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 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 step son that comes to visit on occasion from another province.
My six year old step son lives with his mother in a different province and coming over to us is expensive so he doesn’t come much unfortunately and as a result, we’re having problems step parenting. His mother doesn’t make it easy for us either. She bad-mouths 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 attitude. We have a two year old together and now I’m expecting a new baby in October. Being tired, 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 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.
The most important thing here is to recognize what you can and can’t control. You can’t control his attitude to 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 that 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 and stay very calm because he will likely try and goad you in to 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 rising to the bait, then do fun things with him but demand 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 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 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,