December 31, 2008
I got along with the youngest until he decided he wanted his father all to himself. So his father let him go live with his mother. She couldn't handle all three boys because the two youngest fight. We had a big enough house, so the 16-year-old came to live with us. We set rules and curfews. A month later the 14-year-old also came to live with us.
The 16- and 14-year-old got into trouble for drinking and drugs. They partied in our home while we were out of town. I told my husband they are no longer welcome, so they're presently living with their mom.
We had to give up our home due to a job change, and we're now staying with my husband's mother. The 11-year-old is back with us but isn't behaving well. He wants his own way. When I say no to something, like not being on the Internet after 10 p.m., he responds by asking “Why?” My husband thinks I'm hard on him. He let him run things before I came into the picture. To me, no means no. How do I deal with this child who thinks he's an adult? I've tried to tell him we're a family, and parents make the decisions. Counseling isn't available in this area of Alaska. My husband works every day but Sunday. I love my husband, but I'm not sure how to deal with his children.
A. Your husband's teenage children are no doubt the products of parents who weren't united and the 11-year-old will soon be in trouble as well if things don't improve. While I can't tell you if you're too strict or your husband is too easy, if you and your husband aren't united, the children will rule your roost. While many 11-year-olds ask why they can't stay up late, you typically only need answer by telling them they require enough sleep to concentrate in school and then usher them to bed. If your husband disagrees with that bedtime and considers it too strict, your stepson will ignore you or be disrespectful.
The place to start is by having a discussion with your husband. If you agree on rules that are reasonable, and your husband tells his son that he expects him to follow your rules, parenting will become doable. Otherwise, your stepson will assume his father doesn't respect you and therefore he shouldn't respect you either.
Now that you're staying with your husband's mother, you'll need her support as well. Can you imagine a basketball team working together with every team member taking a different strategy? That wouldn't work effectively and neither will a parenting team going in different directions. You'll require clear, reasonable rules that everyone understands should be enforced. When kids don't learn to respect parental boundaries, they grow up to ignore laws as well. A counselor could help you, but with no counselor or time available, Sundays will have to provide you time for serious talks. You can only parent your stepson if your husband is willing to be respectful and supportive.