Any suggestions? How do you answer after investing yourself emotionally, physically and financially to raise a child that isn’t your own? Have any of you experienced this? Surprisingly, I never heard this from my two stepchildren but to be sure there were times when their body language and behavior communicated the same message.
When the Pretty Lady and I got married her two children were 10 and 14 years old. Also their dad had joint custody. I imagine hearing this from your stepchild is the equivalent of them spitting in your face when they’re frustrated or angry with you. If it’s a toddler or youth, I would give them the benefit of doubt and not take it personally because they don’t fully understand what they’re saying and how much it may hurt.
But if they’re a teenager they must be held accountable for their actions. Their intentions to defy your authority and hurt you is obvious and represents a clear violation of a stepdads’ boundaries that must be addressed. Under these circumstances my response would be, “Yes, I know I’m not your dad and I’m not trying to replace him but you do live in my house and if you want to continue living in my house your going to need to respect and obey me. So what’s it going to be?” Additionally, if at alI possible I would say this with the Pretty Lady present so the kids know we’re on the same page about this.
Here some other responses:
I’ve heard, “You’re not my Dad” from my stepdaughter’s. I tried it out once early on with my stepdad. The response he gave me and the one I used with my own stepdaughter’s: “You’re right, I’m not your dad. I’m not trying to replace them. I love you and I am looking 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 dad. That means I’m under no biological obligation to take your crap!” But under no circumstances would I let that go without addressing it. When they say it, it is designed to be a challenge to your authority in the home, not just something to hurt your feelings. The point is since you’re not their biological parent they don’t really have to listen. The day that any child in my home regardless of age or parentage decides to tell me they don’t have to listen, for ANY reason, they’re going to be in for a rude awakening. Besides that, I think that if you’re wife/husband hears this and doesn’t put their son or daughter in check then you have bigger problems.
How about, “No, I am not because any child of mine would have better manners and be more appreciative of people who have gone out of their way to love them, take care of them, help them when there is no biological or legal requirement of them to do so”. Then stop doing anything for her. No cooking, shopping, money, rides, laundry, cleaning or anything.
I have two 15 year-old stepson’s. Even before I found this site and read about disengaging, I started to do it. Six months ago I got the “you’re not my parent” BS from my stepson. So I pulled back. I go to one out of seven baseball games (instead of every one I used to go to), I don’t give them rides anywhere, I don’t offer to help with their homework, I don’t do their laundry, I don’t clean their rooms, etc. I let my dear husband do it. Now, I need to disengage with my words too and not get sucked into the parental need to help them.
My eight year old stepdaughter told me this a few years ago and my response was “You’re right. I’m not your Mom and I’m not trying to be – however, when you are in MY house you will listen to me and you will follow my rules, regardless of how you feel about me”
Alternatively, my 13 year old biological daughter tried this one (you’re not my father) with her stepdad and he told her something very similar. My biological daughter later told me that hearing him say he WAS NOT trying to be her Dad helped her actually SEE him as a father figure and she now calls him Dad. Go figure with that one!
I may not be but I’m the one that’s here with you and your going to respect me and obey my rules or I’m going to discipline you like I was your Daddy.
Some additional considerations:
Consistency Between the Households. If you stepchildren are members of two households as much as possible ensure your wife and you are on the same page as your stepchild(ren) biological father in terms of discipline. This helps avoid the,”My Dad lets me…” or “My Mom lets me…” when they’re at the other’s parent’s home. Communicate bed times, homework schedules, consequences and concerns about what we will and will not allow so the rules remain relatively uniform form home to home.
United Front with Wife. Very important – your wife and you must remain a united front on issues in front of the kids. This will be challenging for most mothers especially if they were single parents for a significant period of time before remarriage. This will be a challenge for them because they’re used to making and enforcing the rules. Because they’re so used to making the rules it will probably be difficult for them to step back and allow you to take control of a situation involving their child. Your wife must realize questioning or correcting you in front of her children will undermine your authority and only give them more fuel to play both sides against one another. Even if you disagree with one another it’s importatnt to discuss the issue away from the children.
Remember this is a Process. It isn’t always easy for grown-ups to learn to live with someone and it can be even more difficult for children who don’t always understand the changing dynamics. Even with a few years of marriage under your belt, your stepchild will still occasionally attempt to compare households when they don’t get her way. Successfully blending a family takes time by conservative estimates at least seven years. Like marriage, it is a learning process and by trying to remain understanding, keeping the communication lines open, and being your spouse’s partner in discipline you can help to make the transition run more smoothly.
Please take a few moments to share how you’ve responded to or would respond to, “You’re not my daddy?”