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How do you respond?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
My stepson is 15, my son is turning 5.

We are planning a little birthday party for my son, and we were going to get a bouncy house for the party. This weekend my stepson got very upset and said "I never had a bouncy house at any of my parties!". I know that he sees this as unfair. Also this summer, he's gotten upset over our vacation (which he came on, he was not excluded!) because he didn't get to go on similar vacations when he was his brother's age (for the record: this was the first family vacation we've ever gone on - we couldn't really afford a nice, family vacation until this year), and when we bought a Wii (for the whole family to use) he pointed out that he didn't have video games when he was 4. He brought both of these (and others) up again this weekend (brought on by the bouncy house). I asked him what he thought a fair solution was, and he said: [his brother] shouldn't be allowed to play video games until he is 10 (when DSS got video games); we shouldn't take [his brother] on "fun" vacations, and under no circumstances should he have a birthday party (DSS did have birthday parties, but they were always planned and thrown by his mom.)

How do you respond to these situations? He's only recently become resentful of his brother, I think because DS is getting older and doing more things that DSS notices. I really don't want there to be this friction between the brothers.
post #2 of 28
My little brother is 23 years younger than I am.. He lives a much different life with our parents than I did.

The trips, the housing, the... well nearly everything. It has been a bit of a stuggle for ME.. not so much him. I had to learn that my parents did the best they could for me... just as they are doing the best they can do for him.

It is just different bests.

*but I am seriously pissed about his first car.. he got a 2009 toyota 4 runner...

I got mom's 81 mazda..in 88
I think mom should have gotten the new 4 runner and he should have taken her "old" one.. a 2002.
post #3 of 28
That's tough. I have this secret worry that when we have a child, DSD will look and think back of all the things we weren't able to do with her as well. I'm sure we'll have a house soon. She's grown up here in the rented apartment, nothing fancy. She's had her dad only on the weekends for most of her childhood, and when we do have a baby, will she be jealous of all the attention that the baby will get from her dad?

I would sit your DSS down and have a heart to heart. That's just how it works out in many families. Older kids often have less tangible things because it takes time for families to build wealth; even me being 10 years younger than my oldest sibling, I was reminded by my parents that my older brother and sisters had to do without many things that I took for granted growing up. By the time parents hit their 30-40's the family financial standing is usually more stable than 20's. This doesn't mean that everyone has to look at each other with a measuring stick to make sure everyone gets an equal share at certain age. Hopefully, love will matter more than anything else, and as a family, you will learn to be happy for each other, not jealous of each other.

I would try to remind him that while you might have not been unable to afford similar luxuries for him while he was growing up, you and his dad had to go without the same kinds of vacations and pleasantries that you can allow yourself now. Tell him you understand why he is frustrated, but he is loved, and you hope that he shows love to his little brother, and tried to be happy for him rather than resentful. Remind him that you love him, and always had, regardless of whether or not you had the money to buy video games and go places.

I'm sure it's partially the age, and I'm sure blended part is not making it easier. I hope you can find a way to work through it. *hugs*
post #4 of 28
I would focus less on "fixing it", "coming up with a solution" or "explaining why things are this way and it often works this way in families" and focus more on empathizing and trying to get him to talk about his feelings. He may care about the "stuff" but chances are that this has a whole lot less to do with a bouncy house or a wii (especially when he gets to play with the wii) then about feeling somehow like his younger brother got a better deal, more love, happier family situation, etc. Whether this is true or not is not the immediate relevant point.

I actually don't think telling him that all families are like this or some variation is useful because all it does is tell him that on top of everything what he is feeling is wrong or invalid.

I would re-state his feelings in a way that shows he is understood and invite him to share more. I wouldn't worry if his expression of feelings indicates jealousy toward his younger brother. He can have bad feelings and still love his brother; he can have more than one feeling about things. I would probably say that you wish he could have had bouncy houses and parties and trips and all of that when he was a kid. And emphasize how much you love him.

I would guess that feeling understood would go a long way towards actually alleviating his feelings and allowing him to cope. Getting in there with bad feelings and really listening is hard because we hear things that can hurt us, but I think it's really important.
post #5 of 28
I think this is less of a blended-family issue and more of an older-sibling issue. The kids born later often have more material things. It's a fact of life and frankly, I'd have some sharp words for a 15-year-old who was suggesting that his younger brother be denied vacations, parties and video games. I certainly wouldn't be exploring "solutions" for indulging his resentment.

You're the stepmom, so this is probably a job for your husband, but I think he could clear this whining right up with a nice succinct: "I have more money now than I did when you were five. I'm grateful that you and your brother can both have nicer things now than I could afford back then, and I don't want to hear one more complaint about your brother getting more than you did. It makes me ashamed to hear you say that you want us to take things away from him. It's mean and selfish and I've HAD IT. Stop."

I don't think a teenager can evolve out of their self-centered perspective with anything but time - but they can certainly be taught that hurtful thoughts like "you don't deserve video games because I didn't have them when I was your age" are not going to uttered aloud in your house. Let him go to his room and stew if he wants - but don't let him rant about it and disturb your peace.
post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post
I think this is less of a blended-family issue and more of an older-sibling issue. The kids born later often have more material things. It's a fact of life and frankly, I'd have some sharp words for a 15-year-old who was suggesting that his younger brother be denied vacations, parties and video games. I certainly wouldn't be exploring "solutions" for indulging his resentment.

You're the stepmom, so this is probably a job for your husband, but I think he could clear this whining right up with a nice succinct: "I have more money now than I did when you were five. I'm grateful that you and your brother can both have nicer things now than I could afford back then, and I don't want to hear one more complaint about your brother getting more than you did. It makes me ashamed to hear you say that you want us to take things away from him. It's mean and selfish and I've HAD IT. Stop."

I don't think a teenager can evolve out of their self-centered perspective with anything but time - but they can certainly be taught that hurtful thoughts like "you don't deserve video games because I didn't have them when I was your age" are not going to uttered aloud in your house. Let him go to his room and stew if he wants - but don't let him rant about it and disturb your peace.
Wow... harsh.

I have to agree that there is more to this than simply the material stuff. There's likely a lot of jealousy that his brother gets what he didn't have - both his Mom and his Dad in one home, together. And, as such, missed out on a lot. While i wouldn't coddle him, I also wouldn't invalidate his feelings like the above post seems to encourage.
post #7 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post
You're the stepmom, so this is probably a job for your husband, but I think he could clear this whining right up with a nice succinct: "I have more money now than I did when you were five. I'm grateful that you and your brother can both have nicer things now than I could afford back then, and I don't want to hear one more complaint about your brother getting more than you did. It makes me ashamed to hear you say that you want us to take things away from him. It's mean and selfish and I've HAD IT. Stop."
This is my take on it as well, harsh as it may be. And I am that kid - I have a 6 yo (half) brother. He has *way* more in material possessions than my other brother or I had. He is getting a private school education. He gets to go on vacations. He is growing up in an intact family.

I am happy that my little brother has it better than I did. My parents started a family when they were young, and they did the best they could with what they had at the time. I don't remember wanting for much - we were appreciative of what we had.

DH actually asked me the other day if it bothered me that my littlest brother had it so much better than I did. It wouldn't do me much good to compare - my dad is in such a different situation now. I feel like my dad is very generous with me as an adult - maybe that helps. But I am just glad that he is doing well enough to provide well for my littlest brother. And I sincerely hope that he is a better father this time around (It seems like he is). Bottom line is that me getting upset about this would just be a big waste of energy.

But I am 29. At 15, I probably would have needed a good kick in the pants to come to this realization.
post #8 of 28
Wow - so those of the "swift kick in the butt" camp are basically saying that this kid's feelings are "wrong" and he should be made to feel bad for them? I absolutely don't think the younger kid should have to go without because the older did. But I do think that the kid's feelings should be listened to and understood.

And, this is absolutely a blended/stepfamily issue. Yes, it may come up in traditional families too, but in a stepfamily situation a kid is dealing with a loss in his primary/original family and figuring out his place in the new family(ies). To not treat it as such is to really miss out on what your stepson might be feeling.

This may be off topic, but I'm slightly dismayed by how "ungentle" some of the discipline ideas/responses are in this forum. If anything, I would think a blended family situation would require MORE empathy, gentle handling, cooperative communication, etc.
post #9 of 28
Letting a teenager indulge themselves in misdirected resentment is not "gentle." It's an injustice to a person who is going to be grown up and 100% responsible for treating others kindly and justly in just a few short years. You can communicate that you love your teen unconditionally, while at the same time communicating that you are ashamed of their attitude towards XYZ, and that you think they can do better than to give said attitude free rein in their minds, hearts and deeds.

There may well be a deeper sense of loss when the sibling is dealing with a blended family situation, but the conflation of "I wish my home hadn't broken up" and "my younger sibling shouldn't get to have nice things I didn't have" is false and damaging to the entire family, and that needs to be pointed out in, I think, a very matter-of-fact way.

Really, a 15-year-old should be ashamed to put that kind of selfishness into words. The fact that the OP's stepson feels free to pontificate at length about how he'd like to deprive his little brother to make things "fair" tells me that he is overdue for a serious reality check. Nobody can control the dark thoughts that pass through their minds (esp. at 15!), but we CAN control the words that come out of our mouths. The ability to do so is all that's keeping human civilization from imploding, IMO. It's definitely a life skill.
post #10 of 28
"...so those of the "swift kick in the butt" camp are basically saying that this kid's feelings are "wrong" and he should be made to feel bad for them?"

Yes, the desire to purposely cause a younger sibling distress is wrong. Yes, a teenager having that impulse should be ashamed of it and seek to conquer it.
post #11 of 28
I just wanted to say that I agree with Smithie. And I will freely admit that I'm not a terribly gentle parent. I'm gentle when the situation is deserving of gentleness, but life/nature/the world aren't particularly gentle, and I'm not of the mindset that children always need to be handled with kid gloves. Sometimes a reality check is in order, and if a kid says something outrageous, I think it's okay to react with (controlled) outrage.

I also agree that this seems to be less of a step-family issue and more of a sibling issue. My two are only 3 years apart, and the older one has complained in the past about the younger one getting to do things at an earlier age (like, watch scary movies). The funny thing is, and I've told DS1 this, is that the only reason the younger one has been allowed access to certain things is because DS1 is doing them in his presence.
post #12 of 28
So he should just have the dark thoughts and not articulate them?

I think it is good that he is expressing his thoughts. It shows he feels safe and loved enough to be totally honest. And like others have said--validate him feelings briefly and explain, if true, that there are a more financial resources than when he was a babe. And that he will get to do cool stuff in the future. Could he go to a cool outdoors camp? Something like Outward Bound is fun and also serves as a reality check!

Shame is a very ugly thing. Not something I would want a child to feel.
post #13 of 28
And if it isn't a blended issue, it should be posted in parenting or gentle discipline. See what people say about the "swift kick in the butt" approach there.
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oh the Irony View Post
Shame is a very ugly thing. Not something I would want a child to feel.
Under any circumstance? Really?

I think shame is valuable learning tool. It comes with having a conscience.

Going out of your way to shame children for petty things (like not cleaning their plates) is ugly. Feeling shame for wishing negative things upon someone else is natural, IMO. I would be more worried for a 15yo who did NOT feel badly for wishing harm upon someone.

The kid is 15, not 3. I'm against infantilizing teenagers and thinking of them as "children."
post #15 of 28
I am too.

Would you suggest an adult be shamed? I wouldn't. Nor would I a child. I do not think it is helpful.

Picture a step-mom coming on here with some heavy feeling about her step-child. Does she deserve to be shamed? Is that shame going to help her? Or is it going to hold her back? I think giving her some comfort would go a lot further...as I do with this child. It's like, it's okay to shame the child, because they are a child. So from my perspective, you would be the one infantilizing unless you also tried shame as a strategy with adults. If you use it with adults and children then you would not be infantilizing anyone--that's not what I am after at all. It is about respect.

And yeah, sometimes a reality check is okay, but I don't want anyone to feel shame. I've learned a lot from this forum over the past couple of years and have a much better sense of what it takes to be a step-mom. So if I ever made someone not feel accepted for their feelings, my apologies.
post #16 of 28
I don't think people should necessarily feel shame for having bad feelings. I think they should (or at least, hope they would) feel shame for ACTING on those bad feelings, which is what this 15yo would do if he had the power. If a step-mom resented her step-child for say, having special, alone-time with daddy, I say that's somewhat normal. If the step-mom went out of her way to interfere with that special time, or behaved spitefully towards the step-child because of it, I would not be able to empathize with that. It's shameful behavior.

Smithie said that she would tell him it would be mean and selfish to take things away from the younger child, which is true, IMO. Whether the 15yo chooses to feel ashamed about it is up to him. I know mean and selfish people who don't seem to feel the least bit ashamed of their behaviors.
post #17 of 28
I have to agree, I'd tell him that its ok to have those feelings and to let us know-and talk about those feelings, try to make sense of them. But I would also tell him that its not appropriate to think its ok to take those things away from his little brother just because he didnt have them. Yes, talk about it, but also make it very clear that that is selfish and uncalled for. Whether I was harsh about it or not frankly would depend on the child and his personality.

As a child, for a LONG time, I couldn't care less what other people thought or how I effected them. It wasn't until I had a reality check as a teenager (from a friends parents, not my own actually-my mom pretty much had very little to do with me from about the age of 10 on) that I changed. Now I am very very empathetic and I cannot stand to have someone not like me-at least if I did something. Now, if its just a not so nice person who randomly decides they dont like me...psh, whatever.

Anyway, at 15 he isnt really a child anymore. He's getting close to adulthood and as such, I dont think codling is necessary. Although honestly, I wont coddle my kids either, even now. If my kids said something nasty about someone else, I'd tell them that isnt ok and I dont want to hear it again.
post #18 of 28
"Feeling shame for wishing negative things upon someone else is natural, IMO. I would be more worried for a 15yo who did NOT feel badly for wishing harm upon someone."

Exactly. Shame may be an unpopular emotion these days because our culture has tied it so much to premarital sex, etc., but when it comes to hurting others or wishing them harm, especially when they are younger and more vulnerable than you, shame is the APPROPRIATE way to feel. Being ashamed of impulses like that is part of the process of growing out of them. The OP's stepson is probably ALREADY ashamed of his behavior towards his brother if he ever stops and thinks about, and I think it would be in his best interests for his father to reinforce his conscience on this issue, rather than to have both dad and stepmom let him continue on that path without correction.
post #19 of 28
I am the mother of 4 boys.. 17, 14 ( w/ xh) and 5 & 10 months. Yes ds3 had WAY more things and has gone WAY more places then they did at his age.

Why? because current DH actually KEEPS a job unlike xh.

If either of my teens came across with that statement I would give the swift kick.

Yes their little brothers do get more everything ( stuff, trips my time ) but its because times are different step dad has an awesome job and i am now a SAHM. They benefit too and yes I would probably tell them they should be ashamed for being that selfish.
post #20 of 28
I agree that the 15 year old needs a "talking to."

But I do not agree that doing this means the the kid's feelings are WRONG. I don't think anyone is saying that his feelings are wrong. Feelings are not "bad" or "good," they just are. He should be able to vent his feelings in a safe place, but they also must be worked through and overcome. To this end, if he can talk privately with his father (not the stepparent) and they can work through this feeling, and I'm talking about something short-term, not a long drawn out pity session, then that would be beneficial.

It is entirely unacceptable to have the teenager say anything like this when the 5 year old is around.

Hopefully the situation can be resolved with a conversation (that involves some "yes, I hear how you feel" along with "but this is how it is ___").
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