Stepfathers have it rough in blended families – not only are they walking into a new dynamic mostly blind, but they also have to prove themselves to the rest of the family, children included!
Even if they don’t say it outright, you can usually tell if your son hates their stepfather. Your son might not even be willing to give their stepfather a chance to prove them wrong! Dealing with that initial adjustment period demands a lot of time, effort, and empathy from everyone involved.
Try to understand why your son is giving their stepdad such a hard time. Be sure to respect the boundaries they set, even if you disagree with the reasons behind them.
Work closely with your partner to present a solid, united front when handling the children. Lastly, don’t be ashamed to call in professional assistance if you feel you’ve reached a dead end.
Your son hates his stepfather for a reason. They might not be able to share why with you – they may not even KNOW that reason themselves, but it’s something you need to unpack together.
If their stepfather is half the man you believe them to be, they’ll win the kid over in time – your job right now is to encourage your son to keep an open mind until that point comes!
Why My Son Hates His Stepfather
1. Look Into the Potential Cause of these Feelings
There are a lot of reasons why your son may hate his stepfather. While some of them come with the new shift in dynamic, the rest could be due to personal differences or contextual factors.
A few possibilities that might explain your son’s problematic behavior:
- They feel that their relationship with you is threatened by their (stepfather’s) presence.
- They believe that their stepfather isn’t a good partner for you.
- They don’t feel that their stepfather is respecting their boundaries or personal agency.
- They are scared of what they represent (irreversible change in the family dynamic).
- They feel that you’re replacing their “real dad” (or their memory of them).
Reacting to their behavior would lead to limited, short-term success at best. You’ve got to focus on why they’re lashing out, rather than just how they go about doing so – you’ll get more permanent results this way. Think of this as treating the disease over the symptoms.
Mind the Pacing
There’s no need to come up with a solution right now. Even if you could, the application and fine-tuning would bog you down. Your priority in this step is just diagnosing the potential issues at hand – the last thing you want to do is rush your family’s reconciliation.
2. Articulate and Affirm Boundaries
Boundaries let people draw a line in the sand, so to speak. They inform everyone on what they can and cannot do, along with clarifying repercussions for overstepping. It’s a ruleset everyone understands and chooses to abide by,
While your son is entitled to their own opinions – even ones you personally disagree with – there’s a limit to how far they can act on them. Your son isn’t obligated to like their stepfather, but they can’t just go around disrespecting them without expecting serious consequences.
Arranging the Talk
Make sure that the entire family gets the opportunity to discuss these terms in a neutral space. We’d recommend using a familiar, communal area for this (i.e. a quiet restaurant). Steer clear of holding this chat at home, as your son could feel that people are encroaching on his safe space.
Treat this chat as a proactive, preventative measure for future conflicts. It shouldn’t be done in response to one – it’s hard to stay considerate when one or both parties feel wronged by the other.
For that reason, it’d be wise to schedule this conversation as early as you can reasonably manage. The longer you put this off, the more likely it is for arguments to crop up in your family.
A son is allowed to maintain their own opinions, but they have a responsibility to at least respect the position their stepfather holds in the family. They can disagree with certain choices or punishments, but can’t undermine or subvert their stepfather’s authority.
Giving your child free rein to speak won’t always leave you with thoughts you wanted to hear, but punishing them for sharing these means it’ll likely be the last time they trust you with it.
A stepfather is to be acknowledged, but their son’s respect needs to be earned rather than demanded. It falls on them to take the initiative, but not to the point of tramping their son’s agency.
Your Role as Mediator
Your son and their stepfather likely have fair misgivings about one another. Don’t downplay their perspective or fault them for some skepticism. Instead, validate how both parties feel – but try pushing them towards keeping an open mind about each other.
Listen to them individually. Keep an eye out for shared interests or other common ground, then look into how you’d turn that into a potential bonding opportunity for the family.
If your son is being stubborn, don’t force them to come along – at minimum, give them some say on the matter. They ought to learn that their time and feelings will be respected in this family.
For example, let’s say you wanted to go on a family picnic today.
If your son isn’t willing to go now, ask what day they’d prefer to do it this week. They need to feel that their input is something the family truly values. The last thing you want to do here is to drag them along for “family bonding” when they’ve made their disinterest in the event abundantly clear.
Always remember that you’re never, ever, choosing between your partner and your son. You’re taking a stand against the problem at hand. Always look for outcomes that leave everyone content.
3. Maintain a United Front
People say raising a child takes a village. Most would assume the phrase refers to the number of people involved, but it also corresponds to the close coordination raising a child demands.
Think of it like tugging something by a string. You’ll get more progress done with one tough string yanking in a single direction. You’ll get better control with a couple of strings to moderate the travel of whatever you’re hauling along. Too many strings – tugging in too many directions – would lead to a lot of wasted effort with no progress to show for it.
Having someone to help you parent the children keeps you objective. It introduces a fresh perspective to handling evolving situations and serves to challenge you to improve as a caregiver.
Work closely with your partner – support one another’s decisions, and make sure that the other is the first to know about any misgivings you hold with their choices.
You can’t afford to appear fragmented while your son hates their stepfather. They’d be liable to pick sides rather than learn to trust both of you equally. They’d be a lot less inclined to get along with them – and at worst, might even manipulate situations to pit you against your partner!
You don’t have to agree with all of your partner’s choices, but you can’t afford to undermine their already brittle authority. Settle any misgivings you have with their methods discreetly.
4. Entertain the Idea of Professional Counseling
Finally, some issues just can’t be settled through your own power. This doesn’t mean that you failed – everyone can do their best and still fall short, and that’s just how life works sometimes.
That doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel here. If you can make space in your family’s schedule and budget, it may be wise to bring in the big guns here – counseling psychologists.
These professionals work for a lot of reasons:
- They’re vetted to handle interpersonal conflicts through an objective lens.
- They’ll never lose track of the goal – which is solving the dispute, not “winning”.
- Their neutrality might make everyone feel a bit more comfortable being honest.
It doesn’t matter how patient or open you are: you’re a stakeholder in this situation, and your informal mediation still comes with a lot of biases that could get in the way of a solution!
Even if you don’t plan on enlisting these services, acknowledging the problem’s existence is much better than ignoring it. How they affect you will inevitably bleed into other aspects of your life if left unaddressed, and it’s better to accept a painful truth than to let yourself be manipulated by it.
Relationship issues in blended families are always difficult to deal with, but they can be overcome with time, patience, and effort. Understand why your son hates his stepfather, but never allow them to get away with disrespecting them. Clarify boundaries as soon as possible so everyone knows what they can and cannot do within this family.