When to Start the Role of Step-parenting??

Updated on May 17, 2011
A.J. asks from South Saint Paul, MN
13 answers

I have 2 boys ages 13 & 14. I have been dating a man for about a year and a half and we have lived together for several months. It has been a somewhat rocky road with my 14 year old because he is unwilling to accept my bf into the family but he is slowly coming around. Anyways my question is when is ok for the "step parent" to start acting as an authority figure? My bf has been acting like a buddy (not that I dont mind because I think it has been good so far) however I am wondering when I should start asking him to tell the boys to pick up after themselves or help with chores, etc. I dont expect him to yell at them or anything but if he sees them throw trash on the floor I would like him to say pick that up. So is there a timeline on how long to wait? I've read 2 years but.... Thank you!!!

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So What Happened?

Wow..some of you are very judgemental and down right rude! I'm not some 22 year old uneducated trailer trash moving in a different man every other month. Not that I need to explain myself to anyone but I am a very good mother and do not feel like a horrible person for falling in love and moving in with him. Having a ring on my finger is not all that it is cracked up to be and I highly doubt that it will make that much of a difference in their attitudes. BTW I have joint custody with my ex-husband and he is very involved in their lives. So much for getting some good advice here - seems like this website has turned more into craiglist where trashing people is ok. Remember - if you can't say anything nice then don't say it at all.....

More Answers



answers from Kansas City on

This is a tough one! If your boys haven't had a father figure for the last 13-14 years, then your bf won't become one overnight. (I assume their dad is not in the picture). You are their parent--not your bf. He can help them, talk to them, etc., but I don't think he should be the disciplinarian.

One think you said really struck a chord with me. You said, "he is unwilling to accept my bf into the family but he is slowly coming around", when referring to your 14 year old. His feelings are normal and healthy. It makes me sick when mom (or dad) brings someone new into the picture and just expect the kids to deal with it--"come around". It's not that easy. No matter how wonderful Mr. Right may be, your 13 year old and 14 year old need come FIRST.

I experienced something similar. My father passed away when I was 11 (my siblings were 8, 14, and 18). My mom went on her first date when I was a senior in high school (6 years after my father passed). He was okay, but we were very protective of our mom. My mom dated this man for 4 years. She would not get married or let him move in until my youngest sister graduated from high school and left for college. My mom just didn't think it was fair for us kids. So, my little sister graduated in June '99 and they married in July '99. I really respect my mom for not dating when we were younger (honestly, with 4 kids, a business, and a full-time job I don't think she had time!). And, she really put us before herself when she waited to get remarried. She did not force him on us, make us accept him, or EVER ask him to discipline us. That was never his job. We all have a very healthy relationship with him today and I think it's because of how my mom handled it!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think your sons will have respect for him when he marries you and he becomes their step-father. Right now, he's "nothing" to them & I don't feel he should have that power & authority over them until he is.
Boys that age have a VERY hard time dealing with "mom and another man" so tread lightly!

***ETA*** After your SWH update, no O. called you trash or an unfit mother. I just think it's really important to set a very solid example fr tween/teen boys and boys DO have a harder time accepting mom's "new" man. I'm sorry if you disagree, and you can take or leave NY advice on this board, but when you ask a question, be prepared for answers that might now "fit" what you want to hear. I stand by my answer: I think he can "step-parent" when he's a step-parent!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Gainesville on

I have found it really hard to post things on this site about me living with my BF too. Some peeps are soooo judgemental.
MY BF now fiance lives with me and i totally understand what you are asking. I would say, especially if your son resents your BF, that he should leave most of the discipline to you. I would just have him start with general easy things that anyone would tell your sons, like following the rules of your house of keeping the boys from fighting with each other. My fiance usually leaves me to enforce the rules & he will do maybe a gentle reminder to walk the dog or.. pick up something they dropped on the floor. Now I have 3 girls and they really enjoy his company and we generally get along well. The biggest trouble we have was when oldest daughter is disrespectful to me it makes my fiance upset too and my daughter doesn't (or didn't used to) understand why. - but i love it! b/c it makes us a team he & I...
Sorry to ramble- but I am child of divorce too and I had stepbrothers and it just works better when the biological parent does all the rule enforcing and the step parent can gently guide and remind but usually its wait til you mom gets home..
i hope that was helpful?? feel free to private message me!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My SS was 13 when I married his dad. I say that you should let the relationship grow on its own and not be dictated by timelines in books. In our house, I'm the deputy and DH is the sheriff. If something affects me (like SS borrowed and lost my book) then I deal with it but otherwise big things go to DH. I don't ground but I will back up DH if he lays down a punishment. If I need to deal with a big infraction (like SD not being where she said she would and not leaving her phone on to call her), DH and I deal with it together. YOU should remain the primary authority figure, even if he backs you up. Your BF should be respected as an adult (I am guessing he's living with you?) but you shouldn't abdicate responsibility to him. I think one of the biggest mistakes my mom made (my sister was 14 when she remarried) was to expect a lot more parenting from her then-husband than the relationship warranted and it made my sister very, very angry through her teen years.

I didn't start reminding the kids about chores right away, and I don't remember when it started. It was a gradual process. Even now, mowing the lawn is between SD and DH and I stay out of it unless it affects me (like I have friends coming and don't want to greet them with a machete to get to the front door). When we got engaged, DH also slowly started me being the "adult in charge" and if I was the adult in charge, they were supposed to listen at least as well as to a teacher or sitter (SD was 8 when we married).

It's all sort of organic. I'd also keep talking to your son and ask him what he feels and acknowledge that he might be struggling with a new normal.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

I'm surprised that you had this man move in with you so quickly when you weren't even engaged when you had two young boys to think about. I think if your boys are having trouble accepting this man "into the family" then you need to figure out why and see if there's some validity to the boy's feelings. Put your boys first, not this intruder that's come into their home without their input or permission.

Don't allow this man to "step-parent" your children unless and until he's married to you. Right now he's just some guy that happens to be living in your home infringing on your sons' space.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I don't think there is a timeline. I think it's a combination of a zillion factors that boils down to whatever works for your family.

My take on step parents who enter into the picture is radically different than what my take would be on a step parent who enters when the child is small.

My BF started pretty early being the same as any other responsible adult in my daughter's life. So, if my sister would say something to my kid, or my friend Susan if she was over, then my BF would too. But I'm her parent, he's not and she was 8 when they met so he's not ever gonna be. She has a dad. He's a responsible adult -like any other. On the flip side, if my BF tells her to 'pick that up' there also has to be time when he says 'I'm proud of how you did on that assignment or thanks for helping with dinner". In life there should be more atta girls than bad girls regardless of who is doing the talking.

At 14, I don't know that your BF/finace can transition to a 'parental authority' figure - unless that's what YOUR SON wants. But he shouldn't be a 'buddy' either. I think there's a happy medium that isn't about control, but instead about guidance.

Good Luck - it tough to transition.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Sorry , that this wasn't of much help, shame on those who answered just to judge. That's not what this site was set up for.
Married or not, if your boys have been getting along and bonding to some positive extent with your BF, he should be able to tell them about things they are doing that could be improved on. And personally, Bf is an adult , and if they have a decent relationship with him, he can guide them as an adult , not just as mom's BF. (understanding that as long as you approve and he doesn't mind being another responsible adult in their lives, all should be fine, and a time limit /frame shouldn't come into play) Not that you want him or any man to start off as tho they are just bullies towards the kids , but, as long as things are positive and they know he cares about them , it should be ok. Otherwise you are in for the fight of your life- the kids playing the two of you against each other, to try and split you up. Does he spend time with just them, if not, maybe he could ! Build on the relationships they already have. Best of Luck to you, C. S.



answers from Chicago on

I don't think there are any hard-and-fast rules. I would begin with a talk with your sons, probably one-on-one with each. However, the most important part of the talk may be you listening! Let them know how you feel about your boyfriend. Then ask what they think/feel. Ask them how THEY picture the ideal family. What do they envision for a future? You'll want your boys to feel like they have a say, that their feelings are important. I don't know how involved their bio dad is, but let them know that your boyfriend will never replace their father, but can end up being someone who loves and helps them very much.

As far as step-parenting, maybe your boyfriend can start off by helping them with something not related to chores. Do they like a same sport? Activity? The most important thing is that they bond, the step-parenting thing will come later. If your boyfriend starts just telling them what to do that will breed resentment. However, even if your boyfriend ends up having more of a "friend" role, he should still have authority in his own home. Let your boys know this. Let them know you back up your boyfriend, but you love them and back them up too. Let them know your boyfriend will only tell them things that you both have agreed on, so when he speaks he's speaking for both of you.

It takes a lot of patience. Just keep the lines of communication with your boys open. And let them know that you are all going to be one family, and that family is created by all of you. Good luck!


answers from New York on

I have two children from my first marriage and I can tell you it is a difficult thing and what most of us want to say is you sons come first and their feelings are SO important right now. I think he will never really be a father figure to your boys because they already have a father involved in their lives and because they are older. When you are not home he is the adult in charge, but when you are around you need to be the authority figure, the only one parenting. If I see a kid (whose not mine) throw something on the ground I would ask "Is that where trash should go?" but I would not try to lecture them about it or yell at them if they refused to pick it up. It would be fantastic for your boys to have another man in their lives to be a buddy and a role model of what a good, honorable man is like. Because he lives with you not their father he is showing your boys how to respect and treat women. This can be a great thing for them. Dont try to force the relationship to be more than that or you run the risk of them always being at odds.


answers from Los Angeles on

I think as soon as you, the mom, feels comfortable with it.

You know your kids, go with your gut.

~I would start slowly, do you guys have a chore schedule or times when you all do clean-up? Maybe start by having BF tell the kids what their jobs are for that day...with you being there too of course. At my house we all do a 'family' 10 minute tidy every day (longer on the weekends) and I dish out jobs. Maybe BF could dish them out? Nothing major, just regular old small jobs...ya know, like 'John, today you are gonna take out the trash and Timmy you are gonna sweep the kitchen floor'. Something like that?! Start small and gauge their reactions?? Then after time it should be normal/comfortable for BF to tell them to pick up after themselves.

Good Luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

First, I think your BF is a wonderful man for taking on this role with your sons. Becoming a stepparent is a long and sometimes challenging road, especially when they are already teens. I hope you give him lots of praise and encouragement!

The role of stepparenting develops over time. You and your BF should continue to talk about his role, and what both of your expectations are. There are times he will need to ask your boys to do things around the house, or stop doing them :) Acting like a buddy is a great start, and necessary to build a relationship and gain their respect. And next you are right that he will need to start acting like a stepparent. There is no one right way to be a stepparent. It depends on the needs of the children. Since they are 13 & 14, they have different needs than younger kids would.

You both will need to use your judgment about how he interacts with the boys. I found out early, though, that the stepparent deferring all decisions to the parent soon makes an adult feel "second best" and does not create respect from the kids. So, I would suggest starting to let him make decisions, and backing him in those decisions, as an equal adult in your household.

I have been a stepmom for 25 years. My two are now 29 and 26. It was a very gradual process to build a relationship and then to be able to discipline and make decisions when necessary. I was the "live-in GF" for three years before we got married. We were committed from the beginning, and the wedding did not change my relationship with the kids.

Good luck to your family. And the two of you keep talking, talking, talking. And make sure to always make time to have fun together as a family.



answers from Spartanburg on

I would just wait as long as it takes for your children to accept him completely, and in the meantime I'd do the discipline. It's not easy for them to accept somebody they did not get to choose...imagine all of a sudden having a stranger living with you in the house, sleeping with mom etc...i think they just need some slack cut, so since you got your man in the house it is a good common ground not to force him on them with the discipline...I don't see that working too well and, if I put myself in their shoes, frankly I understand them. They will eventually accept him (do they have other choices?) but is up to you to make smoother the path to acceptance. So this is what I'd do..good luck with everything!



answers from Minneapolis on

Be patient. Your kids will not take authority from your boyfriend.

I'm thrilled that your boys have their dad in their lives: boys really need a male authority figure/role model they can look up to. (dad, coach, teacher, uncle) That's how boys learn "what it takes" to be a man. Mothers can't do that for them.

However, I just can't see teenage boys taking direction from a live-in boyfriend. The boys WILL have to learn how to be polite and respectful to all your friends regardless. And I'm sure they will respect you if you are the primary figure who is teaching them how to live properly in a household (pick up trash, etc.)

P.S. Not one should be rude to you. But the "judgmental" part comes from the point that it's really confusing to kids to see their parent share a bed with someone they're not married to. Remember: Kids grow up and do the things they saw their parent do. Just make real sure YOU'RE ok with your boys living (and possibly having offspring) with live-in girlfriends when they're grown up.

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