Misbehaving Stepson

Updated on February 19, 2009
M.M. asks from Rowlett, TX
13 answers

My stepson, who is about to be 12, can't seem to make it through a week without getting in trouble at school at least twice. His teachers have started calling home with weekly reports and no improvement is being made. My SO, his dad, doesn't seem to want to deal with it. He will ground him but it doesn't stick. If he grounds him from t.v. then it is only the t.v. in his room, but he still watches in the living room. If it's the phone then he'll look for reasons to "need" to use the phone and is given permission. Basically, he's only "grounded" in theory. He is still able to do all the things he did before and doesn't learn any sort of lesson. Maybe I'm too harsh, but when my son is grounded he is GROUNDED. NO t.v., phone, computer, etc. He can read or play his guitars. When I try to talk to my SO about it he immediately goes on the defensive and accuses me of picking on his son. I love my stepson very much and have been raising him for the last 6 years, but I feel punishment should be equal and carried out the same way for both of them. I am a firm believer in say what you mean and mean what you say. Am I approaching this wrong? How can I make him understand that his behavior will not change when his son knows there won't be any real consequences for his actions? Help!

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answers from Dallas on

Since you said you have a SO and not hubby, I am making an assumption that you do not go to church. Otherwise, I would suggest getting counseling from your Pastor. And since he is a SO you must realize that he will NOT change if you get married. If you are not happy/satisfied/comfortable with the way he disciplines now, DO NOT expect things to change; also, expect son to get worse in behavior because children always challenge the boundaries (except your SO hasn't set any; but don't worry the police will someday). I suggest you wake up and smell the coffee......you might realize things are not as wonderful as you think.
You get what you settle for.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I would have the teachers/school counselors... talk to the father instead of you, so that he can see the impact his behaviour it is having on his child.

Obviously, this child has some needs that are not being met, and by the father not admitting there is a problem and disciplining him and getting him any help he might need, then the father is only going to injure his son socially/emotionally.



answers from Dallas on

Hi M.-

You are absolutely right, and I am sorry for you that your SO does not understand that being punished in theory is not effective as seen by the continued behavior issues at school. I am a mother of younger children but have worked with middle school age kids in social work and educational settings. Your step son is reaching for the theoretical boundaries, and they keep getting moved out every time he tests them. When he knows the boundaries are firm after testing them, the behavior should stop unless there are other issues.

Are YOU able make a pact with him and reward him with something healthy(I don't mean food, although going out to eat would be fun.) if he can comply with what is expected of him. Then you would be rewarding the good behavior. If it works for a while then you could raise the bar and stretch it out for longer period before rewarding again(1 week then 2 weeks). If he responds to this, it would reinforce the positive in your relationship with him and also his respect level for you. The stuff going on right now is having the opposite effect on the respect levels for him and his dad indirectly you, too.

Good luck.

ps I wrote this before reading the other entries and agree with most of them about the so's chance for change unless you step back and then maybe he will be forced to parent. Diddo on the police.


answers from Dallas on


I will tell you this and you probably will not like it. The problem is that you cannot change the way your husband will react to his son. His behaviour towards his son at this point is irrational and will remain that way. Parents feel guilty for one way or the other for breaking up their children’s home. Even if it is not their fault and so the under discipline to compensate. Sometimes the try to buy them too much stuff again to compensate. The best advice you will have is to ignore the issue. Just smile a whole lot. This is if you want to keep the peace in your home.
This is why Dr. Laura says that you should not marry someone with minor children. The reason being that you will never have total control of your home. Just keep doing what you are doing with your own son and he might see and learn from that.




answers from Dallas on

Is your husband taking the calls from the teachers? If not I would suggest that he start so that he is able to see/hear first hand what is going on & that something needs to be done. Maybe you could even have a meeting with his dad, teacher and maybe the school counselor so that they can give detailed information of what is going on & what the consequences are going to be if his behavior does not improve.



answers from Dallas on

I would sit the whole family down and together come up with house hold rules (which would include school behaviors) and consequences for rule breaking. I would tell my husband that I need his full cooperation once the rules are set and that the rules must be enforced equally across the board. Then, I would step out of any discipline of my step child. You are there more as a mentor to this child as he is too old to see you as his mother figure (unless his birth mother has passed away or is completely out of the picture, then you would be able to "mother" him....cautiously).

First, I would start by showing your husband everyone's responses on this site and then go from there. It sounds like you genuinely care about this child and hopefully your husband will get the chip off of his shoulder and do what is right for his child! After all, it is HIS responsibility, not yours!



answers from Dallas on

I agree with the others who said have questioned why the teachers call you instead of your SO. You should not be resonsible for those. And, where is his mother? If she is completely out of the picture, then you and your SO need to see a counselor so that a third party can assess the situation and give you advice. He is not going to listen to you because you are all in the situation. If he doesn't agree with you treating your sons alike in discipline it is likely he doesn't agree with your style and that is not going to change without significant and professional help. I'd get it soon before the fourth one is born and you start having trouble agreeing on your mutual child. It sounds like it will only get worse if you don't address it now.



answers from Dallas on

Okay, if you love your STEP son than he should be called your SON. I have a 12 yr old boy (my husband is not his biological father BUT he calls him his SON). Do you or your husband talk to him about his day? There is a reason he is acting out in school. As a parent, it is up to us to find out what is going on in our kid's lives.

I talk to my son all the time. I don't make a big deal out of things but I do give him advice on of to handle things a different way. He tells me about fights in school, things he said to people, his work, girls, his friends, even about sex. All I do is open the door and he does the rest. I don't push him to talk and I don't gripe at him for doing things a 12 yr old would do. It can be hard at times but I want to keep that conversational door open at all times.

Well, good luck w/your family.




answers from Wichita Falls on

Why is he having a choice of dealing with it? It's his child. Teachers can become very irritating - and you shouldn't be the one fielding the calls. I am honestly afraid that you are in for a world of hurt and heartache with this man, and this child - and were you not pregnant, I'd advise you to run far and fast - but you're fairly tied now.

FWIW, we ground my daughter (step) from given things - i.e. All things that plug into the wall. Computer, Telephone, TV (it is only in the living room, no tv in bedroom here, and she gets 30 minutes to be in the living room because it has to be off if she's in there), her violin doesn't plug in, her books don't plug in, her art pad doesn't plug in, skateboard, and her Ipod (as long as it doesn't need recharging) - so those are all fair game.

Or she gets 'house arrest' whereby she can go no further than 200 feet from our front door. No friends houses, no community pool, no Nana, no going to the store (yes, someone has to stay home with her), no going further than 200 feet from our front door - unless she is going to the ER for her own personal injury. She hates house arrest, and we never use it for more than 48 hours.


Early bed time

Fines (from allowance)

It is what it is, and by not grounding her from everything at once we accomplish several things - we can make it hurt her freedom more and limit the effect on ours, we still have things to take away... and the world is not hopeless.



answers from Dallas on

I agree with you, grounded should be grounded. I wouldn't exactly consider a 15yr old grounded though if he is still allowed to play his guitar & read. If he is an avid reader, that's not punishment & the guitar gives him a really good outlet to get his frustration out and can focus on that instead of being grounded. I'm sure he loves the guitar as much as the other likes his T.V., computer & phone. I hated TV but loved to read. Another son we couldn't get him out of his room to do anything but play his guitar.



answers from Dallas on

I agree with the other mom. If your SO is not willing to relent and discipline him correctly or stand by you as a unified team then your stepson has no reason to listen to you. His own dad doesn't. Let him take the calls from teachers and discipline him as he sees fit. That way he will have to realize what is really going on with his son.



answers from Tyler on

I agree with your thoughts about the grounding. When my 11 yr old is grounded, we enforce every TV, computer, game system, phone, etc. I do not believe this is unreasonable.

It sounds like the new baby may also be something to think about. Have you discussed how this situation makes your stepson feel? Just a thought; not that you can change this.

Just my 2 cents worth.


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