Need advice on dealing with 13yr old SS now living with us - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 10:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello!
My stepson, 13, is moving in with us permanently. I have a 3yr old and no experience with teenage boys. When living with his mom, he had free reign on the computer - no supervision. Was allowed to play video games all day on weekends, watch tv constantly, snack on endless amounts of junkfood... etc.

In our house, we turn off the tv during the day. We limit video game time. We have a few snacks, but not many.

Anyway, my question is - how much freedom should he have on the computer and with video games? How much should i pry into his personal life? When he gets on the computer he is always chatting with people on AIM. I Asked him once who he was talking to and he got angry and said "I hate when you ask me that!" I told him he is only 13 and until he is no longer a minor (and perhaps even after) I have the right to ask who he is communicating with. He seemed to think this was way out of line, but to me it felt appropriate. Should I set limits with the chatting?? It has replace conversations on the phone, I guess. I can't remember if my parents limited my time on the phone with friends or not. I think they did.

How much privacy should he have? How much autonomy? He's used to having 100%. I guess this is my main dilemma. He is basically a good kid, but very angry at his mother. Also very into girls now...

Thanks!!!
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#2 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 11:06 AM
 
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How does his dad feel about the tv and computer use?

Since he is so old, if I were you I would stay out of it as much as possible. If he was 3 and in your care a lot of the time, I could see having to do some discipline. At 13, I would leave it to your dp. I would let your dp set the limits for things.

As far as the snacks go, I would say that he is definitely old enough to decide if he is hungry or not. You can control the food that you buy and not purchase junk, but if he wants a snack, he should be able to have a snack.

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#3 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 11:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My husband doesn't set the same kind of limits I do. When it comes to video games and tv he's a lot more lenient. I have two main issues - one is that it's going to benefit my SS in the long run if he cuts down on the gaming and tv and goes outside or reads... and also, I don't want my 3yr old exposed to a constant stream of tv and video games. That part I can handle - I'll just ask SS to turn them off when need be.

It's the other stuff - wondering who he is chatting with online and whatnot. I just don't know how much privacy a 13 yr old should have in that regard. My husband isn't as concerned about it, but I think he should be.

ALSO - should we be concerned that SS had a hickey on his neck last week?!! THis is all so new to me.
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#4 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 11:18 AM
 
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All of these things really are your husband's responsibility - not yours. It isn't your job to set limits for your dss that your dh doesn't agree with.

If you don't want your ds to see the tv/video games and your dh wants your dss to have free reign with them, then they should be moved to a place where your ds won't see them (a bedroom or someplace where you can shut the door).

With the chatting, if you husband isn't concerned, than no matter how frustrating it is, you have to let it go. You can't suddenly take on a parental role to a 13 yo, especially without a parent to back you up.

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#5 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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HMMMM It's tough! If I see him doing something that I think is inappropriate, I can't just let it go. Of course my DH and I have to be pretty much on the same page, but I'm going to be home with him all this summer and DH will be at work so we have to find some kind of happy medium.
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#6 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 11:41 AM
 
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I have a 14 yr old step son and they are tough. I would have the rules you feel comfortable with. It is your house in the long run. I would make sure you and Dh are absolutely on the same page regarding rules. There are computer programs that would let you block certain sites. These chatting sites are not safe and have people on them that prey on youngsters. We watch what our son does on the computer. We also vetoe certain movies, tv programs and cd's. He eats as many snacks as we have in the house and that is ok because he is growing. We have a mixture of junk and good foods. He has to get up for church on Sunday and help with yard work when he is here. He has other chores too. He is trying to be more respectful in general lately and we expect this and good grades. He has recently brought up his grades in school. Don't let your Dss bs you with aggravating, agressive behavior. this is typical male posturing for the age. I have four sons including Dss and they all went through it at about this same age. Set appropriate limits, expect respect and give love freely. You are probably going through a time of deprogramming him from what he learned at his mom's house. Be patient.
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#7 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 11:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes -Deprogramming is a good way to describe it. Thanks for your input. 13 is a tough age!!!
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#8 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 11:44 AM
 
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I know it's tough! I didn't mean to sound harsh. DF and I have locked horns on things like tv in the past. I am pretty anti-tv, and he used to be rather pro-tv. I just repeatedly made my case (it took 6-12 mo), and eventually he saw it my way and wound up suggesting that we put the tv in the closet for a bit. At this point it is back out, but we only watch American Idol and the "smart people show," as DSD calls it (Jeopardy).

If you feel strongly about things, I would spend your energy making your case to your dh (even consider finding some research to show him). If the two of you can't reach an agreement, then focus on shielding your ds from things. And try to detach. As difficult as that is.

If the IM thing is truly a stickler for you, than I don't see why you can't tell your dh that you are uncomfortable unless he is around to supervise. It takes you out of the equation. You can't isolate the kid, though, so you might have to be willing to, say, go pick up the other person that he would have been IMing with so they could hang out.

It used to drive me insane, because I didn't want our ds to grow up in a house where the tv was constantly on. Things are also a little different in my house because DSD is so much younger than your dss.

I was 14 when my mom met my stepdad, and I am trying to think of how I would have reacted if he tried to set limits that my mom was not on board with. It wouldn't have been pretty (and, FWIW, I had and always have had an excellent relationship with him). I would have been resentful of the whole situation.

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#9 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 01:42 PM
 
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We watch what our son does on the computer.
The difference is that this is *your* son. The child in question is NOT OP's son. If Dad is okay with certain behavior, then SM really has no place in vetoing Dad's decision. And if she attempts to do so, she should expect some issues with her relationship both with the SS AND with her husband.
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#10 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 01:48 PM
 
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I think the biggest thing to do is to sit with your DH and get on the same page. Your DSS is much older, and isn't going to take being under your care very well... if he was younger it would be different.

But regardless you need to be on the same page as his Dad. If there are things that are making you uncomforable... it is your house too and you have a right to voice those concerns to your DH, and hopefully he will listen and the two of you can find a middle ground to take with DSS.

You have a right to feel comfortable with the rules in your own house.

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#11 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 01:53 PM
 
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you could find out what really interests him, sports or lessons of some type, and make sure he spends a fair amount of time at it.
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#12 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 07:22 PM
 
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Oops me bad. I think of Dss as my son a lot of the time. I know his dad is the important one, which is why I stated that parents need to be on the same page. If op's husband is not with her on this, then she can only express her dissatisfaction with the situation. However, I think it will come back to bite her Dh in the butt if he doesnt' respect and enforce his wife's wishes.
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#13 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 08:47 PM
 
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DSD is 15 and lives with us full time. Her dad is the one who disciplines her and sets the rules up for her.

If you want a meaningful relationship with your dss, you need to stay out of setting the boundaries for him, regardless of how much it goes against your beliefs. If his dad sees no problem with all the things you describe, and you keep on insisting on dss following your rules, your house has a great potential in turning a war-zone run by a teenager who does not understand why in the world he has to listen to a woman he did not choose to be his mother.

I speak from experience, although I am lucky since DP and I have similar views. At the same time, when we disagree I have learned to let it go, because first and foremost dsd is HIS daughter, and only THEN she is my stepdaughter. She cares for me, sometimes she even listens to my advice, but by no means will she accept me acting like her parent. If I came into her life when she was 2 or 3, things could have been different. They are not, though, and we made it work because I put aside my personal beliefs on the amount of tv a child is allowed to watch, or the amount of freedom they are allowed to have, or the harshness of the consequences for their actions they have to accept, and allow my partner to raise his daughter as HE wants to raise her. Guess what? She's turning out alright. A few bumps here and there, but I think she is growing up into an amazing young lady.

Trust me, it's the best way.

The alternative? Your DSS will resent every rule you set (reasonable or otherwise), he will never learn to trust you, and you will never be able to have a meaningful relationship with him. I really don't this would be the best way to help him. I think stepparents are there to love and support the stepkids, and be there for them in the time of need. We are there to do the fun things, and to support our partners in their decisions. We are NOT there to set the rules and boundaries for the kids,or to make major decisions. The day I realized all of this, our household began to feel right, and letting go didn't seem like such a big sacrifice any longer. It's worth it. Try it.

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#14 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 09:25 PM
 
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I think the biggest thing to do is to sit with your DH and get on the same page. Your DSS is much older, and isn't going to take being under your care very well... if he was younger it would be different.

But regardless you need to be on the same page as his Dad. If there are things that are making you uncomforable... it is your house too and you have a right to voice those concerns to your DH, and hopefully he will listen and the two of you can find a middle ground to take with DSS.

You have a right to feel comfortable with the rules in your own house.
I agree about getting on the same page with dad. If there are things that really bother you, you might make the agreement with your DH that SS should only internet chat during times when DH is in the house. If he does it for 5 hours at a time (like I've seen some kids do) while DH is home, and doesn't do his homework or gets into trouble, then at least it will have happened on DH's "watch" and he may understand better why you are opposed to it.

This has the potential to be very disruptful to your home life if you and your DH aren't aligned about what is/isn't acceptable from him.
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#15 of 23 Old 05-19-2008, 11:51 PM
 
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Oriole has good advice. She is a good stepmother to a teen, as I've seen from many of her previous posts. And it seems to be working, as she has a fairly close relationship with her dsd (heck, many teens don't even have close relationship with bio parents).

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#16 of 23 Old 05-20-2008, 09:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your comments everybody. Just to clarify - DH and I are not at odds with each other. He's just a bit more lenient with some things than I am (gaming, mainly). We talked last night about setting parental controls on the computer (not sure how to do that yet) and setting boundaries.

One of my main questions was based more on trying to figure out just what appropriate behavior is with chat rooms and computer use etc. For example, SS has an email account and chat accounts (or whatever you call them) that we (at this point) don't monitor.

Is that normal for a 13 yr old? I can accept it if it is. My instincts tell me we should be monitoring. This would be a joint decision between me and DH - not just me forcing my rules on my SS.

Are most 13 yr olds online and chatting nowadays?
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#17 of 23 Old 05-20-2008, 09:29 AM
 
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Most are on line and chatting but that doesn't make it right. They don't have good judgement when it comes to strangers. Talk to your husband, get on the same page, but don't let your own values be compromised in such a way that it makes you feel uncomfortable. I have a different look at things than some. We don't have custoday and I married Dh with him understanding that I am old fashioned when it comes to children and the way they treat home and parents. It was rocky at first but Dss has settled down a lot and seems content when he is here.
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#18 of 23 Old 05-20-2008, 09:43 AM
 
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Both of mine (14 & 16) are online. They both chat. They both know that the 'puter is set up so that chats are captured and I have access to both of their accounts. And that I can, will and do check out their activity w/o any advance warning.

I'd just make sure that Dad sets down those ground rules to avoid being labeled the bad guy.
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#19 of 23 Old 05-20-2008, 10:25 AM
 
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Originally Posted by natesmamma View Post

Are most 13 yr olds online and chatting nowadays?
I would think so. At least dsd is. Her dad installed a security program that prevents "weird" sites from popping up on her computer (intentionally, or unintentionally). We don't read her e-mails, or read over her shoulder what she is typing. She did lose her laptop at 13 when she created a MySpace account without consulting (she knew she wasn't allowed to). She has one now, it is set on private, and we can check into it if we feel like it.

We don't limit her time on-line, but we do make an effort to keep her busy (gym, going out, playing board games as a family). She works for her dad on the weekends a few hours a day, so I think she deserves a downtime with or without computer/video games when she is not in school, or working.

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#20 of 23 Old 05-20-2008, 01:01 PM
 
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I think it's great that you're asking around to find out what's typical. I'm sure being a 13-year-old is pretty different now from when I was that age. I'm pretty sure heavy computer use is very normal, though my experience is more with 18 year olds, so listen to the other mamas for age-appropriateness.

I also think you'll really need to get your DH onboard if you want to change any expectations for the kid, and at this age he's unlikely to accept you as a parent so you'll probably have a somewhat different role and let DH enforce rules. This doesn't mean you can't set standards in your house -- it only means you and DH have to agree on those standards and he will be the one enforcing them whenever necessary. If DSS is living in your house then I think DH needs to work with you to agree on what the rules are. Good luck!

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#21 of 23 Old 05-20-2008, 09:53 PM
 
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My dd has gmail chats (only people you invited can chat), a youtube account, and does various other things online. She spends a lot of time online and has a lot of fun. I rarely check on her and have no controls but the couple of times I've gotten worried I told her I needed to check on her.
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#22 of 23 Old 05-20-2008, 10:32 PM
 
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My daughter is not a teen yet but she is into her computer and has her own gmail account and chats on it. I like gmail because it's invite only so you can screen who you can talk to.

My one question/thought that no one's brought up is that it seems like as important (if not more important) than monitoring is talking to your kids about how to keep themselves safe in all situations (chat rooms/cyberspace, meeting strangers, at school, gym, etc) and explaining the notion that while many networking aspects of the internet can seem like an online version of real life groups of friends (eg., Facebook) that they are actually very public with real consequences and teaching/discussing parameters for how to safely and comfortably use them effectively.

In my view, constant monitoring/controlling is not effective because kids are clever and always find ways to rebel. If they haven't been taught how to take care of themselves and how to trust and come to you with things then they can get hurt regardless of the level of monitoring. I would rather focus on building a trusting relationship and creating forums for open and honest discussion. I think you can pay really close attention without constantly supervising. I think this method would go triple time for a stepkid you're just developing a relationship with.

Also, fwiw, on the hickey: I think kids at this age are just beginning a whole process of sexual exploration and it's totally normal and developmentally appropriate. Again, I think the key is trust and open communication to help kids learn how to explore and deal with their increasingly powerful and frequently overwhelming new feelings.
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#23 of 23 Old 05-21-2008, 11:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Bronxmom - thanks! You raise a great point. In fact, this whole post started when I asked my SS who he was chatting with and he got angry and said he hates being asked that. That was when I realized something needed to change... because he does not want to have an open dialogue about it. He's a little secretive, which is probably normal for his age. Clearly his dad needs to have the dialogue with him, not me. I would like to be able to talk to him about it without him getting angry. Perhaps someday. He's a very private kid. First I needed to know if it was normal for him to be chatting a lot at all!!! Seems like it is. Next step - setting the parental controls on the computer...

Thanks everybody!!!
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