Share this story


My Stepson Won’t Obey House Rules

My stepson won't listen to me when I try to enforce house rules – what can I do to make him behave?

Hesiod, an ancient Greek philosopher, noted that, “A day is sometimes our mother, sometimes our stepmother.” The implication seems to be that those days that go well are like a loving mother, but those that are filled with distress are more like stepmothers! These engrained cultural concepts don’t foster positive attitudes toward stepparents. But there are steps you can take to address the challenges.

Establishing house rules. You and your spouse need to work together to determine ways to respond to specific situations. Plan a conversation with your stepson once both of you are on the same page.

Consider the circumstances of his family of origin. If your spouse was widowed, then your stepson’s reactions may be intertwined with grief. Addressing issues of his bereavement may help. In the case of divorce, your stepson will have experienced the painful breakup and now will be experiencing different daily routines.

Acknowledge differences in rules between families. Younger children often view rules in a concrete way. Switching back and forth between mom’s/stepdad’s rules and dad’s/stepmom’s rules isn’t as intuitive as it would be for an older child capable of abstract thought. Acknowledge the differences, but be clear on your own house rules.

Transition time between households is challenging. In general, the first two days after switching homes are more difficult for children. Be warm but firm with your stepson. Avoid harsh reactions, which are counterproductive. Find ways to enjoy your stepson; a positive relationship smooths over rough patches.

Many variables influence relationships with stepchildren. Dynamics are different for stepmothers and stepfathers. The age and gender of the child has an impact. There won’t be a quick solution to “make your stepson behave.” Instead, the process will be gradual as your family adjusts over time. Pray James 5:7-8.