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Blended Families:
“My 14 year old twins are intolerant of my husband.”

Dear Annie,

I have a new husband, loving and considerate. My twins are 14 years (male and female), and they both are intolerant of their stepfather. Things are particularly difficult with my daughter. She is moody, and disrespectful. She shuts us both out. My kids don't have a biological father in their lives, so it's not like my husband is competing with their dad.

We are fighting all the time because I side with the kids more because my husband has never had kids and he is old fashioned from the old school, so this makes it worse re discipline and lectures, etc. He means well... but it's not working. What should we do??

Marney

Dear Marney,

Congratulations on your recent marriage. I hope that you and your husband build a strong bond between you that nurtures your relationship with each other and strengthens your whole family.

I appreciate that what's going on between your kids and your husband "isn't Working." The fact that your husband is "new" to the family and that for their entire lives your kids have only been parented by you makes their stepfather's entrance as "disciplinarian" and "lecturer" even harder for them to take. IN their eyes, he has no right to discipline them. On top of that, he doesn't know your kids very well AND he has no previous parenting experience. You know as well as I do that parenting teens is the most challenging of all parenting jobs! You can't just step into that role without years of preparation. It doesn't work and anyone who tries will be resented and undermined.

Therefore I'm not at all surprised that your son and daughter are "intolerant" of the role your husband is taking with them. In fact, I'd be stunned if they responded in any other way.

Your situation is not uncommon when a step parent enters a family with teens. If you take the perspective of your son and daughter, I think you will be better able to make some needed changes. Your kids did not choose your husband to be their dad. YOU chose him. And while I have no doubt that he is "loving and considerate"... From their perspective he has come into their lives and started telling them what to do. From their perspective that's not "loving and considerate."

So how about giving him a chance to develop a relationship with them that is solely based on his love and consideration?

First step is for you to have a serious talk with your husband. Assure him that you love him and appreciate his willingness to love and support your kids. Of course you and he share the goal of wanting your children to understand rules and to grow up to be responsible and respectful... But it's your job, as their mom, to continue guiding them in that way. It's HIS role to build a warm and trusting relationship with them. They haven't had a dad in their lives. He has a golden opportunity to be a positive role model of what a "loving and considerate" adult man is all about. Couple this kind of modeling with a warm and supportive relationship between step dad and kids and you've got something very special that will benefit your son and your daughter as they begin to go out in the world and seek romantic partners of their own.

Bottom line... Your husband should NOT discipline your kids. They will only resent him if he does and their resentment will pollute your relationship with them and ultimately damage your marriage. That doesn't mean that the kids should walk all over him or in any way treat him disrespectfully. Absolutely NOT! So get on the same page in terms of the rules of the family. But YOU need to be the sole disciplinarian. He may be a back-up, but YOU are in charge of your kids. Let him take the role of mentor whose key objective is to let the kids know, through his sincere interest in them as individuals, that he cares and that he supports their social/emotional development. That's the only way your new blended family will grow strong.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Annie

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