Parenting Stepchildren/Should I back off when it comes to my stepson?
Hello. I have an 11 year old stepson. I have been a part of his life for 4.5 years now. He goes with his mother on some weekends. I have two of my own, 5 and 7 (girl & boy)they are from my previous relationship. My question is when should i just stay out of trying to help out with him? I have so many concerns about the things he is doing. His grades, him having a cell phone, lap top, kindle, (all with Internet) its the things that he is looking up on the Internet that concerns me, he's only 11. He has a girlfriend, mind you, he is only in 6th grade. Hangs out with her after school, constantly texting that he loves her, keeps asking her to kiss him when she has already told him no. It's just been rough because i have mentioned everything to his father and we talk about it but nothing ever really gets done about it. It has been going on for the last three months. I have been on him this last week about his grades and him not turning in homework. I looked at his phone this morning and he is texting his dad at work that i think he is stupid. He is also texting his "girlfriend" that he hates me and the he is going to start punching things. For her to tell her mom that I'm being mean to him. It seems that he has been talking to her mom about me being on him about his homework and such. I guess it's weird for me to be having him talk to this girls mom about me. I'm just confused on what i should do with him. His dad never checks up on his phone, the things he texts or looks up on the Internet or his homework. and his mom only gets him on the weekends and all she does his buy him stuff because he pouts if she doesn't. I looks as if I'm being the bad person and his bio parents are looking great. After reading his text messages this morning, I'm feeling like the evil step mother. I don't yell at him. I treat him the same as my two kids. I want to just sit back and let his dad deal with it, but it would just be too hard for me to see him fail in school or get in some trouble with what he is doing on the Internet and then i would feel like it was my fault for knowing and not doing anything. But once i do say something about anything with him, my husband gets upset with me, my step son hates me. Just don't know :(
You are in a difficult situation. As a mother you have this instinctual desire to love and take of this boy, yet as a step parent you are not sure how far you should go before you overstep the boundaries of step parenting.
I will bet that you feel that everyone may think of you as the evil step mom.
Some back ground first. Many parents, when they divorce, feel guilty about what they have done to their children. This guilt can come out in various ways. Buying their love with gifts, giving in to their child's demands, letting them get away with bad or disruptive behaviour because they don't want the child to hate them and not setting limits or boundaries for behaviour.
You see the need for boundaries for this boy. His poor attitude, his feeling of entitlement, and his sense of personal responsibility will most likely continue to grow without boundaries, limits and consequences. But as a step mom without the help and support of his dad and mom, there is not much that you can do.
Some of the biggest arguments between my wife and I were over the children. For me not stopping my daughters disruptive behaviour, and also she felt I was being to harsh on her daughters. What happens is that we get defensive about our children when our spouse is taking negatively about them. Children can sense this and may take advantage of the situation by more disruptive behaviour and playing parent against parent and step parent.
The best way through this is to sit down with your husband and have a heart to heart talk with him. Let him know in a loving way that you are confused about what your role is with his son. That you want to work together with him to set up boundaries for the children. Here are some questions to discuss together:
- how do we see our home functioning?
- what roles do we each have?
- what values to we want to have in our home and to teach our children?
- what are the boundaries of acceptable behaviour in our home?
- what kinds of consequences are appropriate for unacceptable behaviour.
Keep the conversation positive. Make notes and let him know that you really want and need his input.
Then have a family meeting to discuss these same questions. Let the children help set up a family code of conduct. This would include values like honesty, respect, age appropriate behaviour; boundaries or a set of acceptable behaviours in the family, consequences for unacceptable behaviours, what are the limits for access to technology, and so on. When children, even young children, are involved in this process then they take greater ownership of the decisions made.
Remember children need boundaries and consequences to their actions. Although they may resist them and test them to the limits, boundaries and consequences provide children with a feeling of security, of having someone love them enough that they will go through the struggle of being firm and consistent with them.
Another thing you can do is to as a family go out and do some service for others in your community. It may be helping out a a seniors home, helping a neighbour clean their yard, collecting gifts for Christmas for a family in need... but do it as a whole family even if you have some grumbling.
If you would like to have a guide on setting up a family meeting we have a free video download with a workbook. Go to FuseFamilyFocus.com and put your name and email in the right hand box. I promise that you will not get emails from us.
You will be taken to our F.U.S.E. At Home site. On the right hand side click on "F.U.S.E. AT Home Week 1 Program and workbook"
It may seem like a lot of effort to do all of this but it will really be worth it down the road.