Fast, faster and fastest – we want it now. We want fast food, faster internet service and the fastest way to lose weight from eating all that fast food. We’re willing to pay a premium for products and services that promise they are “instant” and “quick.”
When we talk about building a meaningful relationship with your stepson, the words fast, faster and fastest no longer apply. Think in terms of growing a plant. You plant a seed and you don’t have a mature plant the next day. It takes time for the seed to germinate, take root, and sprout. Likewise, it takes time for the relationship with your stepson to grow.
Also, you don’t just plant the seed and walk away. You regularly provide the plant with the nutrients and environment it needs to grow into a healthy, flourishing plant. Next to forgiveness, patience is one of the two most important virtues in your relationship with your stepson. While there are always exceptions, the majority of children tend to be accepting of the adults in their lives.
However, it’s important to remember that your stepson was deeply wounded by the two most important adults in his life. This fact alone will make him cautious of fully accepting you; it will take time. Also, your stepson may feel conflicted by a need to place loyalty to his biological dad. The loss of a parent, whether through divorce or death, is devastating to a child, and it can take a very long time for a child to come to terms with that.
It will also take time for your future stepson to accept his mother has found someone new, ending his dreams of his parents reconciling and getting back together. Additionally, your stepson realizes he will have to contend with you – his stepdad. Once you and your partner decide your relationship is heading toward marriage, you should begin developing a trusting relationship with your stepson. This will help him accept you as a stepfather once you officially become a member of the family.
While serving in the Air Force, I grew very accustomed to being heard and seeing immediate responses to my requests. As a stepparent, I quickly learned a humbling lesson: children don’t care if you were a five-star general or private. Children can and will get on your last nerve. How you react when they do, however, is your choice.
Ways to Develop Patience with Your Stepson
Check Your Expectations
- Children are children – not adults
- Brains are not fully developed until about 23 years old
- The area of the brain related to rational decision-making is the last part developed
- Expectations need to be age and situation appropriate
- Are you expecting children to behave in a way they’re not capable of yet?
Don’t Take It Personally
- We (adults and children) all make mistakes
- You can identify misbehavior as intentional or unintentional – but not personal
- There are exceptions if you are a total jerk
- Your stepson’s behavior is not a measurement of your effectiveness as a stepdad
- The two are not related unless, of course, you are a total jerk
- Be a curious observer
- Learn about general behaviors displayed by both yourself and your stepson
- Adjust your behavior accordingly
Flexible Parenting Style
- Learn what your parenting style is
- Every child and situation is different
- Flexibility and openness to what is and isn’t working is essential
- For example: authoritarian style with a strong-willed stepson will probably lead to plenty of confrontations
- Willingness to examine and adjust your approach can help minimize volatile situations
- Take a timeout in the middle of an emotionally charged situation
- You’re not giving in if you do
- Your stepson wins the battle if you lose your patience
- Take care of yourself
- Think HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired)
- Engaging with your stepson when feeling any of these can put you on the fast track to losing your patience.
- Do whatever refuels and refreshes you
With your wife, respect has to be established as the minimum standard in the family
- Your wife should be responsible for handling infractions
Thankfully, patience is a skill that is developed with time and practice. As a stepparent, you will receive plenty of opportunities to develop your skill. By learning to demonstrate patience with your stepson you will eventually win him over and provide him with a model for his own behavior. Next to patience, forgiveness is one of the two most important virtues in your relationship with your stepson. Learn more about forgiveness here .
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