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New Stepfather Stepson relationship
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New Stepfather Stepson relationship

My 10 year old son loves his new Stepdad but his behaviour really makes his SD angry at times. I worry this is never going to be resolved and will only get worse if we can't get some help. Problems with my son's behaviour include:
moaning and grumbling about anything he doesn't want to do
trying to debate anything and everything
delays at bed time
answering back
interrupting adult conversation
tantrums
In between all this negative behaviour are a lot of good things too. He is working hard in school, adapting to a new routine quite well, although the grumbles will come. I often choose to ignore the grumbles, but other times I tell him off immediately and warn him if his complaints continue he will lose XBox time for instance. My husband thinks I am too soft on my son, particularly after apologies have been made...I forgive and forget and move on. The behaviour sparks again later.  He doesn't seem to appreciate what he has, and is always wanting the next best thing, another packet of pringles, go to the cinema etc...then when it happens he is still sulky and argumentative. My husband expects to see him more grateful and appreciative. Instead my husband sees my son with an attitude that "nothing is ever good enough!".
My son will be cuddling up to his stepdad one minute then soon after go too far being silly.  He will be told "that's enough now stop it" and my son's reaction is almost like a toddler tantrum, crying, stamping feet as he leaves the room, back chatting etc.  Then my husband says things like "that's it, I'm not doing anything else for him now because he doesn't appreciate it..nothing is ever good enough....." and there is tension again. My husband is working away Mon-Fri for several weeks, and he dreads coming home for the weekend because of how my son may behave. My 4year old daughter has started to mimmick some of his expressions and reactions too which is making things worse. When my daughter acts up my son is blamed for setting a bad example.
Is there any way out of this cycle?  We have only lived in the same house for 6 months now.
Thank you for any suggestions!!
9 Comments Post a Comment
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13167_tn?1327197724
Stepfathers very commonly think moms are too soft on sons,  although it's rarer for biological dads to think that.  

Does our husband have any kids?  It's RARE to find a "grateful" 10 year old.  They're built to be very self-absorbed,  although they can be taught to fake gratitude - which is a good skill,  actually.

Best wishes with it - it's hard to think this is going to get much better.
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973741_tn?1342346373
Hi there and welcome.  Well, it is not clear whether you felt there was a problem with your son's behavior prior to the new step dad complaining about it.  

I personally think that when someone isn't the bio parent and they are all of a sudden living with a child, they sometimes don't cut them enough slack for the way the child has been all along.  This is one of the reasons why relationships in which step children are involved so often fail.  

I think that I'd think abotu where your child is really needing some extra help based on YOUR assessment of him and where step dad needs to cool his jets.  Example:  kind of hurtful that he is cuddling, having fun, feels good and then is told he is too silly and it is too much.  This is still a little boy.  That's very confusing.  

some of what you describe sounds like it isn't 'bad' behavior but just how he's had a more relaxed environment prior to the new man in your life trying to change the rules.  That is a little unfair to him, no?  

I could be off base but am wondering if you don't find yourself caught in an uncomfortable situation of having set up boundaries and routines with your son and now have the critical eye of your new husband judging it.  That would be really hard.  I feel for you and hope that you can figure out the right path.  I think remaining loyal to your child while guiding him where YOU see fit is the best approach.  lots of luck!
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I totally agree with rockrose that much of what you write sounds age appropriate for your son and not out of normal behavior.  good luck
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I also agree with RockRose and Specialmom.  When I read the list of behaviors, the first thought that popped into my head was "he's 10".  And I will be honest with you, your husbands reaction is what would concern me.  It sounds a bit childish...the stomping away saying he will never do anything for him again.  I have no doubt your husband is a lovely man, but I do think he needs to be a bit more realistic in his expectations.  Your children are in an entirely new living situation.  It's bound to be rocky for a bit, and I think it is up to the adult to make it work with the child, not the other way around.  Sorry, I don't mean to sound harsh at all, that is just how I read it.  I do wish you well and hope this all works out.
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you all for your comments. You have given me more to think about. To answer some questions:
1. Rockrose: Yes, my husband has 3 children, although they are all adults aged 19-30 and live independently. (There are 13 years between me and my husband). He doesn't remember having these problems with his own children, although he says he spoiled them as he had to work away a lot and made sure they had everything they needed and best quality clothes etc for school.  As they grew up his kids always expected but never paid back or gave anything in return. He feels they took him for granted and even in adulthood have manipulated him for money, lied repeatedly, and now only contact him when they want something from him.  It is this I think that influences how he is with my son. He says he doesn't want to repeat history. We are trying to teach my son to be appreciative and respectful.

2. Specialmom and adgal:  I do think my son's behaviour is typical of his age which I think is why I tend to take it in my stride, correcting him when necessary and lovingly guiding him (my tactic). My husband can't take it in his stride. Instead problems play on his mind, preventing proper sleep, and affecting our time together. My husband thinks my son is playing games and doing things to wind him up, wanting to be centre of attention (again I think a certain amount of this is normal but I do correct my son and get him to apologise. Then I move on). When my son apologises my husband says to me afterwards "we'll see how long that lasts". I am just afraid there is an enormous amount of pressure on my son, and on me in the middle, They both seem to want a close relationship with each other, but are easily disappointed with eachother, and easily hurt.

My assessment of my son: Generally speaking my son's biggest desire is to be accepted and to make others proud of him, whether at school or within the family. He wants to be good at everything and sometimes will make others feel bad to make himself feel better (again I think this is typcal and part of his development, something he will grow out of) I see him trying hard to please teachers, impress grandad, impress his friends, please me etc and when he gets told off by my husband he does think his stepdad doesn't like him and that breaks my heart because I know they both want to be loved and accepted by eachother! I am very much in the middle trying to explain to my husband how my son is, reasons behind his behaviour etc, and he thinks I am just making excuses for him and need to be firmer. My son on the other hand thinks I am too strict with the rules and boundaries so I am struggling to see how I can get the right balance.

3.  Specialmom: You are right. Before my husband, I was a single mum going through terrible times with my ex including a court battle to retrieve my children after their father refused to return them after an agreed holiday.  My son has gone through a lot! He is a good kid and WANTS to be good.  He is also a 10 yr old boy who doesn't think of others and wants everything now without thinking to say thank you, and will complain about anything and everything and pick on his sister....all normal I think but in need of consistent correction and patience.  I worked self employed as a childminder for 4 years before meeting my new husband and the home environment was much more relaxed, particularly allowing my son to stay up late with me on weekends to watch a film.  Now he has to be in bed at 9:30 so my husband and I can have an hour or two to ourselves (my husband works long hours and our time together is short and often interrupted).  He used to try to argue and debate everything with me then, trying to persuade me to change my mind about something and having tantrums when he didn't get his own way.  Although he still does this at times, it is much less dramatic than it used to be so I see a huge improvement in his behaviour really, and his performance at school has also improved.

When my husband is home I find myself on edge, hoping nothing is going to kick off. It only takes a slight problem or grumble for my husband to say "oh here we go again, nothing is ever good enough.....he's putting a downer on the while weekend again" and I am not sure the best way to talk to my husband about this without it sounding like I am telling him that he is the problem. I think it is just a matter of time, patience, unconditional love and more understanding while also encouraging my son to think before he reacts, and maintain the boundaries and routine that does seem to be working. We have only lived in the same house for 6 months and from what I have read it can take about 7 years for a stepfamily to blend and settle. I just don't want 7 years of this sort of struggle :(

Sorry such a long post! Thank you all for caring enough to give some advice! xx
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973741_tn?1342346373
Hi there.  Well sweetie, I'll be honest.  I actually DO see a big part of the problem as being your husband and his attitude.  Here is a kid that is just living life, being as he has always been, messing up like all 10 year olds do and now there is a man in his house that watches his every move, complains about it and is often critical because he doesn't understand or have the deep rooted bond that comes from raising a child early on.  That's really not fair to your son at all.  And the downer in the scenario you describe is YOUR HUSBAND.  he's making you doubt your kid, doubt your parenting, making you on edge and ruining things himself by going on about your son's faults when all kids have them.  Yes, it sounds tense.  I wouldn't like it all.  I don't really think it is fair to expect your son to conform to your husband but rather your husband needs to be told that your son comes first and if he is to be critical, then this is a problem.  That you don't mind his having legitimate complaints but that it is just obvious he isn't bonded to your son and doesn't get kids.  His inexperience makes him irritated with the littlest things your kid does that you don't even really notice because its just how kids are.  

When you start dreading someone being around or wanting to compartmentalize your life with your son from your life from your husband, this is a problem.  

and the one I feel really bad for is your son who as you said, just wants to be accepted.  Here was his chance to have a dad and instead he has a man that is just a guy that is easily irritated with him.

I'm sure your husband doesn't want to feel this way but he does.  And you've set up a home in which your son has to deal with this.  This is damaging to him.  I think you need to talk to your husband about it and let him know that you will not tolerate that.  Your son is priority number one.  Period.  You love your husband but that the way your son feels about himself comes over and above his irritation at having a kid in the house.  

I do wish you luck.  It's rough.  I'd have a very hard time with this.  I know you love your husband and are probably happy after these years of being single to have a partner----  but don't let that stop you from setting up boundaries with your husband.  good luck
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I agree with all the above advice. I have a comparable situation that I hope can maybe help, although I'm not sure if it'll be worth much because my situation doesn't have the problems between my 8 year old son, my husband (his stepdad of four years), and myself--but it is a stepdad/stepson situation.
Like your son, my son has pretty much the exact same behavioral issues, which, as the others pointed out, is totally normal from about the age of 5 to I'd guess maybe 12 or 13, maybe longer. Kids just don't think before they act and they are self-absorbed. I have yet to meet a child who isn't.
My husband and I met and began dating just before my son turned 3, so in a way, their relationship had a bit more of an advantage because he's been involved in raising my son from a very young and impressionable age. I think once a child is older and routines and behavior patterns are pretty well established in a single parent home for awhile, the harder the adjustment is to make.
This is where I agree with the others that your husband is not recognizing how critical and damaging he's being to his own newly established family unit. It seems he wants to correct where he went wrong with his kids and have a do-over on his past with a child that is no longer a mostly blank slate for him to establish an immediate bond, routines, and boundaries without a LOT of extra work that will only be successful if he's lenient, patient, compassionate, and focuses more on the positives of your son and praises him for those attributes.
I'm not saying that a new family routine or boundaries should ever be established, but it needs to be a much slower process than what your husband seems to expect with immediate results. Much more effort should be made on his part than should be expected on your son's part.
The bond and interaction between my son and husband has always been extremely close from the beginning. But that's not to say there never comes points of tension from time to time, usually due to much the same behavioral issues your husband has with your son. Truth be told, that behavior after awhile does get annoying and tiresome, and as parents, you want your child to know it's not acceptable and you have to be consistent with discipline. But there's a HUGE difference between constructive, consistent discipline and boundary establishment and being consistently critical and waiting for the moment something goes wrong and then rubbing a child's nose in it, which it sounds like your husband is doing, to be honest.
Also, one of the absolute biggest things that benefits my son's and husband's relationship is simply just one-on-one time together, doing something they both enjoy. They like to play video games together, share time with their common interest of Transformers toys by watching DVDs and playing with their Transformer toy collection, and even constructive things such as helping with a few chores, running errands together, and guiding my son through his homework.
Does your husband ever regularly initiate separate time with your son doing something of common interest to them both? If not, that would be a good place to start, I'd think--at least for short periods of time, like maybe 10-30 minutes a day so they don't get too annoyed or disappointed with each other if tension builds. But if your husband isn't making regular or any sort of positive effort CONSISTENTLY, then any consistent efforts he makes to address negative behavior are going to continue to come off as critical, judgmental, and just build more tension within your family. He really needs to redirect his focus to more positive activities and behaviors with your son and let those opportunities outweigh the typical immature child behaviors. He also needs to recognize that your son is not HIS personal chance to "remake" the past with his own children; your son is not his child with whom he has not been involved with from birth, nor have you made any indication that he's legally adopted your children. He needs to recognize, rather, that HE is the addition to the family, rather than the other way around, with children being the addition to the family.
Kids are only kids once, and they ALL go through the same behaviors your son is. That part of his childhood should not be belittled or made miserable because one adult can't adjust to the needs and demands that are completely normal of raising a child into a productive, considerate, self-sufficient and successful adult.
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you for all your helpful advice. My husband does make huge efforts to spend time with my son, which is why he feels so let down and hurt when he doesn't get the appreciative response he expects.  Yesterday I called my husband about all this and thankfully he had already been reviewing the situation in his own mind so our discussion was very positive, and he was open to what I had to say. My husband recognises that he is not coping well because of his own history and he doesn't want history to affect my son. He said he will be more aware of his own weaknesses and work harder in the relationship between them and not be so hard on him or critical.....so it looks like we may be on the right track! Thank you for caring so much to share  your thoughts and advice with me. It has been extremely helpful!! xx
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973741_tn?1342346373
Oh, I'm glad.  I think remembering this is a child that is also adjusting is important to remind your husband of.  And while he has his own history to deal with, your son is creating his.  So, it is YOUR HUSBANDS responsibility to be a POSITIVE part of it.  good luck to you all and let us know how it goes!
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