Stepson's Emotional Age/Behavior

Lindsey - posted on 04/01/2012 ( 7 moms have responded )




This is my first post, I just joined today because I am so frustrated. My stepson lives us 100% of the time and his bio-mom is not in his life. I took him on a bike ride today to the park because I was wanting to get closer to him, we struggle with our relationship like anyone in my position. I am a stay at home mother, so I raise him along with our two year old daughter. He kept complaining about not being able to mount his bike very well, so I took him aside at the park and taught him how. He fought me tooth and nail, and he threw a tantrum in the middle of the park and started balling his eyes out because he thought it was 'too hard' and 'he didn't want to'. So I told him that I wasn't leaving the park until he got on it twice by himself [he is 9 btw] and he cried and made a big scene overdramatisizing everything. Then he wouldn't bike back to our house [.5 miles away?] because he said he was too tired. There were some people around, and when he saw them getting close, he pretended to trip and made another scene. So I walked home pulling my 2 yr old on an attachable bike trailer with him crying and creating mayhem. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. I get home and tell my husband what went on, and his solution was to talk to him and have him clean his room. [Which is one of his Saturday chores, and it took him all of 5 minutes. He told me yesterday that he had done it, but he lied to me because my husband said that when he went downstairs it was a mess] So I went to the store while he was cleaning his room, and I come back, and my husband is sitting there on the couch with him watching TV, which I think shouldn't be allowed after his fiasco this morning. I talk to my husband and say "You really think that he , should be watching TV after what happened this morning?" , so he says "Ok [son], I guess we have to turn it off" like I was the big bad wolf. Now they are on the couch watching TV on the computer, meanwhile my husband is looking at me like he is pissed off at me, when it had nothing to do with me to begin with. He said "Oh, I will have [son] try harder and make him work harder on his daily tasks" which is ridiculous because my husband never follows through with anything. The sad part is, at least to me, is that he is like Hitler with our two year old daughter, and any bad behavior is unacceptable, but with stepson, apparently acting like a two year old melting down in the middle of a park because someone is trying to teach you something because no one else in your family cares enough to do so is ok. I am so frustrated. I feel like our son is purposely trying to ruin our marriage through his negative and constant lying, bad behavior, and he only does this on days when his father is home from work, when it is just me and the kids, I have no problems and we get along great.

Thank you for the feedback. It helped me to be able to step back a bit and look at the situation as a whole instead of how I was viewing it 'in the moment'


Emily - posted on 04/01/2012




I will be honest. I think you're over-reacting. First off, please please please don't blame your stepson for trying to ruin your marriage. He's a NINE year old boy. He clearly has problems, but if anyone's going to ruin your marriage, it's you and your husband. You cannot put this on your stepson's shoulders.

Relationships with stepparents are delicate. Regardless of how much time he spends with you all, he still knows that his mom is not in his life and probably has a LOT of anger about this. The way he acts around you is going to be flavored by the emotion he feels about his mom. You can't take this personally. It just is what it is right now. Rather than try to *force* him to do things or force help on him, next time I'd ask him first if he wants help. Even though you were only trying to help him and you had the best intentions, that doesn't mean he's ready to accept that help from you. You shouldn't have to "fight him tooth and nail" for something like learning to mount a bike, something he didn't ask your help for. Save fighting tooth and nail for bigger things. So he threw a tantrum... kids do that. You have no reason to be embarassed about that. The more you react to his tantrums, the more dramatic he's going to be about it.

How long has he been living with you? If it were me, I'd seek help from some sort of professional, probably a family therapist.. not just for him, but for everyone. He needs an outlet to get out some of his emotions in a healthy way, and you all need to define your boundaries as a family, as parents.

Reena - posted on 04/18/2012




Hi Lindsey,

I am a stepmom to two teens ages 14(SS) and nearly 16 (SD). DH and I also have two little girls ages 4 and 5. DH and I have been married nearly 8 years and his EX has been sporadic over the years. I won’t go into all the details, but she has made it very difficult for me and my step kids to form any real relationship while they were younger and this past year she has basically abandoned her relationship with them. It is such a difficult situation filled with so much pain—and these are really great kids.

DH and I adopted our youngest two daughters. I have read quite a few books on attachment in relation to adoption as well as grief, but honestly, I’ve found what I’ve read to be even more helpful with my stepkids. You may want to try looking into some books along those lines for a resource.

I think SS is testing your love and commitment (he may not even realize he is doing it). His mom left him, abandoned him. Everything in our society tells us that our Mom is the ONE person who will go to the ends of the Earth for us. When a child has a mom who leaves them this can cause the child to have a lot of problems with trust as well as problems with self esteem.

Has SS had any counseling regarding the loss of his mom? I am not sure where you or your DH stand on that issue, but counseling has been extremely helpful for both my stepkids.

Tantrums like the one at the park—SS may have felt more frustrated that it was “You” spending so much time and attention on him and helping learn this monumental new skill instead of his “Mom.”

This past weekend I took SD for an afternoon of shopping. We had a nice time. The next day she wouldn’t hardly acknowledge me. Later that day she told DH that the little girls get on her nerves because I baby them—I hug them when they cry.

It is like a light version of reactive attachment disorder—you do something to bring each other closer and they do something to push you away—to see if you will stay or not.

Some people saying being a mom is the hardest role in life. I disagree—being a stepmom is the hardest role.


Kay - posted on 04/05/2012




Put yourself in your step-son's shoes for just a moment. He is nine. His dad has a new life, with a new wife, and a new daughter. His mom is not involved in his life, so he is already prone to mistrusting maternal figures. He has already learned that he can't rely on them. He has no control over any of this. His life to this point is completely dictated by the decisions of those around him. Decisions he has no say in whatsoever. Would you be happy and well-adjusted?

Step-parenting is difficult, and you have every right to feel frustrated, just as you would be frustrated if your daughter was behaving in a similar way. However, step-parenting is different, too, because of the toll that the entire situation has taken on the child.

Family therapy is a great suggestion. I have also found it useful with my stepdaughters (seven and nine) to let them determine what activities we do together. Joining them in things that already interest them seems to create a level of common interest. It also lets them know that I am interested in them and what they are doing. We read books together, with my five year old, and the two of them (Harry Potter was one of their favorites, now we are going to do the Hobbit this summer).

It is a tricky situation all around. I wish you the best of luck in figuring it out.


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Jennifer - posted on 05/16/2014




Wow! I am there now with a son who is still living with us. His oldernone already moved out. He is 18 & about to graduate HS & will be 19 soon & gets away with murder here. It is tearing our relationship apart. I understand im sonsorry. I have my own serious problem but dont know how to ask a question.

Karen - posted on 10/06/2013




I think the problem is your husbands attitude ! The child will always push your buttons to
get what he wants,thats normal,He is mad at his mom,not you ,but you are taking blame,hubby loves his boy,and feels guilt so he gives in alot,let him. The boy needs all the love he gets and be happy for him.Don't let him ever see you mad ,just smile and keep saying I love you and am here for you. You will bond,and he will come around.

Barbara - posted on 10/04/2013




he is overcompensating because he feels guilty that he (his son) does not have both parents in his life. My stepson's mother had him living in a car in California and when we got him at 11 he was a mess. She has called him 3 times in more than 5 years and spoke to him for approximately 30 seconds yet when his sister is here she calls her almost everyday. He is obviously hurt by this and is acting out and though we get along pretty well most of the time, he sometimes takes it out on me for being here when she is not. My husband definitely is afraid to say anything much to him because she made sure from 5 to 10 he was not allowed to have anything to do with his father at all until the kids finally snuck away and called us to tell us that they had no place to live no clothes(he arrived wearing his mother's old clothes and shoes and a small garbage bag) He having a lot of mental problems and is depressed about his mom. I don't know how much I should say or do except to let him know that I am here for him and try not to over mother him because I feel he wants that from me but resents it at the same time I am sorry I am rambling but I think your husband is just afraid of driving him away and making him feel left out of your family unit because he is not your child. You should try to have a talk with him with no kids around and try to stay calm....sorry if i said too much
Stepmother of 5 and mother of 2 trying to stay above water it is definitely a tightrope we walk. It is normal to feel resentment. WE must Stick Together Step Mother's Unite!!

Sol4J - posted on 04/03/2012




I am glad you've reached out to connect with other parents regarding your step-son. My heart went out to you as I was reading your post. It sounds like this has been a rough year. The blending of families is a particularly challenging task, marked by its own characteristic set of problems and frustrations. But, I've also heard many stories that testify to the fact that these difficulties tend to lessen over time. In my time with Focus on the Family, I have the opportunity to become familiar with various resources they have available to help families thrive. This article and this one addresses a similar step parenting issue that you might find useful. The books, "Smart Stepfamily" by Ron Deal, and "Blended Families" by Maxine Marsolini also provide some advice that might help both of you walk through this season. Of course, if you'd like to talk about this with a counselor, please call. Their phone number is in the Q&A. Know that your family is in my prayers, Lindsey. Blessings!

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