Friday, October 06, 2006

Stepfathers and stepchildren 2

When a man marries a woman with a child(ren) from a previous marriage or relationship, the man becomes a stepfather. He also enters into a potentially complex set of relationships. In fact, every relationship he has in this stepfamily is going to complex.

With his new wife, it will be complex becuase he does not have equal parental standing with the children. In her life, they pre-existed him, thus giving him an historical disadvantage - they have more history with the mom than he does. She still needs to be the one in charge of the kids, which may feel all wrong and conflict with what many people call being the "man of the house." As a marital partner, he is an equal, but as a parenting partner he is not.

His relationship wth the stepchildren is complex because he a new man in the family. Furthermore, his love and affection and strength of commitment wit the children's mother earn him little or no credit as an authority in the realm of parenting. However, if he treated his new wife (the kid's mother) poorly, it would most certainly count against him so far as the kids are concerned and would probably be his ow undoing.

His authority as a parent is complex because he has little or no history with teh children, the children have a biological father (unless he is deceased) who fills an authority role (either real or imagined ) with the children. In fact, even if the bio father is deceased, in the kid's minds, he may still be the authority.

A stepfather's authority comes in two ways over a long period.

1. Earned. When a stepfather shows himself patient, reliable, good, and willing to develop a relationshp with the stepchildren, these children may grant him some authority in their lives. This may seem all backwards, an adult working to gain authority from the kids. It may feel like the tail is wagging the dog. But if you think about it, it makes good common sense.

If you think about entering stepfathering not as a father figure, but rahter as a new man who is entering ther children's life, getting to know them, learning about them, like a new babysitter or baseball coach, then it makes a little more sense. A trust has to be built and a pattern of relating has to develop. The powerful and sensitive flow of wills must merge. that kind of thing seldom happens quickly.

2. Bestowed. The mother must give authority to the stepfather. Although the temptation here is to do this all at once, it only works if it is done gradually. This does not happen in one sit down conversation with teh kids.

"Kids, darryl is your new stepfather and i give him all parental authority in the house. What he says goes."

You can say these words, but it won't do any good.

This kind of authority comes in little chunks and pieces, here and there. Bestowing authority upon the stepfather from the stepmother takes a very aware and alert set of parents. She really has to know her children's tolerance for the stepfather's inluence and he needs to be aware of the signs the kids give whe they are accepting or rejecting his authority and furthermore, have the courage to back off when he has violated that tolerance. Mom needs to be ready at anytime to bring her authority back into the picture if things are falling apart between stepfather and stepchildren. She cannot abdicate her authority - ever.

Again, this is very challenging to the sense of being "man of the house." It feels like everyone in the house has power to make things happen except the stepfather. "What am I, chopped liver?" might be the feeling of the stepfather when he has to earn authority with children and wait for it to be bestowed upon him from their mother. "Don't I have any authority just for being there?" "Hey, I bailed your mother out of a real financial bind, and this is the thanks I get?" Again, he earns no authority points by being a good husband.

Think big picture and think slow cooking here. Stepfathers can have a good relationship with their stepchildren, but it develops slowly and is always a work in progress. it is like an invesment into a 401(k), put a lot in with nothing to show for it, that is until it is time to cash in - and that time is not right now. It's worth it even if it is doing me no real good today. It's worth it for it's future value.

13 comments:

تير چراغ برق said...

Hi.i visited ur blog & this post.really u could write about stepfather,

tamiluvsnorm said...

my dh says these words all the time. Sometimes he whines and expects me to jump when he tells me something ought to be done regarding the kids etc. After reading this book, we plan on attending a seminar in Dec. I am thankful for the book because it opened my eyes to accept my step family and stop putting it in an original family mode.
I can't change dh, but I can get myself out of the middle. I can give authority to him for things and uplift him more to the kids. I can pray that they will learn to love eachother.
I can't make dh stop feeling in competition or his cutting remarks about the kids etc. But I can let the truth set me free and not hold bitterness.
Tami

bubbles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bubbles said...

bubbles said...
This blog makes perfect sense to me. My husband, however, insists that as my new husband of four months that God has made him the leader of our home. This is a hard pill to swollow for my children (age 13 and 15). How do I get him to understand that his Biblical role is not that of their father...regardless of him being in "their" home. They are in no way ready to accept any authority from him, so he believes our home is out of balance. Is he wrong about this? His tactic is to correct and nag me constantly about the things he believes need to be changes. My previous marriage was 16 years long. There is damage in my children's lives and mine from it. I feel like he's trying to fix us and is very critical. He said he feels like a wimp in our home because he can't say anything to the kids....like they have no respect for him. I have encouraged him to be patient. I have asked him to be less critical of our failures. He asked me to do some research on the stepfamily topic as a result. That's what landed me on this web site.

tamiluvsnorm said...

Bubbles,
I know you are in the right place. Did you get the successful stepfamilies book? I am reading it now, and I send copies of things like this post on step fathers in an emai to my dh. Its a new thought process and it does take time, and prayer. Its understanding the step family unit.
I face very similar issues, and just wanted to encourage you that there is victory...not tomorrow, but step by step (no pun intended) :)
Tami

stepmum said...

And how does this pan out when the step children bad mouth the step mother or father Right in front of their birth parent and are not chastised for it.....

SPICEGIRL said...

Bubbles,
My heart goes out to you and your family. I remarried 61/2yrs ago. My sons were 8 and 10 at the time and I had been a single Mom for the previous 5yrs. Boys Dad hadn't spent much time being a Dad. Myhusbands two daughters were also 8 and 10 when we married. Stepdad had good intentions and I, wanting desperately for my sons to have a good, male influence in their lives, let him take the reigns. WHAT A MISTAKE IT WAS!!!! This caused much resentment. Not only in the hearts of my sons, but in mine too. Because of the way he treated the boys. He was harsher with them, unfair and would not let me intervene and have a say so because he was now the "man of the house". He has been easier on the girls and consulted with their bio-mom because she lives in town and they spent = time with her and with us. He never would consult me on issues with them, whether it was going to a party, holiday plans or punishment. At first I didn't really notice it or chose to ignore the fact that I was being ignored and kept out of the loop. Then one day my SONS pointed out to me that I have never had a say so with the girls, so why should stepdad have a say with them??? GOOD QUESTION! Then the us against them started. It's been going on for too long. we have both made mistakes and I hate that I LET HIM BE IN CONTROL! We have been going to Christian counseling with someone who specializes in step-families, but it is a very difficult situation. I still have not forgiven stepdad and neither have my sons, but I to pray about it and it will happen in time. Please pray about your situation and for patience for your husband. I have a fairly good relationship with my stepdaughters and it may be because I did not Take Over and try to be their mom, they already had one. They have seen me be a good wife to their dad, whom they adore and be helpful and supportive of them in many ways. (and nice to their Mom even though it has never been recipricated) PRAY PRAY PRAY!

Anonymous said...

I read this post and found it very interesting.

I am a step-father in the family. My wife has two girls (11 and 15).

We've been together for 6 years now.

Both children have opened up to me and talk about some personal stuff they would not normally bring up to their natural mom.

When they misbehave though (and I want to place them on punishment or correct them), I cannot do anything about it because my wife is in charge and will not let me.

It is completely her decision (and she reminds me of this constantly.)

Her first marriage was a bad one, but today, her and her ex (and the kids) get along great. And when the kids visit their natural father out of state during the summer or something, he CAN put them on punishment.

That said, the kids' natural father is more strict than I am.

When the kids are here though and don't do what I ask them to and ask them why they will do what their natural father asks, but not me, their response is "because we can get away with it with you" (me).

Mom won't let me correct this.

It is very frustrating for me.

I do want the authority to place them on punishment. My wife will not give that authority to me.

I love my wife and I love her kids as if they were my own (remember, sometimes, they tell me things that they would not tell their mom (or dad), so we do have a bond), but after 6 years, I still feel like the outsider where my wife is concerned.

It is very frustrating for me.

How does a step-dad deal with this?

Signed,
Sad :-(

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Koko said...

I just ran into this blog after searching on stepchildren hating their stepfathers. I guess I should start by telling my experience. I have two daughters 11 and 13. I have been a single mom for about 5 years before meeting my fiance who i have been with for 3 years. We have decided to get married and last year, I let my girls live with their bio father. It was very difficult for me since I have had the girls for the majority of their lives. 12 yrs. I let them be with their bio dad because they told me they wanted that. I really think it was because they did not like my fiance. My fiancce is about 10 years older than me and has a old school, military background as far as family. So he can seem very forward at times. Well this year I convinced my daughters to come back to live with me and it has been rough but my fiance has been wonderful in transitioning our family. My youngest daughter has shown alot of dislike towards my fiance and my oldest has been a very sweet girl. Well the other evening, we went to pick the girls up front school and my oldest was upset. My fiance intervened and tried to ask what was wrong. She totally flipped out. It all ended up in a huge yelling arguement between the girls, my fiance, and myself. It's like it was us against the girls. Things were said like I hate you, I hate being here, and my dad loves me more than you. just horrible. Now my fiance doesn't want anything to do with my girls and I am still trying to understand my girls. I don't know if this can be fixed. My fiance said he needs time and is not sure he can ever forgive the girls. I am so torn and need help desperately.

Anonymous said...

Hi its my first time and I'll do my best to tell the truth about my situation. I've been a stepfather for 11yrs know and coming from my point of view its hard. My stepchild had a bond at an early age. So right off the back I wasnt numero uno in her life whitch took some time for me cause I also wanted kids of my own. Due to unfortanite sercumstances we couldnt. So I tried to treat her as my baby girl and for a while we seemed unseperable. Just when things semmed to be ok dad would pop back in and out, not a bad guy but just long enough to stir up her emotions for him. I was the one picking up the broken pieces. My kid is now 14 and weve been threw alot and anytime my wife and I argue or talk about anything she seems to jump right in it like she has a say in things. Some things yes and some no. Its getting to the point I dont know if I even like her anymore. I'm tired of being disrespected and feeling like a doormat. What about the good guys out there? What do we do about the authority factor? Shes spoiled. Shes any only child. I love her and always will but shes pushing me to a breaking point and my wife thinks I'm being immature. Maybe I am but when I'm paying for your bills, a roof over you head, your cell phone bill. being understanding about having a boyfriend, not making her do chores, she wouldnt do them even when I asked, told it didn't matter. I running out of patience. Please if you have any advice good or bad I'm listening. PLEASE

sandra horton said...

i have been married a year me and my husband met 26 years in 08 he found me through my sister and it's been hell every since for starters he drinks like a fish curses us out and demands respect just a month ago i found out through a friend that he was doing drugs i confronted him he choked me i called the police and gave the drugs to the police he ran
out of town with my ford explorer truck tells me constantly that if and when he comes back that he wil keep a bag of clothes in the truck so that if anything else jump off even an argument he's leaving again he constantly let me know that he do not like my children and says that our lives would be much better if they were gone well for one he's wrong for trying to give me and altomatum as far as saying it's either him or my children so i am filing for divorce
my name is sandra

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