stepson is driving me nuts!

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: My stepson is 15 and very defiant he always says no to what ever i ask. I blow up and yell storm off. come back and go to sleep. my wife doesn’t say anything to him. I’m at the end of my rope. Please help before I go kook coo.:

A: Your short letter speaks volumes. You know that the strategy you’ve been using doesn’t work. It only frustrates you and gives the boy another “victory.” Sadly, he is winning his fights with you but he is losing the chance to know you and to have you in his corner. It may be that he is too loyal to his dad to let you also have some authority. Or he may be in rebellion against anyone who tells him what to do.

The key, of course, is his mom. Apparently, you and she aren’t on the same page. Please drop the fight with the boy and concentrate instead on working things through with your wife. She needs to be able to parent him and she needs to insist that he respect you. If she is afraid of her son or if she is afraid that she will lose him if she asserts some authority, she needs help, not criticism. Parenting a teenager is rarely easy and is often especially difficult if there has been a contentious divorce.

I suggest that you and your wife seek out a parenting class for parents of teens. There is nothing so comforting as talking with people who are going through the same kinds of things and who have some practical advice. If you can’t find such a class, the two of you could consider going to a family therapist to get some private lessons.

I sincerely hope you follow through. Your stepson may well be living with you for at least three more years. If the situation doesn’t change, it could seriously damage your relationship with your wife and her relationship with her son. Just as important, the boy isn’t learning how to respectfully negotiate living with other people.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Oct 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). stepson is driving me nuts!. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/10/13/stepson-is-driving-me-nuts/