11 Year Old Stepson Is Totally Rude, Disrespectful.

Updated on May 02, 2013
J.M. asks from White Plains, NY
20 answers

I am in a relationship with a wonderful woman. She has an 11 year old son who at first was very kind and decent towards me. I help him with his homework and his grades went from C"s to A"s. i do things with him and I buy things that he may like out of care. I treat him as if he was mine and try extra hard to keep my mouth shut when he is out of line with his mother and let her do the disciplining, however I am having a hard time with the way he treats her and now the way he is treating me. When he wants something he is all nice, when we ask for something he doesn't listen at all and he has recently told me to go to hell, wont listen to me and tells me that he wishes I was out of here. I know as a child of divorce that having a step parent is not always fun and I also know that all the attention he was once getting from his mother is now not as much as it was. I do understand that change is something that is difficult and I have tried to ignore him when rudeness and plain old meanness rears its head towards me and or his mother. I am however not used to and for that matter not used to being treated this way. I have tried being nice but it doesn't work. I have tried being firm and it doesn't work. I am really stressed out and at a loss on what to do. My son is 35 and I had some issues with homework and regular growing pains but he never disrespected me with words and with swearing as is the case now. It is putting a strain on my relationship as well as on the mother son relationship because now they argue about his behavior. I am simply at a loss, frustrated and have no clue what to do next. if anyone has some HELPFUL ADVICE i AM ALL EARS... I am 53 and my wife is 47 so age isn't an issue. BTW his real father hits him when he is out of line, I dont believe in hitting, I try talking but that doesn't work either....

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So What Happened?

Won't do his chores, wont do his homework, talks back all the time and refuses to listen to anything. Today was the icing on the cake. I simply am at a breaking point and do not deserve to be treated this way by anyone let alone an 11 year old boy.....

Yes I am married and I love her and her son very much...... Thank you to those who have given me so many things to think about and the books you suggested I read. I will read them all because it is important to me that this works... I was 18 when i had my son and things a terribly different for me, for him and for his mother that I am aware of, I am committed to making this work somehow, someway... Thanks again to all with you helpful opinions, comments and advice.... I am listening......

Featured Answers


answers from Albany on

Well my advice would be to, totally commit, to BOTH OF THEM, including family counseling.

Or end it. Yesterday.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Join a sports team with him and be one of the coaches. Go out and throw a football with him. Teach him to fish, etc.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Portland on

For all your sakes, I hope you'll get the lovely little book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. This book, or the teen version, WILL help. It will not make the problems go away, but navigating all those tricky feelings will be easier.

I remarried when my daughter was 11, and it was tough for her, much more than I expected. She believed, probably with ongoing interference from her father, that she owed him love and loyalty, and so any friendliness toward her step-dad was not permitted, in spite of the fact that I divorced her father because he was so emotionally abusive to both of us. She loved him anyway, as any child probably would.

Step-dad was a saint, and he had to be. He had his issues and tried to be a bit controlling in those areas, but she would have none of it. She was polite to him at best, but mostly gave him the cold shoulder, knowing he was eager for us to be a family. I wish I had had that book at the time; I'm sure the situation could have been at least more comfortable for all of us.

Thirty-two years have passed. Things did get better over time, and when my daughter went away to college and experienced living on her own, she became much kinder toward her step-dad. They honestly love each other now, and she includes him happily in all family plans, even where her father is involved.

Please remember that in order to be respected, we do well to show respect, as well. That would include not accepting disrespect from a child, but there are MANY ways to do that, some more effective than others. Massive patience is needed. Your stepson is experiencing his own special hell (part of that is simply his age), and has no experience in navigating it.

Wishing you all happiness.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I'm confused--are you married or not?

When my stepfather married my mom I was older than 11. I'm sure I was rude and hurtful every which way there was to be rude and hurtful and disrespectful.

My stepdad was a steady, constant, loving presence, even when I deserved it least. Every child of divorce could use a stepfather like that, don't you think?

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

People do what they are allowed to do, simple as that.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

When I was 11, I too had a 50+ stepfather, however my mother was only in her 30s. My sister and I simply could not relate to him in any way. We had nothing in common or to talk about. He was very conservative and a serious, successful businessman. Now that I am a mother and in my 30s I can see what he taught me and how I should have appreciated it more, but hey, I was a pre-teen!

Here are my suggestions:
1) If you're a reader, I highly suggest the book "Real Boys" by Pollack. He really helps you understand young male emotions and drivers. Might be a good start into uncovering why he is behaving as he is.

2) Give him more positive one-on-one time with his mother. Clearly, you don't want to reward his poor behavior, but his actions may be a cry for attention. It sounds like he doesn't have any siblings to talk to and cope with him. His mother is probably the best person that he can talk to and this is most easily done with boys when they are doing something they enjoy.

3) Be firm and clear on your discipline technique with your wife and present a united front. Back each other up. Also, be sure your stepson is very clear on consequences. No tolerance for disrespect whatsoever.

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

He's probably getting some of the behavior and attitude from his dad. Mix that in with hormones, which are basically short-circuiting his brain, and you have a soup of awful. Family counseling would probably help, because a blended family is always tough. Puberty is a part of this, of course - his body is a party and all over town. If he's picking up on any negative feelings that bio-dad has, that's going to mess with his emotions also.

You might want to look into Love and Logic - it's a discipline system that involves choices and natural consequences. It's work, but it's very anchored in "real world" stuff. You don't buy into drama. His actions generate their own consequences. Hitting is not involved, so you and your wife can both get behind it. Here is a link to part of the book - the examples in the beginning are more extreme, but there's one around page 22 that's more what you're dealing with. You can contact www.loveandlogic.com and ask if there are facilitators in your area - the classes are usually reasonable and sometimes free. If you google "love and logic teens" you might find some more interesting things to read. Your library may even have their books.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Could be something simple like an off hand ribbing from someone.

But we both know that it's not the cause that is the problem. It's his reaction. And your reaction to his reaction. You are already uncomfortable with his disrespect of his mom. Now he is including you in his terrible behavior. Do you really want to bond with a family this disfunctional? Because that's what he is asking you. Are you in this for the long haul?
Can I scare you off?

Only you can decide if you have the patience for this kind of intensive parenting at your stage of life. I am in my 50s and I don't have what it takes to step in an 11 yr olds life that has the freedom to cuss his parents. I would not kid myself into thinking I could. It would not be good for him or me.

Edit to Add: are you in a relationship or are you married? It makes a difference.
You were 18 when you had your first son. Bet a lot has changed.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Is this wonderful woman younger than your son? I would imagine someone made a comment about your age and he wants you out of his life because it is embarrassing him.

At least that is all I can come up with with the little information you gave here.

Kids are very logical in an irrational way. Generally the reason for their behavior is obvious.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


Welcome to mamapedia!!

Sorry - but I am of the adage that people behave the way you ALLOW THEM to behave.

I have 13 year old who is testing his boundaries and limits. Consistency counts. It seems every week is a new limit he wants to push or a line he wants to cross. My husband (his father) and I are on the same page. So there is no fight between us.

If you are married to his mother - you can discipline too. If you are just in a committed relationship, then you need to make a decision...stay or go.

Take away his privileges. If he has a cell phone. He has to earn it back. XBOX, Wii, DS, Tablet, iPad, etc. gone. If the grades are not acceptable, he loses privileges...and XBOX and such? Those are NOT "MUST HAVES" or "NEEDS" - he will NOT die without them. He must earn them.

Instead of "buying" him stuff. Start DOING stuff with him. Working on his homework is a great thing - however - DOING things with him - playing catch - baseball or football - or even throwing hoops - will be DOING something with him. Heck - enroll both of you in to a Martial Arts program and start working out together. He will learn A LOT there...and you might too.

You and your wife need to be on the same page. If you aren't, the child will see through that and continue making cracks - like he is already doing - in your lives.

Make the rules - for EVERYONE.
Family meeting - this is how it will be from now on. If you do not do your homework, you will be grounded, lose a privilege, etc. whatever will work for him. Heck - have HIM make the decision on what he will lose. Then when he loses it? You can tell him - THIS WAS YOUR CHOICE!!! YOU chose this punishment. you don't like it? You know the way NOT to lose it.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I saw where you mention where his dad "hits" him. Then you say you won't hit him.

I spanked my children when talking didn't work, but I never "hit" them. There is as much difference in "hitting" a child and spanking them as there is in killing a deer for the table and murdering a man.

One of my children in a fit of rage yelled, "I HATE YOU!" My instant reply was, "I'm sorry you say you hate me. I love you and always will. I'll always be here for you to help you when ever I can." I said it in a soft quiet voice and walked away.

When my children talked back to my wife or to me I would slap their mouth (it was the offending part) and tell them "No one speaks to my wife like that. Not you . Not anyone." The point being, that his mother's rank and position came from being my wife, not from being his mother. We would never argue about his behavior because I wouldn't put up with it. If you reward bad behavior you get more bad behavior. It sounds like you let him do what he wants as long as his behavior is bad or offensive enough. You are the dad. You don't have the right to walk away and leave your wife to the mercy of this spoiled child. You must step in and be the man and father of the house. If you don't you and your wife will be miserable until he moves out on his own.

You and your wife must decide who is the boss of the home and who makes the rules. You and her or him. Heaven help you if you abdicate your responsibility and choose him.

Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Even if you were his biological dad he'd be doing this. He's hormonal and pretty much a crazy person right now...lol.

I suggest you continue to show him love but be firm because he needs boundaries. He also might need half a Midol. It truly works wonders in kids this age. I was a nanny for a professor of nursing at a local college and she had me do this. It was like a miracle. Heathens walking in the door and normal kids half an hour later.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

From what you write, I would guess this has more to do with his age and development than divorce related issues. You don't mention any big changes in your lives, he was doing ok before, it would be unusual for him to start misbehaving now due to the divorce if you used to have a good relationship with him.

Pay more attention to just what is going on in his life. Is he doing ok in school? Socially? Check into his well being at school and making sure that he has a good group of friends. Does he have outside activities? It always helps for kids to have something to focus on and keep them busy.

Go back to parenting basics- setting boundaries and expectations and ensuring consequences (better to come from mom). But also make sure to encourage him and notice his good qualities and reinforce those.

If things get worse or don't get any better, check into some counseling or at least contact the counselor at his school to investigate.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Unfortunately, I think your SS has taken your kindness for weakness. There are some kids you just can't be nice too because they will make you sorry EVERY TIME.

I suggest he started talking to you with disrespect after he watched you watch him disrespect his mom and got away with it. Kindness = weakness (to him).

I would forget trying to be nice and definitely would not ignore it. You are not doing anyone, including society as a whole, any favors by letting an 11 year old curse at you, be rude, and/or be disrespectful. That will carry out to his teachers and eventually to anyone and everyone he comes into contact with. The rest of the world could care less that he's the product of a broken family; all they care about is that he's rude, disrespectful and just not a pleasant person to be around. If that's not what you want for him, then adopt some tough love.

If it were me, at the very first sign of disrespect, I would send him to his room and he would stay there until tomorrow. He needs to learn that you do not have to put up with that and that you and mom WILL have a pleasant evening, with or without him. He needs to understand that the world does not revolve around him and that it will go on just fine without him. It's his choice whether he gets to be a part of it or not.

And if I had to, I would put a lock on the outside of his bedroom door to ensure that he stays there.

Get it under control now. If not, by the time he's 13 it's going to get physical.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

there is a yahoo group - no more spanking. There is a LOT of advice in there, not just geared towards infants and toddlers and younger children. you can get a lot of info in there, too, just post.

firm in what you believe in will be good for him (aka no drugs, no alcohol, no late nights out on the town, etc). enjoy being Dad to him when it arrives.

you have a lot to overcome with his Dad using corporal punishment though. Punishment is never the answer.
Discipline is teaching him, not teaching him by punishing him. You've got that part right. Keep up the good work, and read some more.
Raising your spirited child might be another good read, too.

good luck,



answers from Orlando on

If you are not married, I would actually suggest distancing yourself a bit and let the mother & her son work on their relationship.



answers from New York on

Hi J.,
I completely relate to you. My son is 11 and has a stepdad, and I have 3 step kids ranging from ages 10-13. Granted we've been together since the kids were little, but I strongly believe boundaries must be set. Here is what I find to be helpful 1. Talk to his mother/your wife. Aside from saying how annoying the kid is ask her what she feels your role is in this. 2. The fact is that you're the acting father and you need to take action. Not necessariy hitting, but punishing, using the daddy voice, telling him what HE NEEDS TO DO is very important. If you live there then you need to take some charge and control and don't let this kid think of you as a piece of furniture without a voice. You get treated the way you ALLOW people to treat you. 3. Your step son is not a baby, so don't treat him like one. If he's mean to you then be mean right back. Not logical at all, but I find it to be most effective. Kids react to actions. He's nasty then you be nasty, but only to him and let him know you'll stop when he stops. Try it, nothing to lose. Not everything should be PC and baby honey please my love. Give the kid hell (for a short while) and you'll see some results.


answers from Jacksonville on

How long have you guys been married? It might (or might not) be relative to know how long you have been with your wife (both dating, and married).

I honestly don't know what to tell you specifically from a step-parent perspective, because I just don't have the practical experience with that. But I will tell you what my own husband would have (and did) do with our own son when he went through a sort of mouthy stage with me. This was a few years ago, not sure exactly the age, but probably around 11 or 12 (he'll be 15 this summer). But he told our son straight up that he was not going to be disrespectful to me ("to my wife"). Not just in terms of "your mother" (he did that, too) but in terms that my son was not accustomed to in relating to me. Naturally, he thinks as a kid (center of the universe) that I am his mother. His dad is his dad. His sister is his sister, etc... But I think it kinda rocked his world to hear his dad refer to me not as my son's mom (your mom) but as HIS WIFE. Possessive. You will not be rude or disrespectful to what is mine. Territorial.
Now... like I said, this is an intact family--no step parents, no divorce, etc. So this might be exactly the opposite of what you need to do. But, if you also couch it in a discussion that he is also "yours" (your step-son, your family--without any attempts to replace dad in your language usage) and that you will stand in his corner to protect him in just the same way if the need arises... you might gain a little ground. That you love him. You love his mom. You love the family you make together. And your job as the husband in the household is to protect that family. That means from threats from outside, but also from within. And you see his disrespect harming his mother.
But you also have to acknowledge that you aren't his father. You aren't trying to be his father or replace his father or make him feel disloyal to his father. That you expect him to respect his father as well.
I don't know... I'm rambling.
If he hasn't been to any sort of counseling post-divorce, then it might be a good thing for him. It can never hurt to let a child have a neutral person to talk things through with. Someone without a vested interest in what he is saying or whom he is complaining about or hating that day. Someone who isn't going to use it against the other parent he also loves.
His mom can't be that. His dad can't be that. You can't be that. It is the nature of it. But a counselor can be that.
It is at least something you could offer him.



answers from Chicago on

My 11-year old SD used to be sweet as pie and now she's quite feisty. I think it's just the age. They want freedom but they can't handle it. They want to be grown up, but they don't know how. I think a lot of it is personality, some kids just have the personality where 11 is a tough time.

I think your wife and you need to sit down and decide on a consistent discipline plan. Also, be sure to offer rewards as well. A good balance of rewards and discipline works. You can't have too much discipline or they go into apathy and they don't care anymore. You can't have too many rewards or they start to feel like you owe them something.

Then your wife and you need to present a United Front. Sit your SS down and talk about what kind of behavior you'd like to see. Be specific and just do one or two things at a time. No need to overwhelm him with a laundry list of everything he's done wrong. Maybe start with respectful tones. Let him know what the discipline will be for a disrespectful tone, and if he does speak disrespectful, give him a chance to fix it. Say something like "I think I'm hearing a disrespectful tone, can you please try again?"

Mostly just help him to see how is is a part of this family and what his role is in it. Let him know how he can help you, and what his help means to you. My SD always responds to that, she prefers to feel like she is helping, rather than she is being forced to do something.

He may need some more freedom as well. He may be feeling stifled and this is his rebellion.

Our deal with my SD is if she can keep her room looking nice for 3 months, we will let her redecorate it. So far she's on month 1.5 and doing great!

Good luck! Stepparenting isn't easy, but it is worth it. Sometimes (like with all parenting) your kids won't appreciate you until much later. But it will always be worth it in the end.


answers from Santa Fe on

Every child has a different personality...I have two kids and my son was born with an attitude I think. It's like he is a mini teenager...and he has been this way since he was 3. Yes, we give him consequences and he gets punished every time. But he never changes. He can be the sweetest boy and very loving but when he is in a mood (which is often) and does not get what he wants he is very rude and disrespectful. We make him go to his room to calm down and we take away a day of screen time (or some other consequence that he hates). This makes him very upset. Afterwards he is always very apologetic but then a couple days later the same thing happens. He is 9 now. It makes me very sad that we are raising someone who can be so rude, but I don' t know what to do to make him change. He has a difficult personality...he is very smart (He was reading and doing soduku puzzles by time he was 4, reads at a high school level now, is in the gifted program), is very confident and has many friends, and is very very stubborn. All we can do is keep being firm, giving consequences, and talking to him about his behavior. We do not have a TV and we do not speak rudely to each other, so I don't know where he gets it from. My guess is you just need to be consistent and firm with your stepson and also make plenty of bonding time with him. Take him out bike riding, skiing, fishing, playing sports. Find something you both love to do and do it together. That time with him will be so good for him. It lets him know you care. Make sure he gets a consequence when he speaks rudely - don't let him get away with it. You and his mom sit him down and let him know beforehand what the house rules are and what the consequence will be. When he is rude don't bother to argue with him. He goes to his room and he gets the consequence. Be very black and white about it. It's exhausting. The hard work never ends. We know what you are going through bc our son is so difficult - I wanted to let you know that. Our daughter is not like this at all...not even a little bit. We are raising them both the same which is why I think it is a personality thing. We are very consistent. Good luck and you sound like a great dad who cares.

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