March 02, 2013,
K.J. asks from York, PA on May 22, 2009
***16 Year Old Stepson Got His Drivers License!!!!
Help!! My 16 yo just got his license and hubby said that he could use our 2nd car!! He is a good kid, but still a kid and in the last year has made some poor choices @ schoolwork, social activities, behavior, etc. Being 'stepmom', he thinks it's ok to talk back to me and disrespect what I say. Now, he's going to be using a car that's in my name and he's on my insurance. I want to lay down ground rules, in writing, like a contract. He'll roll his eyes and call me crazy and psycho, again. But I can't just let him have full reign. Any suggestions?
So What Happened?™
We're still working on this situation, but I wanted to clarify things. The car has been sitting for over a year and my stepson has paid for every expense to get it back on the road. Inspection, registration, repairs, insurance. So far has totalled @ $450.00. He has agreed that he will keep a C average (st least), also, not more than 1 passenger (usually his brother), also he will follow curfew, which is 11:00. and call me whenever he moves from 1 place to another. Like I said, he is a good kid, most of our problems have been because of not listening to each other or not communicating well. Things are going better. I'll let u know more soon. Thanks for all your input!
A.B. answers from Reading on May 23, 2009
When I was 17 and got my license my mom had me sign a very clear contract, which I was ok with. She was going to let me drive and that's all I cared about. The rules AND CONSEQUENCES must be very clear so that there's no argueing when the time comes to implement them. I think it's a great idea and is something I even use often in the 8th grade classroom I teach. Good luck - you only have a few more years of being the 'wicked step-mom.' He'll appreciate you and how difficult it was to be you during this time as an adult.
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S.Y. answers from Pittsburgh on May 23, 2009
He can call you crazy and psycho until he is blue in the face, IT IS YOUR CAR, girlfriend! I am going to affirm here what you already know:
It is in YOUR name. YOU are responsible (legally and morally). So WHAT if this kid doesn't want a contract? Oh, well, kiddo...guess you don't want to drive the car. Simple as that. If Dad doesn't back you up, (which it sounds like he doesn't, otherwise this kid wouldn't dare be such a brat to you, plus Dad should have consulted you first!!)still stick to your guns! This actually may be a good exercise in assertiveness for you. If you are absolutely unwaivering then you will get more respect in the long run (maybe in other areas, too).
Plus, think of it this way: you know have an INCREDIBLE motivational tool to use. Is he acting irresponsibly? Ah, well, too bad, I guess you are choosing not to use the car. Backtalking and disrespsctful? I see in our contract that you made a commitment not to do that lest you revoke your car priveledges. PUT EVERYTHING in that contract. This kid seems to have "a sense of entitlement" and thinks just because he HAS a license, he has a RIGHT to drive the car. Ummm, sorry, kiddo...NO! Driving priveledges need to be earned. If he gives you guff about a contract, too bad for him. THOSE ARE YOUR TERMS. Tough doo-doo!! lol
Also an AWESOME series for handling teens is "Love and Logic". RUN to your library and get the book and order the dvd. My parents just saw it and were lamenting that they didn't have those tools when I was a teen! Plus both you AND you hubby could watch it together and be on the same page (don't let the teen get ahold of it).
Any-hoo, you are in the right here, hon....good luck!!! :)
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D.P. answers from Pittsburgh on May 22, 2009
Sounds like you already know what you have to do. Discuss w/your husband. Come to an agreement & ground rules and/or contract. Your husband needs to acknowledge YOUR concerns and issues as well as his own. He needs to step up as the parent and not put the unpleasantness on you. Unfortunately, if your husband won't do this, then you're most likely stuck with his (poor) choices. and I doubt that, in that case, he will ever take your concerns into account when dealing with his kid. Not to be harsh, but that's just how it will probably be until he recognizes you as a co-parent to his son.
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L.H. answers from Philadelphia on May 24, 2009
I am adjusting to the stepfamily life myself. I have 3 children of my own and one stepson who is 15. I have also been a teacher for 19 years and of those 19 years, the majority of the time has been in secondary ed, so I have a lot of experience with teens.
My fiance and I have an agreement that we don't discipline our stepchildren, but allow the natural parent to do so. We maintain that there isn't anything that is such an emergency that it cannot wait until the natural parent can be spoken to and allow them to follow through with disciplinary consequences when needed. If it is serious, like making a major decision concerning their life, such as their schooling, we encourage the natural parents of the children (the exes) to talk it out and make the ultimate decision.
It respects the fact that even though the parents of the children are not married anymore, the parents are still parents, and need to work together toward solutions. It also helps the propensity that children have to try to work the ends against the middle, trying to manipulate the situation so that it gets them what they want.
But, we have another ground rule, and that is that we are not allowed to disrespect each other. If I ask my stepson to do something or to not do something is the course of life, he needs to answer me with the same type of deference he would a teacher or another adult friend. I don't allow the students in my classroom to speak to me disrespectfully without consequences, and I do not allow my stepson (or natural children) to do it either. But I don't initiate the consequences, his father does. Therefore, if he thinks he can get away with something with me that his father doesn't know about, then he's wrong.
About the car, I think that its perfectly reasonable to expect that anyone driving your car should respect your ground rules. I've known many parents who have had the kind of contract you describe. In fact, many car insurance companies highly recommend that ANY teen driver should have one. Look at the Allstate website, for example, and they have an example of a teen contract that you can copy and use, or use as a guide to make your own.
It is good for kids to know what should happen if they get into a scrape, an accident, or get a ticket. All 16 yo should have these things laid out for them. What will happen to the car? What will happen to his driving priviledges? Who will pay for the repairs? Will he need to pay his own ticket?
First, talk to your husband and get his support. Work this issue out before his son drives you car. Then sit down with the stepson and lay out the ground rules. Have him sign the contract, and you sign it, and post it somewhere.
And by the way, you'll get through the teenage attitude. It wouldn't matter whether you are the stepmom or the natural mom, you get attitude. Just remember to be loving and fair, but respect yourself enough to set personal boundaries and ask your husband to support you in that as well.
Hope that helps a little,
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C.C. answers from Philadelphia on May 25, 2009
My suggestion to you would be to talk to your husband and let him know how you feel. A teenager should act responsibly before being given privilages like driving (I would know,as I didn't make great choices at sixteen and had to wait for my license). It is your car and your insurance so he should be showing you some respect and your husband should put his foot down was well. You cannot always look like the bad guy. He is only sixteen years old and should not have the use of the car anytime he wants nor should he be able to go where ever he wants to. Just talk to your husband and the two of you should then talk to your stepson civilly and reasonably (at leat as much as you can with a 16 year old) and if he doesn't like the rules than he can't drive. Good luck!
T.M. answers from Allentown on May 22, 2009
agreed . you are 100% correct ... you are solely responsiable for this ' minor' child if he looses control and hits a steet lamp, a man on a bike or another car ......and #1 what if he gets hurt ?[ medical bills]
I can just about garentee he will 'trash ' , smash, scratch, nic a tire, loose a muffler .... now who pays for this ??????
DO NOT GIVE HIM YOUR CAR . ever !!!!!!!!!
IF YOU ARE FORCED TO IN ORDER TO KEEP HUSBAND HAPPY >>>>
TRANSFER[ oh , i ment sell] THE CAR < THE INSURANCE BILL$$$$<EVERYTHING TO THE CHILD ..... stay out of this.
danger ahead . let every one call you phyco , crazy ...
you are smart .. ahead of the 'wild' and thinking like a
concerned adult ...
both my children totaled my cars at seperate times
thank God they were alive !
DO NOT BACK DOWN .
if everyone yells ...blah blah he has a lic. now ... say,' so do I' fight for your rights .
good luck .
K.B. answers from Philadelphia on May 23, 2009
You're absolutely right on this, whether he's a stepson or biological. Disrespect is not tolerated. Privileges are lost because of it. Driving is a privilege, not a right! He needs to understand this and apparently so does Dad. Dad needs to back you up 100%! You're his wife. Kids come and go but your spouse is there for life and you do not want a riff over this. Dad should not tollerate his son's mouth towards you either, and neither should you. Eye rolling is bad enough, but calling you "psycho"? That alone would cause my children to be stuck in the house or in their room with nothing and I mean nothing to do for quite some time. No phone, no cell, on TV, no video, no music, no nothing. Absolute disrepect is not tolerated. The longer it is allowed to go on the harder it will be to break. The boy needs to know that the house is not Dad's house, but Dad and step-mom's house. He needs to understand that the rules in his mother's house will not be the same rules in your house, period. Lay down the law now and Dad needs to back you up. If the boy is using the second car in YOUR name, what will you be driving? In my home, our children did not and will not use our cars as theirs. They borrow it IF we aren't using our own 2 cars. If the boy wants a regular car then the boy needs a job! Again, all of this is a privilege that is earned, not a right. After all, you and Dad had to work to earn the cars that you have. They weren't given to you. The boy needs to understand the same idea. Earn it or walk. It's cheaper to buy a pair of sneakers! And who is paying for the boy's insurance? Is the boy not going to work to put money toward the car insurance? How will the boy learn responsibility and how life will be for him in just a short couple of years on his own if he doesn't start learning now? When my oldest was 16, he walked to Burger King almost daily to his job and started buying his own clothes and the state of NC would not allow his to get his license because he carried at least one F. So he paid the price and walked to work, bought his own clothes and what not. If he was able to go on our insurance, if he couldn't afford to pay all of his share then we would look at his pay checks and decide together what a good amount would be for him to chip in. It would have been fair for him to keep some of his money for his own expenses. It would have been cruel to take 100% of his checks. It would have been a percentage on every check, whether he worked 38 hours or 8 during a week. The point is, he would be learning the responsibility of paying for his insurance and realizing how working a job pays for his needs so when he was out of the house he wouldn't flounder and expect others to help him out. He left home at 18 when he decided he didn't want to pay rent as an adult in our house, which was fine on both sides. So he left, moved in with a friend and worked until he joined the Marine Corps and his been on his own ever since. He has never borrowed money or anything from us. He learned early on that he's an adult and takes care of himself.
Where is the boys mother in all of this? She should be paying half of his car insurance if the boy is not going to pitch in. And she should pay half of any other driving expenses with the boy. Who will be paying for the gas and maintenance on YOUR car while the boy is driving it? I would tell him he needs to get a job and pay for some of this stuff before he takes any keys. Not sure if there's laws for 16 year olds for driving hours. There were in NC when we lived there. I would expect grades to be kept above a certain level or the keys are gone as well. Grades are first, chores second, privileges last. Respect and proper behavior are always in place as well!
mom to 5 including triplets
D.S. answers from Allentown on May 22, 2009
It sounds like you and your husband are on different pages about discipline.
I would suggest that you locate a family mediator at your local medication center and set up a contract between you two on how to set boundaries on your son.
Look up on the web for a mediation center in or near your local city.
Good luck. D.
P.W. answers from Philadelphia on May 23, 2009
I understand your situation. I have a soon-to-be 15-year-old stepson living with me and his father took him out in open area for spin because he will be old enough to get his license next year. He disobeys all our rules, has poor grades (actually has been thrown out for the remainder of the year), and is disrespectful to me. I would have a difficult time lending him my vehicle. He is rude all week and then turns on the nice act on the weekends so he can get privileges. I agree with the others that the contract is only as good as what is behind it. If you are going to find yourself being the main enforcer, it will be difficult. If your husband does not make him honor it consistently, then you come off as the evil stepmother (been there, done that). The best thing is to have a private conversation with your husband to voice your concerns and make a list of rules, then have your husband present it to your stepson.
V.F. answers from Scranton on May 23, 2009
Make a point of gaining your husbands assurances that things are going to be taken care of. I would "make-up" a contract between the three of you and have everyone sign it. This will help get the point accross to both guys. Make sure that stipulations are there as far as grades and behaviors. Make sure that your dh is be proactive in his discipline of his son. Also make sure that the rules are in place for when he can and cannot use the car. To make sure that he asks your permission because it is YOUR car.
A.J. answers from Williamsport on May 23, 2009
Poor behavioral choices, school choices etc and disrespect to step mom equals free car? I THINK NOT.
There is no way you can control a spoiled teen-even if he's a pretty good kid. This will be between you and your man. You have to assert your position. NO matter who pays for the car-you or your husband-your stepson has no say. ALTHOUGH it sounds like he does in that house and you really can't change your man either, but you can try to object.
I think entitled spoiled teens who call their dad's wives psychos make unsafe drivers. Why respect other drivers if you don't respect your own family member? Why not text? Why not drink and drive? Why not drag race or let your friends drive? He's not losing anything in a fender bender, he didn't work for the car, he's not paying the insurance rates that are going to raise. He gets rewarded for bad behavior already.
Sorry to hear this. I got to drive my parents car a handful of necessary times with their permission, but never had one until I bought one myself. And I would never have been driving their car AT ALL if I was acting badly in any other way.
The contract is the LEAST you should do, and his dad needs to give it to him. Your dad also needs to make it clear that HE is enforcing it. You stand up to your husband, and he needs to lay down the law to his son.
I also think EVERYONE will benefit if your stepson has to pay for some of the cost at the very least. Insurance or whatever. A teen with time to drive is old enough for a job to drive to. It's not a good lesson to be getting a major lifelong expensive necessity for free. That's what salaries are for. Cars are for mature people, not 16th birthday presents.
C.H. answers from Allentown on May 23, 2009
This is a discussion with your husband and both of you need to agree and then set rules for the 16 year old. It sounds like he lives with you. Where's the mom in this?
Your husband does have the real power with his son, don't you and your husband have car insurance as a couple? I see the words my few times and realize that when you married you accepted his kids like they your own. Before anymore problems, get some counseling, set rules with dad and be a joint force before other things arise and they will.
B.W. answers from Erie on May 23, 2009
The first thing you need to do is to talk with his dad about this. It isn't MY car and MY insurance bill, it's OUR car and OUR insurance bill.
Together you need to work through what rules are best and be prepared for him to tell you which ones are "overkill". I have 4 girls. The older two are step-daughters to my husband, who began to parent them when they were 5 and 8. He will readily admit that he came to parenting with a tougher legislative agenda than he would have had if he'd parented them since birth. After practicing on them, we have another 2, ( I LOVE the 10 year age split ! ) and the younger two have had it "much easier" than the first two, whom he loves just as dearly, even if he has to share them with a biological father who did nothing but hurt them during their growing up years.
Definately work out the details with your husband first. Start by asking what your husband actually "meant" when he said his son "could use" the 2nd car. I am assuming between the two of you, you have 2 cars, so one is generally driven by Dad and one by Mom. This must be the car you usually drive ? Or do you have a spare one around that doesn't get used much?
Either way, be sure you BOTH agree on the rules of the road, and remember that he isn't your son in quite the same way he is his dad's. All 16 year olds make some dumb decisions, as I'm sure you did, too, and at some point we ALL talk back to our parents, bio or step.
I am not in favor of "giving" a child a car, anyway. We never had one to share, so our kids always had to ask to use a car. Generally they used one to go to work and back, but having the kids drive to school events, so we didn't have to go get them afterwards was heavenly. (esp. with the little ones running around at home to be dealt with)
Parents of kids older than mine, shared with me that they didn't allow their children to drive with passengers in the car. This was for liability purposes, and also for concentration. You can't lose yourself in conversations if you are the only one in the car. And you can't injure someone else's child in a car accident in they weren't in your car. So those parents only allowed their children to drive with siblings in the car. That said, I gave sibling responsibilities to the other kids in our family: they are responsible NOT to distract the driver, to shut up when there's traffic and/or decisions to be made. If they bother the driver, they won't be allowed to go next time.
The good thing here is that because the car is yours and not your son's, you guys have the legal right to control the car's usage. Allowing him to drive that particular car is different from "giving it to him". If you keep it yours, and he has to ask one or the other of you to use it, you can ask where are you going, and who's going with you, kinds of questions. There is always that element that Mom and Dad could say no, so even if your son calls it "his car", he will know that he always has to ask. That doesn't require a contract. Just an understanding that he doesn't grab the keys and leave without anyone giving him permission to take their car. You also have to decide how and when he will contribute to the price of gas. Whether he will have to contribute to the cost of car insurance, etc. And you have the right, when you allow him to take passengers, to pre-screen the friends whom you will allow him to take in his car. You can be more strict in the first year of driving than in the successive ones. He does need to gain experience at the wheel on his own, he needs to respect that fact that the car is an expensive piece of family equipment, and his privilege of driving it requires the responsibility of driving it carefully. (That said, our eldest had 3 accidents prior to getting her license -- little things, and 1 in college afterwards -- our 2nd has had one, a fender bender during a snow storm -- never any injuries, thankfully. You can PLAN on an accident at some point, due to inexperience, so don't berate him as a bad decision maker if he comes home sometime, frustrated and upset and tries to find the words to tell you that he hit something. I went off the road this year in a snowstorm, after 30 years accident free, and it isn't fun, even when no one is injured.)
Also, I used to roll my eyes and talk back to my mom at 16 and 17, and she isn't a step-mom. It's a function of who the parent is and who the child is. Parenting is frustrating, and step parenting is even harder, so all I can say is to try to listen to him more, ask questions, and try to hear what he's trying to tell you, so he feels heard. THEN give your comments. The more heard he feels, the more he will also hear you. He's the oldest child, so he's going to be more of a leader, and he'll want his own way more than the 14 yr old will when he gets to be that age. The next younger seems to learn from #1's discipline, and often doesn't make as many waves -- plus, we ease up some after going the rounds with the first one. It's just he way life is. #1 is the "experimental child".
P.S. If you must put the ground rules in writing, be sure that YOU follow them also. I'm afraid that if you put them in writing, and they aren't working, that they will be harder to change. For instance, if you put in writing when he can take the care and where he can go with it, and you want to shorten the reins, it's going to be harder to do, because you've already made a contract with him. I think if you keep it verbal, and he has to ask to borrow the car each time he wants to use it, you get the opportunity to hear what he's doing, where he's going, if there will be drinking at the event, etc. And then you can GIVE him your key. That way, you are handing him the responsibility each time he takes the car, and he will give it back to you when he comes home. (At some point, you'll probably want to give him a key of his own, but I wouldn't right away -- esp cuz these days it's really nice to use the black ones that come with the car, and I assume you carry one of those and your hub carries the other)
Best of luck ! And thank God he got his license in the Spring ! Our daughter turns 16 in Nov., so her first driving days will be with snow on the roads. ugh.
V.M. answers from San Diego on March 02, 2013
I had 3 boys. I taught them all to drive in my car, but they had to respect my rules (no music, I get to nag them every moment about checking mirrors, reading out road signs, and also say lesson over for back talking). They NEVER drove my car after they got their license. I gave them $1000 to buy a car (they could have saved some and gotten a better car, but the $1000 bought their first car in their name). I bought them 3 months of insurance in their own name. They had 3 months to get a job to support a car. Otherwise, no car. They all accomplished that and I rarely paid for any gas etc and they still NEVER used my car.
Now my step-son wants to drive my car to learn. BUT his dad is with us and he makes the rules, which are non-existant. (Turn up the music dad, and he does, he missed a speed sign, me, from the back seat says, did you see the speed just changed, no.... you get my drift!). So I decided that he does NOT learn in my car. I could be assertive and say why but it would just cause issues with his dad and I, easier to just say, that's the rules. He will also NEVER drive my car.
I've laid down tough rules for my boys, but they are all over 27 and all very independent and thank me for my rules and for my equal doses of love.
Don't let kids walk all over you and don't let your rights be lost in a step family. It may cause some issues but you need to be spoken to respectfully and you don't need to be the mom, there is a mom, you can be like a teacher or loving mentor. My husband spoils his son terribly, lucky for me he lives here only less than 1/2 time. He has wanted to get him here full time, but I always say no, since he's so spoiled and it's too late to teach him. My boys would help me carry stuff, shovel, always chipped in for meal help, but this step-son gets away with doing nothing at all. They are not doing him any favors and I will not put up with him full time. If something happened to his birth mom, then things would change of course.
By the way, this step-son went into his step-dad's bedroom drawer, took his car keys and then drove his car, with no license, no permission and then caused , $2,000 damage. I think I do have reason to put my foot down!
Good luck step-parents, don't be wishy washy, stand up for your rights but remember to give loving guidance, you can make a difference in small ways.