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How Does a Stepdad Respond to "You’re Not My Daddy"?
“You are not my father.” How do you respond after investing emotionally, physically and financially to raise a child that is not your own? Have any of you experienced this? Surprisingly, I never heard this from my two stepsons, but to be sure I felt that there were times when their body language and behavior communicated the same message.
When my wife and I got married, their two children were 10 and 14 years old. My wife and her ex had joint custody of the children. I imagine hearing this from your child is the equivalent of spitting in your face when they are frustrated or angry with you. If it’s a child or young person, I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt and don’t take it personally because they don’t understand well what they said and how much it can hurt.
But if he is a teenager, he must be responsible for his actions. His intentions to challenge your authority and hurt you are obvious and represent a clear violation of stepdads boundaries that needs to be addressed. Under these circumstances, my answer would be: “Yes, I know that I am not your father. I am not trying to replace him, but you live in my house. If you want to continue living in my house,” you will have to respect and obey me. So what will it be? Also, I will say this with my wife present, so the kids know we are on the same page about this.
Here are some other answers:
I heard, “You are not my father” from my stepdaughter. I tried it once before with my dad. The answer he gave me and the one I used with my own stepdaughter: “You’re right, I’m not your father. I’m not trying to replace you. I love you, and I look out for your best interests ., so you need to do as I say.”
I made it clear from the start: “No, I’m not your father – I’m not under any biological obligation to take your shit!” But under no circumstances will I let it go unaddressed. When they say it, it’s meant to be a challenge to your authority at home, not just something to hurt your feelings. The point is that you are not their biological relative, they do not really listen. The day that every child in my house, regardless of age or parentage, decides to tell me, they do not need to listen, for ANY reason, they will be in a rude wakening. On top of that, I think if you’re wife/husband hears this and doesn’t put their son or daughter in check, then you have bigger problems.
Some additional considerations:
Consistency between families. If your children are members of two families, as much as possible, make sure your wife and you are on the same page as the biological father of your children in terms of discipline. This helps avoid the, “My dad lets me…” or “My mom lets me…” when I’m at the other parent’s house. Communicate bedtimes, homework schedules, consequences and concerns about what we will and won’t allow so that the rules remain relatively uniform from house to house.
United Front with the Wife. Very important – your wife and you must be a united front on the problems before the children. This will be challenging for most mothers, especially if they were single parents for a significant period of time before marriage. This will be a challenge for them because they are used to making and enforcing rules.
Because they are so used to making the rules, it will probably be difficult for them to back down and allow them to take control of a situation involving their child. Your wife must understand that questioning or correcting you in front of her children will undermine your authority and will only give her more fuel to play both sides of each other. Even if you do not agree with each other, it is crucial to discuss the problem outside of the children.
Remember this is a Process. It is not always easy for adults to learn to live with someone and it can be even more difficult for children who do not always understand the changing dynamics. Even with a few years of marriage under your belt, your stepchild will still try to compare families when things don’t go their way.
A successful blending of a family takes time from conservative estimates at least seven years. Like marriage, it is a learning process. By trying to maintain understanding, keeping the lines of communication open, and being your spouse’s partner in discipline, you can help make the transition smoother.
To be heard, “You are not my father” is like your son deciding to go nuclear – it is an “offensive” weapon used to inflict the highest level of pain and damage. It is used when the child feels threatened, and they no longer have arguments so they should not be forced to do or not do something.
* Make sure you don’t answer in kind – two wrongs definitely don’t make a right.
* Recognize that your child is correct, “You are not his real father.”
* Affirm while you are not their biological father that it is not relevant for you because you still care for them and want the best for their life.
Your genuine care and consistent concern will always win out in the end.
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