Step-son is disrespectful and doesn't like me - FamilyEducation
Step-son is disrespectful and doesn't like me
08/16/2011 at 15:10 PM

I am having a very hard time with my step-son. He is very disrespectful to me, talks back, tries to tell me what to do and corrects me all the time. He is 12 years old and has basically never had his real mother in his life, or any mother figure at all, except for his grandmother. His father has had sole custody of him since he was 4 years old. I am 28 years old and do not have children of my own. His father and I have been together for a little over a year and recently got married. He works overseas a month at a time, so when he is at work, I am the primary caregiver and disciplinarian, but he backs me up 100% and calls home and talks to our son about his behavior when there has been a problem. There is also a 10 year old step-daughter, but I have no problems out of her at all.

My problem is that I am the ONLY person that my step-son is disrespectful to. He is a perfect angel for his father, grandparents, teachers, and any other adults in his life. But with me, he has an attitude and tries me constantly. The minute his father leaves for work, he changes into a completely different child. It's like a switch gets flippd as soon as we leave the airport. He becomes loud, obnoxious, mean to his sister, and defiant. If he doesn't get things exactly the way he wants them, the day is ruined and he has an attitude with me. I have tried talking to him, fussing at him, taking away sports, little "flicks" of the finger to startle him when he is being disrespectful, etc... Nothing works. He even told me last night that he doesn't like me. I asked him what I could do to make things better and he just said he didn't know what to tell me. I asked him if he thought maybe he was just saying he didn't like me because he was mad at me and wanted to hurt my feelings and he said, "No, it's true. I don't like you."

At the beginning of me and my husband's relationshp, the boy and I got along fine. He has just recently started be disrespectful to me in the last 6 months or so. I don't know what has changed besides the fact that I am now the primary discipliary figure in his life and he doesn't like me controlling his life. But his grandparents and father have had the same approaches to discipline as I have for his whole life and he's always been good for them. They are believers in spanking, which I agree with, but I am not comfortable spanking a 12 year old boy. I am afraid that is what it is going to take to make him see that I am serious about his behavior and will not be disrespected in my own home, or corrected and bossed around by a 12 year old.

He has to learn that I should be treated with the same respect as any other adult in his life and that what I say is not negotiable. How do I make him realize that I am the boss and he is the child? And how am I supposed to approach the whole "I don't like you" situation?

It just occurred to me that he may think you are responsible for his father leaving. If you weren't there to provide care, would his father leave the children behind to work overseas? I thought about this again, and I'm beginning to think it has some validity. Look at this: "and calls home and talks to our son about his behavior when there has been a problem." So, when you get upset enough, you recruit his dad to talk to him.

I don't think the boy is being manipulative. I think he loves his dad a lot. He misses his dad. It's scary when dad goes overseas because who knows if he will come back. And the adults have designed a system where: if the boy acts out his dad calls. You need to design a better system. I think the dad should call every day--first thing in the morning if possible. Skype, it's cheap. This should be unconditional. You should NEVER say--if you aren't good you can't talk to your dad. Then, if possible, another call at bedtime. So dad can say "I love you" to his son, and so son can hear "I love you" from his dad. I don't know if there will be immediate improvement. It will take a little while for the trust to build, and there are probably other problems that will need to be addressed, but try this. It won't hurt.

Dad needs to start looking for a job he can do while living with his children. When this becomes a possibility in the near future, let the kids in on it. I bet the boy's attitude toward you will improve a lot if he knows that this idea came from you.

This is my situation to the "T" except its with the daughter.My significant other has boy and girl and I have no kids. I hope you are hanging in there :( what ever advice you get I could use! :) xoxoxxo

OMG!! This sounds just like me but my step child is a girl. I am at the end of my rope and not really sure what to do? My husband sometimes backs me up but for the most part he sides with her. He says he is in the middle. He loves us both. I am at the point I hate to go home after work cause I know she is there.

I should clarify... his father has worked overseas for years. Way before I came into the picture. Basically since he was a tiny child, his dad has been working this way. The grandparents used to keep the kids for the month that my husband was at work, but they have made it very clear that they want to stay with me at our house when their dad is gone. Mostly because they have friends in our neighborhood and the school is very close, so they don't have to get up so early. Their dad calls home every three or four nights to talk to us all, so it's not just when the son is in trouble. He has a very busy/stressful job and calling every day just usually isn't possible.

And short of winning the lottery, switching jobs is not possible.

Talk to the boy's counselor at school about the things you can expect from a young adolescent. He's going through a lot of changes. For one thing, he's beginning a process that Erikson describes as: Identity vs Role Confusion Tries integrating many roles (child, sibling, student, athlete, worker) into a self-image under role model and peer pressure. The absence of his primary role model for a month at a time makes this process extra stressful. In addition, he is becoming capable of formal operational thought processes. His ability to argue logically will be honed in his interaction with adults, and you will bear the brunt of that. Ask the counselor if he/she has information from Piaget and Erikson that will help you.