Step-family

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-23-2003
Step-family
1
Fri, 05-23-2003 - 2:46pm
My husband and my 15 1/2 year old son do not get along--understandable. Since we married about a year and a half ago, my husband has not been allowed to do any of the discipline (my bad idea), and my son ran over him. Now we are trying to change it and both adults be the "rule-makers" and the son is resisting. Big surprise. I need help; my husband is very much more authoritarian than I am, and I always let my son get away with more than I should, especially after his dad died in 1996. Any ideas, please/????
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
In reply to: obaro
Fri, 05-23-2003 - 7:06pm
Well, you've kind of gone from one extreme to the other which means it's going to take time to find the happy medium, for one thing. Your son isn't going to have any real idea of what to expect when it goes from no authority to too much authority.

He's at an age where I think it's important to sit down and talk WITH him about mutual expectations and rules and get his input too. The more you can negotiate the better chances it has to work. Your husband HAS to be willing to listen to him and give him a chance to say what is on his mind as well. A rule around here has always been, 'you can say anything you want to me, but you HAVE to say it with respect'. If you can have an all-around agreement that each person gets to speak and the other two HAVE to listen without interrupting, reacting, etc., then at least your son AND your husband will have a chance to feel heard - first step. Second, it is important that how your son feels is validated as much as is reasonable. You don't have to say 'you're all right; we're all wrong' to do this. A simple, 'I'm sorry you felt that way about *whatever*; or I'm sorry you have thought *whatever* ... so I can see why you have been mad. This is what was meant...' etc suffices to let a person feel like they've been heard. Discuss issues. Ask for his input on how he thinks something can be changed. If it's about disrespect, tell him that you can understand that he has been dealing with changes a great deal and that it churns all kinds of feelings that come out in different ways, then ask him how he thinks he can say or ask for or whatever it is but done with respect. Offer ways to him, too, that show you will respect him in return. This is behaviour that needs to be modeled and you and your dh are the adults; the modeling of that behaviour has to begin with you. Ask him what he thinks are fair rules for whatever the issues at hand are. Tell him what you feel they are and why. Find a compromise whereever possible.

The thing to remember is he is not a little child anymore. And a parent's job is to teach a child to grow up to become a successful and independent person one day, one who can negotiate in their world; see points of view other than their own; be respectful without losing their own self in the negotiation; learn to stand their ground without being stubborn. Aim for those as goals and hopefully the rest will start to fall into place, slowly but surely. There's several years' history now that have set certain patterns of response and behaviour; that is not going to be undone with one or even likely many talks. It's a *goal* - something to keep working at over time, being consistent in, apologizing when you have made a mistake along the way; expecting an apology from him. Relationships are built on mutual respect and mutual accountability. It needs to be both given and expected in return.

Be patient. Consistent. Loving. Firm. Deal with some issues with 'grace' - when something maybe isn't 'deserved' but given anyway; that has an incredibly powerful effect at times.

If you cannot get your husband to understand the need to work WITH him in these kinds of ways, I'd honestly suggest family counselling. Hopefully though, you and your dh will help your son to understand that neither of you are perfect EITHER - which means that there is give and take and forgiveness on ALL sides - something else important to understand - and that time will help you to build the bridges you need :-)