Q: What is the role of a stepparent in parenting teenage step-children? My 19-year-old stepson moved in with us several months ago and is disrupting our marriage. He does what he wants when he wants, and there are no consequences. How does one deal with a child that age when he refuses to follow the rules of the house?
The proper role of a stepparent is to be a responsible parent, with all the privileges and authority pertaining thereto.
I was raised by a stepfather who acted as though when I was in his home, he was my father, a person with full authority over me. He was not a step, someone to be walked on. I benefited from that even though I did not like it at times. My mother, to her inestimable credit, never interfered in his discipline of me. I benefited from that even though there were times I didn’t like it. When it came to my stepfather, my mother did not enable disrespect or disobedience. He certainly benefited from that, but I benefited even more. Our family worked better as a result.
The problem in many, if not most, of today’s so-called stepfamilies is that the stepparent is effectively disempowered by the “real” parent; therefore, the children do not have reason to respect or obey the stepparent.
It is significant that you didn’t mention your husband, but you certainly implied that he enables his son’s disrespect of you and disregard of rules.
It is your husband’s responsibility to straighten out this young man, to let him know that he does not have permission to treat his wife with anything but the utmost respect.
Is your husband willing to do that? Is he willing to put his foot down and tell his son that it’s either his way or the highway? If he’s not, then he’s lost his spine.
But if so, he is in the company of many equally spineless men – and women – who value their relationships with the children of their first marriages over their relationships with their current spouses.
In my estimation, a 19-year-old who disrespects a stepparent and will not follow the rules of the house should find his own house … tomorrow. While he is away, change the locks, put his possessions on the front stoop, and pin a note to them wishing him well in his new adventure.
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