Stepson: am I caring or interfering:

(19 Posts)
Frex Mon 21-May-18 14:56:52

Hi all, this whole step-parenting thing is totally new to me. Apologies if this has been discussed before, but I just signed up.

I've met the most wonderful man who I'd love to share the rest of my life with. He has a 12-year-old son who I get along with quite well. I'll call the dad and son John and Mark to make the story easier to follow.

The biggest source of arguments between John and me is Mark. The kid lives on McDonalds, plays on his games console incessantly, sometimes all day, doesn't do his homework, rarely has a bath or cleans his teeth, and can be pretty rude and disrespectful to his dad. John runs up and down stairs with drinks, crisps, cake, anything Mark shouts down for.

My daughter wasn't brought up this way, and I'm finding it almost impossible to live in a house where a child, IMHO, is being neglected out of love. John totally adores his child and would do anything to make him happy.

Should I step back and butt out? If I do I feel like I'm doing Mark a real disservice. I think I've made a small difference: last week Mark ate a home-cooked meal twice and did half a maths homework. He's a lovely child underneath all the bluster, and I'd be sad if he didn't grow up healthy and well-adjusted because of things we didn't do for him.

Or else I'm just an interfering old bat. I'm not sure which, and I'd love your honest opinion.

Cheers, Frex

OP’s posts: |
lunar1 Mon 21-May-18 16:16:09

It's really hard, because of course yours is the better way, but this is how he parents and it is what your dd is seeing. It's also how he would parent any future joint children you may have if you separated.

The problem is even if he allowed you to make changes for the better, you run the risk of being seen as the wicked witch in your own home.

Handsfull13 Mon 21-May-18 17:02:45

Step parenting is soo hard. Knowing what you should and shouldn't do is a mine field I still haven't worked out.
I find myself wanting to do things for my step son and try and push him to do things and have to keep reminding myself it isn't my decision and I need to check with my partner if I should be doing it.

I honestly would find it very difficult to live with someone who doesn't parent their own child. He is Disney Dad to the extreme there and it's to the detriment of his child.
As you've said your fighting over this I am presuming that your partner is fine with what he is doing and sees nothing wrong with letting his son doing what he wants and catering to it.

I would loose respect for a man that couldn't see he is setting his son out for really bad habits and behaviour.

What is the contact arrangement like?
I would have a chat with your partner about what your expectations as a blended family are.
I would just keep encouraging the food and getting homework.

swingofthings Mon 21-May-18 17:16:21

You do need to butt out emotionally. Don't build this picture in your head that his future is currently completely compromised and that the power is in your hands to turn his life around to make him become an adult to be proud of. For anything, because even if you did, and put a lot of investment in it, you might find that he has no thanks to give you at all for it.

Why don't you let his dad bring him as he sees fit. If you have arguments about it, it's more that he can't be bothered but that he just doesn't agree with you. However, since you seem to get along with your SS and he appreciates your presence and attention, maybe you could just give him advice/directions, maybe spending some time with him IF doing so is not an effort for you but something you really don't mind doing.

Otherwise, leave it to his parents to bring him up as you see fit. You might be surprised one day that he turns out to be a different adult to what you imagined him growing into.

Neolara Mon 21-May-18 17:28:35

I should start by saying I'm not a step parent so have know real clue. Some posters are advising that you but out and let's his dad decide how to parent. But I don't understand how in reality this would work if you all lived together. How would meals work if you want home cooked food and your step ds will only eat McDonald's? Are you all going to eat separately? Are you really going to let a child in the house not brush his teeth or send him to school filthy just because his Dad is hopeless?

Frex Tue 22-May-18 08:35:40

The different takes on this are really interesting. I really appreciate all your thoughts and advice.

I don't want to spend the next 6 years or more watching this scenario play out. I don't know what sort of person SS will grow up to be. Hopefully he'll be fine. I suspect in his dad's eyes he will always be 4 years old and I'll spend the next few years fighting against the tide. I have zero say in how someone else's child is brought up, but I do have a say in what goes on in the house I live in, and I have a right not to have to experience some of the stuff that goes on here.

The kid thinks it's his duty to punish his dad if he does anything wrong. Say for example DP swears in front of SS. He tries hard not to, but the odd borderline word slips out. When that happens, SS continually hits or pinches his dad hard enough to cause bruising. There's domestic violence in my past and this is a trigger for me. I've talked with DP about this. Apparently it started as a joke when SS was much younger but has been allowed to continue.

I think I want to change too much.

Thanks for listening.

OP’s posts: |
Melliegrantfirstlady Tue 22-May-18 08:42:19

So you have tried to help and been told to mind your own business.

Tbh I would do just that. You were coming from a good place.

Don’t interfere. Let him raise his son and do all his laundry and whatever else needs doing.

I must admit I’d quickly lose respect for a man who patented this way. It suggests a real lack of emotional intelligence.


Melliegrantfirstlady Tue 22-May-18 08:42:40


laloup1 Tue 22-May-18 11:02:10

I’m not sure how wonderful someone is that parents in that way but I only have what you’ve told me to go on, so I appreciate there may be back history that explains this more.
If you are going to put your lives together you have to have common values for what goes on in your home. If you read this forum you’ll find lots of examples of how hard it is when partners don’t share parenting values.
My partner and I are pretty aligned on how he brings up his daughter but even then it’s tough sometimes on little things eg when a snack is biscuits when a banana would have gone down well too. I have to let go on that. But I focus on adding veg in everywhere I can (by sneaky means if necessary!) which makes me feel better smile
Maybe you can help them to be more activity-orientated. Organising some stuff to get everyone out of the house.
There’s no way I would survive in the environment you describe. It’s not for you to make up for your partner’s parenting deficiencies but there’s no harm in trying to catalyse a bit of change in the home to see if you can find a way of living that works for you all.

swingofthings Tue 22-May-18 16:39:52

Your latest post is much more intense than your first one and indicates that you do have quite a bit of an issue with the situation and you feel that things should change to suits you.

Problem is, your DP doesn't seem to agree. Most posts here are from SM exactly in your situation, albeit further down the line. They are fed up, feel undermined and clearly unhappy with quite a few deciding that splitting up is inevitable. They haven't managed to convince their partner that their way is better for the child or the family in general.

I think you need to think hard whether there is a future in your relationship if you are not prepared to close your eyes to the way your OH is raising his son. No right or wrong, but you both need to be happy with the way things are managed.

Bananasinpyjamas11 Tue 22-May-18 18:14:26

Personally I do think it’s impossible to be detached. You aren’t. And as a parent yourself it’s the dual rule household that can cause a lot of tension. Also, your step son does not to be able to take some parenting from you. You directly, not just asking DP.

That does take trust, some time, and history to build though.

It can also become very tense in the house and you might end up fustrated and pent up, with your step son knowing full well he can get away with anything from his Dad and may grow to resent and resist any change.

So I would get stuck in OP but in stages, hopefully carrying your DP and DS with you. For example...
Ask your DP not to give him food from 3pm so when you cook a meal later he might be hungry enough to eat it!
Ask your DP to make sure he brushes his teeth.
Absolutely no aggression from anyone. Zero tolerance on the hitting or pinching. But make sure he knows no one will shout at him either. The home is an aggression free zone. Instead your DP could put some pence in a jar which then can be spent at macdonalds or whatever SS wants? That would satisfy his need for control.

Then maybe do one thing each time SS visits, just you and him. Anything! That you treat him too. I think that can really help to build a bit of appreciation. Not just cooking. Even just bringing him up a chocolate yourself. So it redresses a bit of the Dad giving / SM discipline role?

If your DP is going to put his head in the sand I’d seriously suggest counseling. This could tear your relationship apart.

I had a DSD who was similar and did turn into a young adult that to me is quite rude and childish. She will probably get there. But her attitude to me is mean. I regret not getting stuck in sooner but to be honest I had no way of forming a relationship as her Mum undermined it.

Frex Wed 23-May-18 08:44:30

Thanks again guys. I do want to stay with this man, and I like his son when he's not being mean. I encourage him to read to me, and he and I do his homework together when I can coax him to do it, usually under threat of detention. He's actually never overtly rude to me. He tried it once and I told him never to raise his voice to me again, and to be fair he hasn't. But he screams and shouts at his dad big time, and I spend a lot of evenings in my room because I hate the tension.

I feel jealous and resentful sometimes about the time they spend together, which is mean and spiteful. Until about a month ago they slept in the same bed, so I had to vacate our room when he stayed. In order to put a stop to that, SS had to have our big room and we're squashed in what's effectively a single room. I don't mind this very much, but I mind that SS makes the rules in our house quite often.

Just writing this, I see that actually quite a lot of change has happened already. Maybe I should wait it out for 6 months or so and see what happens next.

Thank you all so much. Watch this space ...

OP’s posts: |
Handsfull13 Wed 23-May-18 09:20:42

It's not mean and spiteful to feel jealous when it comes the step children. It's a completely natural feeling as a step mum it's all about how you handle it.
I get the feeling that yours is made worse as some of those moments you could be joining in but because of the shouting and demanding you choose to remove yourself from the situation. I'm not saying that's wrong because you should do what's best for you but I would talk to your partner about this behaviour and how it effects you.

You should definitely not be lettting a child dictate what you do in your own home.
Do you have him full time or do you get some time alone when he is with his mum?

Please don't just wait and see what happens in 6 months. It won't get any better unless you make some changes as a family, which means your partner needs to be on board. If things don't improve you need to decide if you can live like this for the rest of your lives together. The longer you leave it the more you might talk yourself out of leaving because you don't want to put your daughter through it.

Bananasinpyjamas11 Wed 23-May-18 16:31:54

I’d agree with handsful. Waiting doesn’t solve anything. Even if it’s small changes, it’s important that there are changes.

The only time you spend together is on his homework? Whilst it’s amazing that he takes this from you, I’d be wary. Build up a small part of your relationship which has nothing to do with discipline. He still seems to have a lot of anger which might come right back at you all.

I’d concentrate on the house and the hiding in your room / giving up your bed is a huge deal. No way should you give up your room. No way should you hide. I’d think ditch the homework and meals and make sure it’s a pleasant enough atmosphere to be in, number one priority!

Repealthe8th Wed 23-May-18 17:04:42

Until about a month ago they slept in the same bed, so I had to vacate our room when he stayed. In order to put a stop to that, SS had to have our big room and we're squashed in what's effectively a single room. I don't mind this very much, but I mind that SS makes the rules in our house quite often

shock WTF??? You need to sort this out^ and fast. Why on earth are you two adults pandering to a 12 year old and letting him put you out of your bed at night. Seriously, that is absolutely shocking.

Magda72 Thu 24-May-18 01:17:06

What @Repealthe8th says & more!
This kid pinches & bruises his dad. He yells and screams at him and until recently they slept in the same bed. You are now turfed out of your room so one kid can have a larger space.
Sorry - but that is one very codependent & unhealthy relationship between your dp & his son.
I'd be gone tbh as those two have a long road to travel before that relationship sorts itself out.

lunar1 Thu 24-May-18 06:18:20

Did you move into his house or get somewhere new together. It sounds like the former from your posts. I honestly think it sounds like too much of an uphill climb for this to work.

So much needs to change, but it needed to be done before you lived together. You are going to be blamed for everything by your DSS, and from his perspective you came along and everything has to be different.

It won't matter to him that the changes would be good for him, he's got no way to see or understand the bigger picture. You are at least ten years away from that.

Prawnofthepatriarchy Fri 25-May-18 21:07:42

Seems to me you and DP have incompatible parenting styles. My loving relationship with DSD is largely because my DH and I were in such strong accord over parenting. You can't have two parallel families coexisting inside the same family. This is a pretty significant problem, particularly if further DC are on the cards. You may have to reconsider.

HipsterAssassin Sat 26-May-18 09:26:28

How long did you know ‘John’ and ‘Mark’ before moving in?

Did you question things before moving in (the living on MacDonalds, them sharing a bed, Mark being waited on hand-and-foot)? Or did you think you could just swoop in and save them? Where is your dd? Has she grown and flown? I really hope so because this is not a normal relationship between prent and child. It’s shocking and would kill any love I had previously for John.

I’m not sure whether it’s worth persevering. I could not be hiding away in my room of an evening to get away from them. Has it been three months of living together or longer?

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