Interested in solving step parenting problems?
Step-parenting problems are very common when families morph their structure, and it often takes considerable time to build the cohesion necessary for a workable family unit. Remember that there are different personalities at play, and no matter how hard you try, you can only do your best if you’re suddenly in the position of trying to make step-parenting work. Here’s a letter from Jackie, who’s struggling with a stepson that comes to visit on occasion from another province.
My six-year-old stepson lives with his mother in a different province, and travelling to us is expensive, so he doesn’t come over very often, and as a result, we’re having step-parenting issues. His mother doesn’t make it easy for us either. She badmouths us in front of him constantly, and as a result, he has a lot of resentment towards us. We always try to make it nice for him and do fun things and treat him fairly, but he always has an attitude. We have a two-year-old together, and now I’m expecting a new baby in October. I’m tired, so I want to make sure I don’t take it out on him, as his attitude is his mother’s fault. Do you know what we could do to make things work better?
Thanks for writing to me. This is a tough one because, as I’m sure you realize, you’re stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, and as such, there are no easy solutions when it comes to having problems with step-parenting.
First, remember that no matter what his mother says, if she denigrates you in front of him, she is in the wrong. That means his reaction to you is based on her perception, and so, of course, you have an uphill battle managing him when he comes to stay.
Step parenting problems: Be realistic
The most important thing here is to recognize what you can and can’t control. You can’t control his attitude toward you, but you can, through your actions, give him a different perspective. That means that you have to first look after yourself, so you’re in a position where you’re as calm and collected as you can be during his visit. Get some sleep and some decent rest periods during your two-year-old’s nap time. Then try to stay very calm because he will likely try to goad you into a reaction. The trick is not to go there, which, frankly, is much easier said than done.
Make parenting expectations clear
If you can avoid taking the bait, have fun with him while demanding some respect in return.You are not a theme park, and there is no obligation to take him to nice places and do fun things with him if he treats you badly. Tell him your expectations up front. Sit him down close to his arrival and say how pleased you are to have him. Explain how things work in your house, but do it in a positive way. Stay away from making any comments about what he does at home and simply brush off any comments that he might make along the lines of, “It’s so much better at home or this sucks.” Make sure his dad is a central part of that meeting process and backs you up in all encounters you have with his son, and you should do the same for him.
Encourage him to be part of your activity
Be fair to him and give him lots of opportunities to be part of what’s going on in your family. Give him opportunities to assist you in your day-to-day activities. If he takes you up on that, talk to him cheerily and give him lots of thanks for being such a help. If he doesn’t, ignore him and don’t go out of your way to win him over.
Take the attention away from the behaviour
If he says nasty things, simply respond that he’s being unpleasant and that if he has a need to be impolite, he can go to his room. Tell him to let you know when he plans to be kind, and you’d be delighted to do things with him and have him join in with you in family activities. And then let him get bored, yes, really bored, because it’s only when he sees you all having fun that he will eventually decide to park his animosity and join in.
Given enough time, I’m sure he’ll come to see you as the caring and thoughtful person you obviously are. If you’d like more parenting help, please see my parenting services.
Best of luck,
Do you know what to do with a child that won’t listen?