is his workmanship. We are priveleged to particpate.

Thanks for reading this.

Anonymous said...

I am the stepfather of the house with my own child who listens 98% of the time and a step daughter with ADHD who constantly ignores anything you have told her from do not put shoes on the couch to constantly staying NO when asked to do anything like claening her mess from the bedroom to front door. I have been with my wife for 4 years and I ve had left twice for only a day or two and come back to rework ground rules but it always turn back to same old same old rat race. My wife supports sometimes but she is one who makes and breaks rules or logical sctrictness. I give love and have always showed respect but anymore the respect is never given back, I can not keep living this way but always try to keep going even know the stepchilds ways never change "Rebellion" any help on what I should do ?

Anonymous said...

To Previous Anonymous Poster...
You are obviously very frustrated and near the end of your rope, but you are still looking for solutions which means you have not given up.

I also have a son who has ADHD, I have found this practice useful. Also, know that your child while being rebellious for no apperent reason, does love you and is not waking up every morning looking for a way to usurp your authority as a parent.

You need to make some rules for yourself.

Rule #1
NEVER LEAVE -unless there is eminate danger physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Rule #2
DIVORCE IS NOT AN OPTION -in the end you only hurt everyone (always).

Rule #3
WHEN TROUBLE ARISES -go to a room where you can be quiet read the Bible or Pray and ask God/Jesus/Holy Spirit for help.

Rule #4
TRUST GOD -after you have calmed down and regained composure, then deal with your situation. If you have prayed and listened in the quiet, then either write out or jot down some inspirational ideas. If you are doing something wrong (which is very possible) apologize for it and approach it differently.

Rule #5
NEVER FORCE -this includes making your wife/husband/children see it your way. I promise, when you calmly and unaccusingly discuss your goals with your mate/children, she/he will be more open to suggestion.

Rule #6
NEVER EXPECT INSTANT RESULTS -work toward your goal patiently and invitingly (making what you are doing attractive behaviorly).

While these are recommendations they can work for any situation provided that the person who is legitimately humbling themselves and seeking to embrace the truth by looking inside the heart.

A couple other things to do is to find a pastor or mediator who is grounded in the Bible to discuss trouble spots. I say this, not every licensed counselor knows how to Help with spiritual matters, and all matters involve the spirit of a man/woman/or child.

God Bless you.

Natte said...

I hate my step father,he is always controlling me and so bossy and doesn't let me do anything. I have no freedom!!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Natte,

I am sorry to hear that things are not going very well for you and your stepfather. If you and your stepfather are newly acquainted or have had time to adjust then I am sure there will be problems.

For instance, your mother has recently remarried and your stepfather is new to the scene. On the other hand, your stepfather has been a part of your family for a few years now and he is set in his ways.

As a teen-ager, it is likely that you consider his rules to be very extreme. He needs to lighten up you think to yourself. I cannot do anything right. I unable to please this man, or he so overly critical, I hate it when he even speaks to me.

Question 1: Have you lived in his shoes? In other words, have you ever tried to be a provider for an already made family?

Question 2: Do you know his feelings?

Question 3: Have you tried to get to know him or spend time with him?

Question 4: Do you throw temper fits when he does say no to you?

Question 5: Does your mother and stepfather say the same things and stand in agreement?

Question 6: Do you do everything you can to earn your stepfather’s trust?

Question 7: Are you humble enough to admit you are wrong, or too prideful to recognize your stepfather’s position?

I am asking these questions because they are hard to answer and often the root of the conflict between parent and step-child. It is not to take your stepfather’s side, but to assist you in clarifying other possibilities affecting your stepfather’s role in your life.

Coming from a blended family myself, I know how tuff it is. Here are some things I have learned.

First, learn to build trust, so that when you do ask for a favor, the answer will be "Yes."

Second, do not argue with your stepfather, it will only irritate him and make him more determined to stand his ground.

Third, try to believe in his principles if they are based on truth and what is right.

Fourth, ask him to explain why (don't be pushy) he made the decision he did. If you do not agree with him, do not argue with him, but simply thank him for sharing.

Fifth, do something nice for him. Whether you are a natural father, or stepfather, all fathers regardless enjoy getting positive attention.
Caution, do not do it to manipulate him into seeing something your way. I promise this will backfire.
If you do something nice for him, do it without wanting anything back, do it more than once. If he asks you why you are doing it, simply tell him, you are trying to show him that you love him.

I hope this helps you.

Anonymous said...

i struggle with this everyday. I am 42 and engaged to a woman (also 42) with a 10 year old son. We are to be married in May and the relationship with the son has become more strained. I do feel I am strict. I think it is for the betterment. I have no answers and in fact may call off the wedding. Even at my age i can not get this right. I am educated, have a good income, and do provide for my family.

Anonymous said...

I wonder just one thing, WHY ARE ALL STEPFATHERS SO STRICT? They are children and need dissipline but they are not soldiers!!!!!!! Be their father and do father things with them, i think if you let go of the word STEPAETHER, things would go better all in good time. I am in a relationship where my fiance met my son when he was only 6 months old, he is now three and boy, its a huge challange in my relationship, THE WORD STEPFATHER!!!!!! i'm at my end and just want to give up, rather raise my son on my own than this constant fight that i face everyday.

Anonymous said...

Youre a better mother than mine was. You are about your kids my mother was about 'him' & the meal ticket he provided. I was four aswell when mum married him and he started hitting me when I was six and it just got worse but as long as my mum was happy it didnt matter about his treatnent of me. Behind her back he bad mouthed mum (fat whale) etc but I was never believed and he even bad mouthed and ridiculed her parents who had me before mum and 'him' married. Mum was weak in my eyes for putting up with the abuse he dealt me and gradually she lost my respect too. Now I have a two month old son who I must protect so I keep him from her and 'him'. So if you think he is worth risking your sons respect for then stay with him. It takes a very special man to be a stepfather, I know I couldnt do it, is he really that special or do you feel you cant do better or are you afraid of being alone? I have stood toe to toe with my stepwanker all because he had a persistent habit of butting in between my mother and me and if I didnt have a couple of friends there to interviene I would have pulverised him. Now I just want to put an axe through his head because it would give me greater pleasure than just shooting him. He has irreversibly turn my mother against me and the situation with her is unreconcilable due to the horrible things she has done against me and how she has let me down at pivotal moments inmy life ruining my life in certain ways forever. Consequently I put no value on my mothers life and couldnt care less if she dropped dead right now, even in front of me. Do you want your son to feel the same way too? You have your doubts about your husband for a reason and if the doubts are justified then the relationship between you and your son is already being adversly affected.

Anonymous said...

I am a stepfather to a 4 year old boy who has an ADHD. This condition alone has had bought a tremendous burden to us, to me and to my wife.

The boy loves me, and I love him too but there are just time that I can't help it but discipline him my own way just like what my parents had done to me when I was a kid. And I believe in discipline because I was bought up by my mother to be a responsible man through discipline.

But every time I do that my wife just stands in the way as if she doesn't want me to discipline the child. He is my child and I don't care if he is not my biological son I just want him to grow up with manners. Because I get hurt when people tell me that my son is not disciplined well.

I love my wife so much that I have learned to love the child. And now I both love them just the same. I get lonely when they are away from me. But I miss the child the most.

Everytime I hurt him because I lost my temper, it's like I can always recall how he must've felt and then I would feel so bad for doing that to him. It makes me cry. I have a bio son that doesn't know me, he's 7 years old now, and it made me realize that this 4 year old son who looks at me like I am his real father, loves me even though I sometimes spank him.

I'm going to give it my all to this boy, I am going to love him with all my life, because right now somebody is doing that to my real son. If I give up on this fight, then I will end up with nothing and I will die alone.