DH needs help asserting himself w/my 12yo son - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 11-01-2005, 10:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DH has absolutely zero experience w/kids, other than being one once. We have a newborn girl and my 12 yo son, who is a sweet kid. The problem: DH has no idea how to establish himself as a stepdad w/any authority whatsoever. He's labeling ds as "bad, never listens, doesn't do anything I ask" etc. The issue is that ds doesn't listen to DH, but does to me.
He's a good kid, but ALL kids test the boundaries; they want to know what parents are made of and where they stand. DH doesn't know how to talk w/a preadolescent boy, much less set any boundaries and enforce them; he's much better being playful and funny, and he is kind and sensitive (some reasons why I love him). Of course, ds walks all over him. DH says, "Please stack the wood while I cut some more" and ds says, "No, I'm not doing that" and walks away- and DH has no idea what to do after that, but he sure is getting angry!

Any books, videos/dvds (preferable, DH doesn't have time to read much), methods or other sources of support that could help DH develop parenting skills?
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#2 of 6 Old 11-01-2005, 10:31 PM
 
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This is not a problem with the way DH is handling your son. This is a problem with you not backing your DH. Of course DH has no immediate authority with your son - he's not "Dad." YOU have to help DH establish his authority. If DS doesn't listen to DH, is disrespectful, doesn't do what he's told, etc; YOU need to step in. YOU have to make your son realize that he has to listen to DH.

This actually has little to do with parenting skills. A biological parent has authority because the child never thinks to seriuosly question it. They just know that Mom and Dad are the boss. Step-parents don't have this advantage and the biological parent has to help them create that authority relationship.
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#3 of 6 Old 11-03-2005, 05:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your response. I think you're partly right.

I was a stepmom in my previous marriage, so I've been on both sides of the fence. Not only did my then-husband have to make it clear to his daughters that I had parenting authority in our home, but I had to not back down when they challenged me. It would have been disastrous if I had to run to then-husband every time they challenged me- I had to establish myself has a strong, firm presence in addition to then-husband's clear support of my position.

That said, I have discussed w/my son alone, and we have as a family, discussed this issue. My son really likes DH and they get along great until DH asks ds to do some kind of work; then ds tests him and DH immediately backs down and says, "he doesn't listen to me" instead of meeting ds's challenge, getting up close w/eye contact and saying, "excuse me young man, but you are indeed going to do xyz chore" and initating a discussion until understanding is reached if necessary. DH avoids confrontation in all areas of life, not just w/ds, but to establish his position he needs to, with my strong support, not back down and actually initate discussions w/ds when difficult situations arise. He wants to be respected but acts like a friend and definitely wants ds to like him; ds picks up on that, tests DH and DH doesn't know what to say or do in response.

So skills, or a 'toolbox' of tactics to employ, would be helpful. I can tell ds that DH has authority until I'm blue in the face; until DH exercises that authority, it's meaningless. I can't be present for every interaction they have.
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#4 of 6 Old 11-04-2005, 03:28 AM
 
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My son is 15. He was 11 when I met my husband. My husband won't discipline him because he doesn't want my son to be mad at him. They have a very good relationship though. My son will do anything he says. In fact, we could tell him to do the exact same thing and he will fight me on it, but jump to it with my husband.

I've been pushing my husband for 4 years to work with me in parenting my son, but he feels wierd about it.

My ex welcomes my husband's parenting and thanks him for taking care of our son. So there's no problem there.

I discipline my stepchildren with no problem. But I do have 30 nieces and nephews that I've baby-sat. I used to baby-sit for money years ago also. I have lots of experience parenting other peoples children. It comes naturally.

The only other two children my husband was ever around before my son was his own two children. He has no nieces or nephews. Actually his two children are the only two in his family or his ex's family. So he's never had an opportunity to parent anyone elses child.

There were times when my husband would come to me and whisper that my son did something he didn't like. I went and disciplined my son for it. For the past year I stopped. Now if my husband tells me my son did something, and I wasn't around to witness it, I say, "What do you want me to do? I didn't see it. Either you discipline him or he gets away with it." It's working, but very slowly. Now if he does manage to discipline him, my husband will come to me and tell me what he did and why. I kind of laugh to myself because it's as if he's telling.

I know this wasn't much on advice, but I thought I'd let you know you are not alone.
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#5 of 6 Old 11-04-2005, 01:44 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eroslovesagape
I was a stepmom in my previous marriage, so I've been on both sides of the fence. Not only did my then-husband have to make it clear to his daughters that I had parenting authority in our home, but I had to not back down when they challenged me. It would have been disastrous if I had to run to then-husband every time they challenged me- I had to establish myself has a strong, firm presence in addition to then-husband's clear support of my position.
I know this is off the subject of your post, but I wanted to ask if you had any trouble with your previous husband's ex-wife making it clear to their daughters that you DID NOT have parenting authority in your home??? This is my problem. My husband has made it clear with the kids that I do have parenting authority, but his ex tells them they don't have to listen and she will reward them at her home if they do not listen. The rewards must out way our punishments, because her plan seems to be working with my 12 year old stepson.

I was just curious if you had that problem? If so, how did you deal with it?
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#6 of 6 Old 11-04-2005, 08:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Stressed stepmom- Thanks for sharing your experience. I may be being impatient, then, as ds has only lived w/us since August. And the relationship between your son & DH sounds a lot like the relationship between mine. DH sees himself more as a buddy...it makes sense that it would take some time. Ds's move with us coincided w/my last trimester & then birth of our daughter almost 3 weeks ago, so everyone's plate is full.

As far as your experience w/DH's ex rewarding the kids for being defiant, I didn't have that experience, luckily. That has to suck. You, however, have the benefit of much experience with children, and your husband's daughters sound like they are probably old enough to handle an honest discussion with you, where you let them know you are aware that they're being encouraged not to listen to you, and ask them how they feel about it and what effect it may have on individuals and the family as a whole.

And some totally unasked-for advice: I'd ask their mom to meet and talk, and if she won't do that, write her a letter and let her know that you absolutely respect that she is their mom, and that you don't want to interfere with their relationship w/her, and ask if there's anything you can do to help her/them feel more comfortable about the situation. Maybe short & sweet on a card would do it. But she's acting that way because she feels insecure, and it can't hurt to be the 'bigger person' and offer some security.

I had an interesting dynamic w/my son's stepmom- she wanted to be called "Mom" and badmouthed me. I gritted my teeth and supported her 100% to my ds as I didn't want him to be conflicted. I took him to buy Mother's Day cards and Xmas gifts for her. I asked her to meet so we could talk and she never would. I wrote her a letter and later email, and she never responded. The only times we talked were specifically about ds.
Before ds moved back w/me in August she met w/ex & me to discuss the move and stated emphatically that she believed ds should stay w/them and that if his dad and I both died, she'd want to raise ds as she loved him like her own son (which I believed as she's been his stepmom since he was 2). HOWEVER, after ds moved w/me, she & ex revealed that their marriage was falling apart, they separated and she, who supposedly loved him like her own, only called ds once for his bday (after I left a vm on her cell reminding her). Ds is feeling pretty abandoned. I don't know if I should contact her or not, let her know that she's welcome to continue her relationship with ds- again- or just let it go.
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