Step-teenager woes

Sarah - posted on 04/08/2013 ( 2 moms have responded )

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I feel silly even being upset about this situation, but I am...
First, here's a brief back-story. I'm 28 and a "step-mom" to a 13 year old boy, Jeff. I've been in his life for about a year and a half now. His real mom isn't around and never has been. I'm pretty much the only "mom" he's ever known. I treat him like my own, except when it comes to discipline. I'm really not comfortable with all that yet.
The situation: My husband took me out for dinner for my birthday and also got me a box of 6 chocolate covered strawberries. I looked forward to these all day and when I went to the fridge to grab one last night, all but one were gone. My husband told Jeff he could have just one and that they were mine, but Jeff proceeded to eat 5 of them. I asked Jeff if he ate them and he hesitated and then said yes and half heartedly apologized. I didn't get mad at him. I felt silly being mad about strawberries. I guess I'm not mad about the strawberries, I can go get more if I really want them, I'm mad becuase he took something that wasn't his even when he knew it wasn't his.

This isn't the first case of something like this happening. He takes things without asking and leaves messes everywhere. I feel like I provide everything (and more) for him and he isn't appreciative for it, he just wants more. I'm not used to living with children and I know some of this is bound to happen, but I need to find some sort of happy medium with him. How do I set boundaries with him? How do I convey to him that he has limits in the house? How do I start disciplining him? And am I wrong to be mad about the strawberrry situation?

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Alyssa - posted on 04/17/2013

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I am a stepmom too. My 14yo stepson lives with us full time... And my husband travels all the time. This is a classic way kids will "push." He's exploring what he can get away with. It will likely move into other areas that are not so innocent. It's a behavior that needs to be acknowledged by you and your husband and punished. Take away x-box or tv for a few days. I can tell you for personal experience, if kids don't have strong boundaries, they will hurt you badly. You have at minimum 5 more years with him, so you both have to sculpt him into being a kind respectful adult, and that starts now. :) good luck!

Kristi - posted on 04/18/2013

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Let me just say, Welcome to Motherhood, Sarah! ; )

It's not just stepchildren that push boundaries. They all do it. Most teenagers take things for granted, gratuity is not a concept they can really grasp yet. My real daughter is a slob. My "ex"stepson is still a slob. I raised them both (says a lot about me and neatness!) until 2 years ago when my 2nd hubby and I separated. We still talk all the time. All 4 of us.

Both kids tested (test) their limits individually and as a team with me and separately with my husband. Like Liz said, you and your husband have to work out the discipline process together. I told my husband up front and mind you, my son was 18 months old when his dad and I started dating, but I said I will love and care for your son as if he is mine but know that includes discipline. We worked it out. IMPO, if a child knows you have zero authority, except to "tattle," you're done for and so is your relationship. It will turn into a "you always take her side over mine. I knew you loved her more than me. vs. he's out of control and has no respect for me, you need to do something" battle royale.

No, you're not wrong to be upset about the strawberry situation. He was insensitive and rude and those were your special strawberries. It's not the strawberries you're upset about it anyways, it's the principle. Your feelings are hurt, understandably so. I'd tell your hubby that Jeff will be doing chores until he can buy you 5 new chocolate covered strawberries, unless Jeff wants to make a homemade batch instead...his choice. ; )

Hang on sister, you're in it for the long haul and it ain't easy, blood or not. But, we got your back!

Liz - posted on 04/08/2013

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The person you need to have this discussion with is your husband. Ultimately, you need to be a team with him, but also understand that it may well be that your husband doesn't want anyone else but him being responsible for discipline. If that's the case, you need to discuss what to do when you become aware of an instance that requires discipline or your husband is not there. Agree your approach.

Also, agree what your house rules are then, when you have them written down, present them to your step-son. Agree in advance what the consequences will be if these rules are broken, then you can apply those consequences in full certainty that his father would agree with you if he were there etc.

The first step is communication with your husband.

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