How should I treat him now?

My stepson is 10 as well. Fortunately he and I have a good relationship. My husband’s ex would be hard pressed to find fault in me or how I treat her children, though I’m sure she could if she put her mind to it. Every now and then I see or hear glimmers or what I know is being said in her home about my husband or me or our lifestyle. I have worked hard to have my own relationship w/ this 10 year old. We take walks together, go to the movies, go out for meals by ourselves…in short I show him how much I value him as a person and have told him that. I wouldn’t focus on your feelings being hurt. I would reassure him that you care for him and maybe spend some one:one time w/ him. I ask him what characteristics you think a person has to have to be a mom. Caring about someone? Cooking for them? Having rules? Are these such bad things? I would tell him calmly that if he decides to go to his mother’s house and spend more time with her that you will understand but you will miss him and hope that he decides to visit and to come back again. It sounds like his older brother has been taking a lot of your attention lately so maybe this younger child is just saying these things in a bid to get attention on his own. You also don’t know if this is all happening thanks to manipulation by mom…but I wouldn’t touch that with the child. The 10 yr old may quickly find that the grass is not greener.
Hang in there…you have unselfishly given advice and wisdom to so many!!! Being a stepmom is a hard and thankless job…set your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed.

Thank you mal for the encouragement.
At times it seems as though there is nothing I can do right for this child. His father tells me that I need to ask him to do things instead of telling him, but then he gets mad at me because he said I didn’t tell him to do something…
I don’t ultimately think that this has anything really to do with me. I think he’s using this as an excuse. This started because when we went to eat Sunday, he got out on the drivers side of the car and told his dad that I slammed the car door because I was mad at him for not getting out on my side (!?)…what do I care which side of the car he gets out on? How do you reason with someone who believes that everyone is against him?

I don’t believe that I spend more time with one but I do notice that the oldest interacts with us more. I try to be fair with them but if I treat them differently it’s because they are different people. We do not believe that he’s old enough to make this decision and realize all the affects this decision could make. I know that I have worked hard on our relationship and things will go smoothly for a while but then he spends a week at his mother’s doing whatever he wants, and when he comes back over he gets angry that he has to follow the guidelines again…
He gets mad at me for catching him in a lie, but yet gets angry at me when I don’t believe something he’s telling me…
He called last night upset wanting to know if we were going to close his computer account. He tried to tell us that wasn’t the only reason he was calling but it actually was. He tried to explain to his dad that he was just upset and that he didn’t mean any of it. Originally, he was not coming over Thursday. My husband says that he doesn’t care…he’s tired of playing games with him and that eventually he will have to figure out that everything does not revolve around him. He said that he loves his son but he’s not going to let him continue to come over until there’s an attitude change. He said that when he’s 15-16 and is in trouble that his ex needs to call someone else because he’s done all he can do…

I’ve never treated him badly. I love him and I do want him to be happy…he just seems to be the type of person that does not want to be. Does that change? At 10 years old, is it too late to change this behavior?

As far as his mother goes…there’s no making her happy. She got angry at me once before we were married because one of the boys came inside from playing to get a drink and I continued reading instead of asking them what they were doing…I could see what he was doing…why would I need to ask? She’s not an intelligent person and she can argue both sides of an arguement. She’s one of those that can get my husband arguing about things that happened 10 years ago and when she starts to lose that battle, changes the subject.

Maybe things will calm down more and we can think clearly about the best way to deal with this situation.

It has been about a week… has there been any resolution to the matter? Or are things still up in the air?

We decided that the best thing to do was to discuss it with them, let them know exactly where we stood on this. My husband said that there was no reason for me to treat him differently. He told me that if I played up to this drama it would only make it worse. He believes that I have tried to get close to both boys but that the youngest is still holding back because of his mother.
Both boys came over on Thursday last week and we sat down and had a very lengthy conversation with them both. We spelled out what we expected of them, what living with us meant and asked them if they wanted to stay. We wanted to get everything out on the table. As soon as we started this discussion, the youngest laid out on the loveseat and buried his head…we’re fairly certain that he has only changed his mind because he does not want his computer game account shut down. His brother even said something similar during the discussion. He says that he was just upset and that he’s going to try to give me a chance and get to know me…but I’m not sure that he’s sincere. My husband and I both believe that he would have agreed to anything at that point.
I told them that I refuse to walk on eggshells around them and constantly worry about what I say or do. And my husband told them that we’ve all seen enough drama, if they do not want to be there, they do not have to be there. We love them but we’re not going to pitch a fit, scream or cry because they choose to live with their mother. We also told them that if they have a problem with either of us, taking it to their mother or grandmother, will not fix it. We are the only ones that can fix a problem at our house and we can not fix a problem that we do not know is there. My husband told them that we’d sit down every week if necessary. The oldest did make a comment that he doesn’t like switching back and forth anymore. We told him that there’s only one way to fix that and that was for him to choose and stick with that choice.

This is our week with them, except for Wednesday night, so we’ll see what if anything has changed with the attitude and behavior. Hopefully, he did retain some of what we discussed but he’s 10 and since he didn’t really say a lot or ask a lot of questions, we’re not sure that he “got” what we were trying to say…
I’ll keep you posted. Thank you for your comments and concerns.


First let me preface this by saying what a wonderful stepmother you have been to these children, so that you don’t take offense with what I say next.

I am not very qualified to tell anyone how to handle their stepchildren… I am 22 and my soon to be stepdaughter doesn’t even live with us (though we are sure hoping she does one day!) But I am not quite sure if telling the older son to choose between households was the best idea. I understand how he feels about going back and forth, my parents had a custody agreement with us going two weeks with dad, two weeks with mom. It could be hell sometimes, but I am still in favor of 50/50 custody because that way, the kids get to spend time with both parents equally. The son shouldn’t have to choose but it is understandable how he feels and also it is understandable how you guys told him that was probably the best thing to do.

I guess that was probably the only thing one COULD say to the boy in that situation… still, it kind of puts him on the spot and makes him feel pressured to choose. Because then he’s like, well, if I choose Dad, Mom will be offended, if I choose Mom, Dad may be offended. I hope things work out. Hope you didn’t take offense by what I said, not criticizing what you did because I understand that is the only thing you possibly could have said to him in such a situation. Again, you seem like such a loving stepmom. The ex-wife is just a b*tch who is jealous of another woman spending time with her kids IMO.

As for the younger son, I wonder if one day you could do something with him alone… the older one should not be offended as he seems more mature. You and just him could go out to eat and go to a park or something, and then maybe have a quiet talk where it’s just the two of you, and you tell him how you feel about him (the positive feelings, lol!) Like how you care about him and want him to be happy and if there’s anything he has a problem with, you guys can discuss it together… and maybe come to some sort of resolution of peace, for both of your sakes. It may be worth a try! :slight_smile: Of course, you don’t have to cater to him or kiss his @ss or anything to be liked, but a fun day and a long talk with eachother may really help.

I don’t take offense to what you said. I also feel that under normal circumstances 50/50 is the best solution. Please understand that we are not forcing him to choose. We don’t care if he never chooses, but he knows that he CAN choose.
They have gone back and forth for almost 5 years now and I think all the drama is getting to him. He did decide some months back to stay with us, but with his mother’s resulting “suicide attempt” and the following few weeks of her making him feel guilty about this decision that he struggled with for so long, he decided to go back to the previous schedule. We have told him that we would be hurt but that it would not ruin our lives if he chose to live with her. We have told him that we want him to do what he wants and that we are not going to manipulate him into choosing. We have also let him know that even if he does choose, it would not be like he would never see the other parent. But we have told them both that they can not flop back and forth and that this decision is something that they should talk with someone else about. The oldest talked to everyone before making this decision, teachers, the sitter, the doctor (he’s on several medications for anxiety and ADHD), even some other family members. And he saw his mother more during the first three weeks after this than he did previously…she paid more attention to him. After a while though, I believe she has gone back to the way things were and he’s starting to see that the drama will never end and that his life will be chaos if he doesn’t do something to change it.

As for the youngest, we think that he’s really making an effort to change the way he sees things. This weekend will be the first chance we will have to see if there’s been a change in the attitude. It’s going to take some time but we’re hoping that the more consistent we are the easier it will be for him.
This past Monday it seemed we were going to have this same situation with my mother in law. The ex talks trash about her, saying that she never liked her and she wish that the boys didn’t have to visit her, so the youngest, wanting to defend his mother, decided that he didn’t want to stay at his grandmother’s on Tuesday. He didn’t make as big a deal out of it and when it came down to it, he did go over so we think that situation may have resolved itself.

The only difficult part of this is that they are with us on Monday night and Tuesday night then go to their mother’s on Wed. Then when they get back on Thurs. we have to go back through the adjustment day and then it’s the weekend. Friday - Sunday they do alright but then they go to their mother’s on Monday and we don’t see them again until Thursday. It’s a little tiring to have to go through the adjustment period twice in one week…but this is the schedule that works best for her, so it’s what we use.
Thank you for your comments. I feel that eventually things will calm down for a bit with school starting back up and get back into a routine.

To give a little background on this: My husband and his ex share joint custody with equal time of his two boys, 10 & 13. Their mother does not like me for whatever reason but that doesn’t really affect me that much. I have been in their lives for almost 5 years now and it’s been a rollercoaster ride from the very beginning. His mother thrives on drama and chaos and even though she left him for another man and threw her marriage away, she hates me because I eventually benefitted from this. She sees me as the reason that her marriage didn’t work, though he and I met after she left him. She has had a live in boyfriend for the past 4 years. They have broken up numerous times, and there’s even some suspicion of abuse. But that’s another post…
The oldest, not long ago, decided to live with us full time but after telling his mother and the chaos that ensued, changed his mind and decided to keep the original arrangement. We feel that this will eventually come about permanently but that it will take a little more time. He’s more mature than his age.

The youngest, who has several behavioral issues, has recently made the decision that he did not want to stay with us any longer. (Though this may change tomorrow) Specifically he made this decision, he says, because I treat him differently than I do his brother. My husband is constantly on him about his “poor me” and “pay attention to me” attitude, his whining and dramatic displays of emotions.
Over the last month or so, there have been conversations where my husband and I both realize that he still has the belief or dream, like most children, that his parents will get back together. This past weekend, my husband told him that he needed to get those dreams out of his head because it was not going to happen. He told him that the only reason that he and his mother were still friends is because of them. He’s told his brother that he doesn’t like me because he feels I’m trying to be his mother. I have never raised my voice, my hand or even asked him to do anything that was unreasonable. We (me, his father, brother, and even his mother) all know that he doesn’t like me because he believes the trash his mother talks about me. Needless to say though this has hurt my feelings. My husband has told me I have done nothing wrong, and yet I still feel as though this is my fault.
We are due to have them this Thursday, if he does come over, and I am not exactly sure how I feel about this or how I should react to this. When his brother made the decision, it was about his own needs and he was able to discuss his reasons rationally with his doctor, his grandmother, both parents, even his teachers. The youngest’s decision seems to have been made simply because he is immature and knows his mother will let him do whatever he wants. I don’t want to change the way that I treat him and cater to this behavior but I don’t know if I should let him know how much this has hurt my feelings. We’re tired of the drama and the games. Would it be wrong for him to know that he can not manipulate us the way he can his mother? Would it be wrong to show him the emotional repercussions of his behavior over the last couple of days? I don’t want to seem mean about this but I believe at some point children must learn that what they say and do affects others and that if you hurt someone you can’t take it back.
Any input would be appreciated.