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Trying to be a stepdad but not allowed..

(34 Posts)
LostMale87 Thu 14-Dec-17 12:52:53

Hi guys this is my first thread and not sure if this is the right way to go about things but I need some advice..

I've been with my partner for 4 and a half years and in this time I have watched her two children change for children to teenagers.

Her youngest who's 13 has been diagnosed with depression and sits in his room all day playing computer games sometimes up to 18 hours a day but a minimum of 13 hours. He is currently not going to school as the school apparently said he shouldn't be there although nothing has been sorted about how he will continue his education. He has missed a full term so far..

The issue I have is their mum won't allow any kind of confrontation.. I can't say turn your computer off at half 2 in the morning because he will get upset. The only way of me saying my piece is to tell my partner to which all he'll breaks loose because I moan as I "hate" the kids when in reality I moan because I know they could be better than what their mum is letting them be by wrapping them up ALL the time..

My partner and I constantly have these arguments because to me it seems she's leaving him to do as he pleases (which in my eyes is reason he has ended up in this position).

I'm watching my partner let her son self destruct because she won't do anything about it and I can't just sit and watch it happen.. I believe she's too proud to admit that she may have made mistakes and also too proud to make changes.

Has anyone been in this situation in any way? Can anyone help me with what as a stepdad i should be doing?

CheapSausagesAndSpam Thu 14-Dec-17 13:15:20

Could you find some good articles about how computer time can make depression worse?

I feel for you and for her because it's such a vicious circle. He's down...the computer distracts him...then when it's taken away, he's worse.

He needs to have fresh air and excersise once a's valuable for beating depression...I've been there twice and know.

Could you also find some research about how getting out in the fresh air can aid depression?

And suggest to your partner that you join forces to help your DSS to get out with you both? Have you a dog? Would he like one?

PSMum2 Thu 14-Dec-17 13:22:26

It is not your place to disciple someone else’s child. This is a theme in every thread in here. Yes the child should be polite and respectful towards you and respect the space you share but it’s not your place to dictate how her kids spend their time.

It is very arrogant of you to say you know better than their mother. And saying she just doesn’t wan to admit she’s made mistakes because she doesn’t agree with you? Not agreeing with you isn’t bad parenting on her part.

As a step dad you should be offering support to your partner. Why on earth would you be looking for confrontation? Do you have children of your own and if so, how much time do you actually spend with them? It’s very easy to “back seat parent” someone else’s kids. If you want this to work I’d strongly recommend parenting classes. I’m sure you mean well, but your post comes across as very judgemental towards your partner and it doesn’t sound like you particularly like your step kids.

Children, especially teenagers, need stability and love, which means a united set of parent figures in their home (if there are two in the home). You and your partner are clearly on very different pages. You need to sit down with your partner and in a calm, non-judgmental way explain the issues you are having within the relationship and come up with a plan to deal with them. This is a relationship issue, not a step kid issue. You are looking for more control in the home that your parent clearly (and rightly so) doesn’t want to give you.

If her son really has been diagnosed with depression the last thing he need is criticism from his mother’s boyfriend in his own home. If you want to have a positive impact in his life then you should speak with professionals to better understand his condition and how to support him (and teenahers in general).

LostMale87 Thu 14-Dec-17 15:32:43

I agree with you it's not the child's issue it is totally down to parenting.

I'm not looking for confrontation maybe that was the wrong choice of word.. what I meant was if a child is doing something wrong should their mother or father not mention it to them? For example you've not brushed your teeth go get them done? This is what I mean.. or it's bed time at half 9... the child is up at half 2 but isn't told to go to sleep or turn the computer off.

In answer to your question I have no kids but I went through the exact experience he is going through I know how he feels missing a parent.. mine ran away and left me when I was 14.. and my other one was in and out of prison.. so in essence I brought myself up in my most Important years. I now have a well paid job nice house and car.. and most of the time a nice family too so I'd say I've not ok for myself.. I suggest you're not so quick at judging!

I appreciate I can't dictate how things should be but are you advocating 13-18 computer game hours each day no school and no communication with anyone?

I whole heartedly want to help him but I can't sit down ask him what's up or have him open up because his mum is scared of upsetting him.

Are you advocating the fact that there are no boundaries in her sons life? Are you advocating poor hygiene as everyone's too scared to mention anything due to him getting upset?

I'm sorry but if you are you have clearly a very different outlook on parenting everyone's entitled to their opinion and that's what I've come here for but if you are advocating children ruling their parents life then I'm sorry but that is wrong

LostMale87 Thu 14-Dec-17 15:38:11

Cheapsausages and spam we have a dog two in fact won't take them out we took him to Xmas markets broke down crying he stays up all night sleeps all day.. I've asked if he wants to stsrt basketball because he told me once he enjoys it he said no because his school say if he wants to be in the team he has to practice. Don't know what else to suggest except doctors but they've cancelled appointment after appointment so now he's losing his education too. I don't want him to go down the path so many kids in broken homes do.. trouble is I know the kids are far better than they allowed to be! I had to teach the 16 year old how to get a bus! I do everything I can but it seems like it's not enough..

MyDcAreMarvel Thu 14-Dec-17 15:41:45

PS mum of course the op should be involved in disciplining the children. He has raised his dss since he was 9.
Op your partner does not sound like she has much respect for you.

RestingGrinchFace Thu 14-Dec-17 15:42:13

Unless the bit wants your help and intervention you don't really have any right toninterefere here. Is she a bad mother? Maybe, you wouldn't really know, they're not your kids. Unless you are some kind of parenting expert or psychologist I don't think you gave anything constructive to add. For example-what exactly do you imagine would happen if she told her son to stop playing video games? Clearly there is a problem here but you don't really seem to know what you are talking about, maybe thatcwhy she gets so annoyed.

PSMum2 Thu 14-Dec-17 15:49:09

I’m not advocating children dictate anything, I’m advocating you listening to and supporting your partner in her parenting decisions and coming up with a plan to actually support and encourage the child.

At no point have you expressed concern for your step child, only frustration that his mother is not taking your parenting advice.

Your response to my thread seems to be similar to how your respond to your partner. Not agreeing with you is not the same as “advocating” for poor hygiene. You need to take a step back and look at the issues you claim you want to deal with. To me it seems like you are more interested in control and proving your point.

Your partner has a mentally ill child, she (and the child) need your support, not your judgment. I hope you are able to put your ego aside and look at that they actually need from you.

TwitterQueen1 Thu 14-Dec-17 15:49:12

Gosh, how difficult. It's obvious that you're trying to help here and so I think ^ comments are somewhat harsh. You're being damned if you do and damned if you don't.

One thing springs to mind. He seems to have too many choices and I believe this can make things worse. You asked about basketball for example. And about walking the dogs (I think). And I know you say his mother won't discipline him. But can you give him some things to do without options? eg Put your coat on we are going out for 15 minutes. Come with me now we are going to get some milk... Nothing too scary, but make him do little things.

Sorry, this sounds a bit pathetic but give him things to do that don't cause confrontation or arguments...

PSMum2 Thu 14-Dec-17 15:50:17

Look at what they actually need from you.

Blackteadrinker77 Thu 14-Dec-17 15:52:18

Can you try to get him to spend some time with you?

Maybe take him to play pool some where or play football with him?

To give a child advice you first need to have a very strong bond.

LostMale87 Thu 14-Dec-17 16:09:20

Thanks for the constructive feedback guys.. I do care for them that's why it gets to me that he's just left to do what he wants to do..

As for what would happen if his tv or game was turned off at bed time surely that would be the first sign of structure from his mum something he's never had.

I am talking not from being a parent but from being in his position coming out of the other end all I wanted when I was depressed was the feeling that someone cared for me how does a child feel love or care if no time is spent with him and there's no structure to your life? In every environment whether right or wrong if you don't do the right thing there's a consequence I'm not saying scream shout etc but if there is no guidance on how to make things better ie brush your teeth wash etc then how as a child is he ever supposed to know that's the norm?

I'm not a psychologist but I'm sure children learn from their surroundings and if your surroundings are no boundaries do what you want when you want how does that put him in good stead for life?

He doesn't like football or any sports because in his words yiu have to practice.. I habe tried getting to come on dog walks which on occasion he will do but he needs to be more social with his peers but because as you rightly say it's down to his mum to set the standard not me if it's not being done what are you to do? We can talk about it everyday calmly then she gets offended because it's her child not mine... it's diffcult

swingofthings Thu 14-Dec-17 16:21:49

A child of that age who isn't at school, is up all night and sleeps all day is a child who is experiencing serious issues.

In answer to your question I have no kids but I went through the exact experience he is going through I know how he feels missing a parent..
No you can't because not all children react to events the same way. Maybe you were strong minded, determined, a fighter by nature and that's why you coped ok. Maybe this child isn't.

The problem you face now is because you consider the issue a matter of discipline, you've all lost all credibility with your SS. He will not listen to you, trust you or feel supported by you. Anything you will do or say will be seen as confrontational. That's why his mum doesn't want you to get involved.

If he's been diagnosed with depression and not in school, he must be under the care of professionals. What his mum should do is insure that he gets all the helps he can get from them and learn herself what she can do best to help him.

Disciplining a 13yo who has been diagnosed with depression the way you would discipline any other 13yo is only going to do more damage. The depression needs to be treated first and the quicker it is dealt with, the best his chance of full recovery.

LostMale87 Thu 14-Dec-17 16:40:19

Twitterqueen that is what I have suggested stop giving him options tell him he's doing this or that not in a horrible way just give him some structure.

Before I said confrontation I didn't mean that I meant pulling him on something like brushing his teeth.. He doesn't even wash hands after being in the toilet... but no one is allowed to say anything in fear of hurting his feelings?

Letting him do what he wants has led him to where he is now because he has chosen to isolate himself. He should be being encouraged to interact but I'm not allowed to do the encouragement because he doesn't want to do anything.. his mum's words are "he's happy playing his computer so I let him" when do you say enough is enough? 2 hours 5 10 18?

smithssquarecrisps Thu 14-Dec-17 16:53:30

My husband also believes he has the right to discipline my DS who is also 13, like your stepson. Unfortunately my husband wants the privileges of discipline without actually having any kind of relationship with my son.

My son is also depressed but my husband thinks that this is all in his mind and he’s fine. I don’t tread on eggshells around my son but I’m also not making a big deal out of stuff that is not really important. And I will decide what’s important not my husband. If my DS doesn’t want to shower, well.... so what? Who is it hurting? My priority is my son not hurting himself or worse. I couldn’t give a shit about anything else at the moment. If my DS needs a bollocking then I do it. Because I’m his mum and we have a relationship of trust and love between us and ultimately he knows I’ve got his back.

Maybe your wife thinks her DS doesn’t need anymore stress at the moment and thinks that you are an adult and therefore should realise that there are more important things than what you are concerned about.

LostMale87 Thu 14-Dec-17 17:01:54

Swing of things

I'm not talking punishment or discipline I'm talking boundaries. Bedtime is 9.30 that's when you go to sleep not when you sit up on Xbox all night. When you're told to brush your teeth if you don't you'll be told to go do them.. they're good kids don't get I trouble just the basics that they've never been taught. Not their fault at all.

Depressed or not surely structure in your day as a child is beneficial?
With the point of me being through the same I get were not the same just as a teenager with no parents am I needed was for someone to show me they care... they never did so I learnt to be independent I'm not saying that he should do that I'm saying people should be trying to help him not leave him to play gta or call of duty all day on his own? Is that not reasonable? No malice in my words genuine question if it is reasonable or am I being over the top?

LostMale87 Thu 14-Dec-17 17:05:34


Again I agree with your view can't be disciplining with no relationship I don't want to discipline I want to see his mum be a mum you said if your son does something wrong you bollock him.. if he does something wrong would you not tell him leave him and buy him a new game a day or two later?

And yes I agree there's more important things than just having a shower but when he gets picked on for being a "freak" because he smells and hardly goes to school do you not think it's time to shower? Also it's unpleasant for anyone coming round kids friends or adults friends to smell bo throughout the house. Is washing hands admfter using the toilet not important? If so why do you wash yours after you've been?

AcrossthePond55 Thu 14-Dec-17 17:14:59

I see your point, you want this young man to have better habits to lead to a better, more productive life. But the problem is that you aren't even a stepfather (legally), you are his mother's BF. Yes, I know that many men in this position have active, constructive roles in the children's lives. But that's not what the mother wants in your situation. She wants you to 'butt out', which is her prerogative.

Honestly, I think the best thing you could probably do would be to remove yourself and let them get on with it. She's not listening to you (nor does she have to, really) so things are only going to get worse. And just perhaps it might provide the wake up call that she needs.

IfNot Thu 14-Dec-17 17:21:27

From what you have said do far OP I agree with you, and I don't know why you are being jumped on. Why assume " no relationship" with this child?.it's been 4 years!
I too would find it really hard to watch a 13 year old spend all his time gaming, well into the night (and not washing) without intervening. What he is being allowed to do is the WORST thing for depression possible! Depressed people don't nessecarily need to be pandered to. Sometimes they need practical help ( and I say that as a sufferer). I think his mum is being defensive about it out of guilt, but also if you want to help, make sure you go about it as diplomatically as possible. Concentrate on your relationship with him, try and get him to do other stuff with you ( walk the dog etc) with the emphasis on wanting to spend time with him, not making him do it for his "own good."

It's hard as Hell to be a step parent, but you just sound like you care to me, which is a good thing.

ClareB83 Thu 14-Dec-17 17:27:51

I don't know why you're getting so much grief OP. Your DSS is lucky to have someone in the home who cares his life is going off the rails and wants to help.

The problem is your partner doesn't seem to think of you as her partner in life. I know you're not their dad, but as her partner she should be discussing her sons problems with you and trying to work out solutions. Even if she decides they are for her to implement (although it would generally be best to tackle together).

It's clear there is a problem. Let's not pretend what's she's doing is working. OP has clearly described a bad situation and lifestyle for DSS.

That's where you need to start. 'I know he's your son, but I'm your partner please can we discuss what you or both of us could do to get DSS back into school." You want to support her in this goal, be her sounding board, carry out actions agreed by both of you.

If she can't see there is a problem perhaps another friend or family member could be persuaded to say something. But honestly if she's that blind you might have to decide to lump it or leave it.

Similarly if she knows there's a problem but refuses to discuss with you. I think you need to decide if that's the sort of partnership you can put up with.

It will be sad for DSS to lose you as an advocate for getting him back to normalcy but you can't parent without her support.

LostMale87 Thu 14-Dec-17 17:58:57


Exactly that she wants me to butt out.. but then she wants me to nice things with them.. holidays days out etc which of course I do and I'm happy doing but when it comes to issues I have to stay away because the slightest conversation about them turns into warfare. I hate it from what I experienced as a kid all I want is the best for them. It pains me to see and to know what's coming is makes it worse.. I think you're right I have to just learn to leave them to it but then I get moaned at for "not caring" again it's difficult


You are right I should just try and get him to do something again it's difficult because I have tried that in the past before he was classed as depressed.. He may been depressed the but not diagnosed.. I do think it should be his mum making more of an effort as she is his mum surely it'd all be better coming from her.. but to just allow him to do as he pleases is definitely not the answer.


That's the point I'm getting to.. she does refuse to talk about things the rare tine she does i dont kow if shes telling me the truth or trying to protect her son by telling me white lies.. how long can I keep doing this if nothing improves.. thays what i ask myself I don't want to be in this situation but I am..I suppose I live in hope that one day the penny will drop and we can all sit as a family and discuss our problems in a calm manner but trying to get anyone to talk openly is impossible..

greenberet Thu 14-Dec-17 18:10:38

Hi op - I get where you are coming from - to hear a man genuinely want to help a kid that's not even his own child makes a refreshing change on here - and I mean MN in general.

I don't get this "I'm in a relationship with you but it's my child and I'm the only one who can discipline" - I get how it has come about - everyone is vulnerable after a marriage breakdown especially the kids but if you are trusted enough to be in a relationship with the dm surely this has to extend to the Ds as well and it needs to cover all aspects - not just the good or fun parts but the setting boundaries too. Some sort of family discussion needs to take place and it has to be the dm setting the scene

But Having said this as a DM of a Ds who i would say is depressed and one issue away from a breakdown it is a very difficult situation to manage. Everything you say makes total sense to me and I get that it all comes from a place of feeling that nobody cares - how do you break through this - I don't know. My Ds is at the stage where he says he doesn't care about anything - I know this is not true - he is as he is because he cares too much and he has very deep hurt feelings - all a result of an extremely acrimonious divorce.

Where is the Ds father in all this - I guess he is not around much and how is the dm day to day - is she coping - my instinct is that she probably isn't very well and that enforcing a change on Ds is just a step to far for her to deal with right now.

I get called allsorts by Ds - it is soul destroying when you know that everything you have done is about putting his interests first yet somehow he doesn't get this - maybe the damage had already been done by the time my x left - my x had a very intolerant attitude towards Ds - Ds is a particularly high needs child not diagnosed but nevertheless hard work even at the best of times. I suffer with depression myself and so my own coping ability is limited.

At the moment I can't give my Ds the consistent attention he needs because I am constantly trying to raise my own energy sufficiently enough to cope with my own needs before trying to deal with his issues. So I can understand how his dm just leaves him to it even though this is just deferring having to deal with it.

Maybe with the Xmas holidays coming up - a chance to change the routine he has been allowed to get into - but how you do this again I am not sure.

Maybe as others have said outside intervention is needed - they know that the behaviour is not personal which again is very difficult to keep in mind when you are dealing with this day in day out and it is your child.

I don't know if any of this makes sense - having got yourself out of what can only have been a very difficult situation you have the mental strength to deal with this which a lot of people don't have but it is a delicate situation.

Somehow as others have said it's his dm that needs support - and just to throw a spanner in the works could the Ds somehow be testing you - does he think if it gets bad enough you will leave - so despite everything you are trying to do you end up showing him that you didn't care enough either. This is what depression does it tests the limits of those that say they care - somehow this kid needs unconditional love.

Just posting here in my mind shows you care

ClareB83 Thu 14-Dec-17 18:13:47

Can you get away with your DP? Some of the best, most in depth and honest conversations I've had with my OH have been on holiday when we're away from regular life and have the time and space to really get into a topic. It was on a beach in Sweden that we decided to get married and start trying for children.

Even if you can't go abroad. Perhaps a day out just the two of you. Have a good tome and relax first, and then later get talking.

Some couples have the best conversations when driving because the lack of eye contact let's them relax. You could try that.

fizzthecat1 Thu 14-Dec-17 18:22:14

My husband also believes he has the right to discipline my DS who is also 13, like your stepson. Unfortunately my husband wants the privileges of discipline without actually having any kind of relationship with my son

My son is also depressed but my husband thinks that this is all in his mind and he’s fine

You think it's fine to let your son live with someone like this? Do you not think this could be contributing to his depression? Having to live with someone who clearly just tolerates him.

No wonder he is depressed. You need to pick your son over your husband.

rwalker Thu 14-Dec-17 18:30:40

psmum2 the guy obviously cares and wants to help him as a step parent you take on the role of parenting him as well .
living as a family of course he should be able to disapline him and be involved. I think bad wording when he said confutation i read it as though setting rules (telling a 13 year old to get off the play station is not unreasonble) and he won't like it so mum lets him do it to avoid him kicking off
My mate has 1 child and 2 step children and he treats them all the same as it should be .
He needs a plan to deal with depression or sadly it will affect him all his life

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