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How Does a Stepdad Respond to You’re Not My Daddy?

Shut Up! You're Not My Real Dad 

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?”

7 comments

  1. This really is an outstanding write-up. Many thanks for detailing this all out for all of us. It really is a great help!

  2. Your article How Does a Step dad Respond to Your Not My Daddy? | Support for Stepfathers was in my Bing news feed. Very impressive on the article.

  3. Rachael ramseur

    I am newly married – about a year. My husband has a 16 year old son who doesn’t live with us. I have a 10 year old son from a previous relationship. Together we have a 2 year old son. I work nights so my husband is with the boys in the evenings. He is so very tough on my 10 year old. I have tried to keep quiet and let him “tough” love my son. But I have never heard him say one kind word to my son. It hurts me so bad but I was trying to be a united force. Recently my son made comment about hurting himself to his teacher. Now it’s serious to me. Coming from a suicidal teen myself. I will do whatever it takes to protect him. He does push a lot of buttons mine and my husbands. If u give an inch he takes a mile. It is exhausting with him. But my husband hardly ever hugs or praises him. And he says he’s tired of being the bad guy. And I’m tired of being the go between. He just doesn’t seem very compassionate or loving and completely doates on the baby. Whatever my son does is not good enough. But my husband seems to think that love and respect is earned. Shouldn’t it be given freely? I need help.

    • Hello Rachael

      Thank you for reaching out for help. Before I begin please understand I am not a counselor or therapist based on your comments I feel you should get a marriage and family therapist who specializes in blended families and the issues related to your son’s comment about hurting himself. You are to be commended for your effort to present a united front with your husband despite what you’re feeling on the inside. Have you brought these issues (lack of hugs, praises and expressing love to your son) up with your husband? This is something your husband needs to know if you haven’t already told him. At a minimum, you should challenge him with the question, “Would he treat his own (biological) son the same way?” I’m not sure why “tough” love is in order? Especially since your son is only 10 and his behavior sounds typical for a boy his age.

      In the blended family, I feel discipline should be handled by the biological parent. I understand you work at night and your husband is alone with the boys in the evenings. This is just off the top of my head but maybe your husband is really stressed in the evenings if he is responsible for the care of a 2 and 10 year old by himself. Of course this is not to excuse his behavior.

      I agree with you love is something that should be freely given. Respect should be the minimum standard of conduct within the blended family. Respect should expected from both your husband and son.

      I will ask some of the therapists that visit this blog to read your Comment and add their comments.

      Gerardo

    • This dynamic is common even when a dad is the bio dad. Your husband withholds love and affection and praise unless the behavior deserves it. He is looking for your son to act in a way consistently that deserves his respect. The problem is that a 10 year old, especially one who may have some emotional problems, isn’t capable of behaving in a way that earns that earns his respect. Your husband can dote on the baby because a baby isn’t expected to do much. The dynamic you have with you criticizing him, him feeling blamed, and then you becoming protective of your son appearing to take sides is also common. It is a complicated dynamic and since your son is now expressing he might want to hurt himself (even if it is just for attention), you have to get professional help. Ask your husband to go to a counselor to figure out how to help your son and how to address behavioral concerns. Recognize that your son has other hurts and issues that are contributing to this. It isn’t necessarily your husband’s fault. If you ask him to support you in addressing your concerns, it will make him less defensive. And, while it is important that you figure out how to help your son, it is also important that you don’t overreact to the situation, especially since you experienced suicidal thoughts as a teen.

  4. No, you aren’t “investing yourself emotionally, physically and financially to raise a child that isn’t your own”, you are just HAVING A RELATIONSHIP WITH A WOMAN WHO HAS CHILDREN. The kid didn’t force you to pay anything, the kid didn’t ask you for any help, the kid doesn’t give a fuck about an unknown guy like you. You are a boyfriend of the mother. The kid doesn’t know you, you aren’t nothing in his life, you came without asking. Just inagine you have a perfect life with your mother and suddenly you have an unknown guy interrupting your conversations with you mother, giving his opinion about everything, always being there when you just want to get asleep while your mother reads you a book asking when she”s gonna come to bed. Learn your place! A child is much more important than your crap! There’s already a family there and you come without invitation. At least you can have SOME RESPECT and know better who you are: YOU ARE A FRIEND WHO SOME WOMAN WANTS SOMETIMES IN HER BED, NOT A FATHER. IF THE KID WANTS YOU AS A FATHER, THATS GREAT, BUT IF HE DOESNT WANT TO JUST DEAL WITH IT, BECAUSE YOU CANT FORCE SOMEONE TO LOVE YOU AS A PARENT! Respect children’s rights!

    • The context in which I wrote this was a committed relationship where a stepparent has invested themselves to raise a child that isn’t there own. A boyfriend who periodically spends periodic time with his girlfriend doesn’t fit this context. While a child hasn’t asked for a stepparent to be in their life I believe a stepparent like any other adult in the child’s life is entitled to a level of respect. Mutual respect by both stepparent and stepchild is the minimum expectation in a relationship any more is icing on the cake. A committed stepparent will have taken the time to cultivate a relationship with their partner’s children. Despite the level of commitment a stepparent may have to their stepchildren they still may not be accepted by them. In that instance, I agree the stepparent will have to deal with it. I am not implying or inferring a child should be forced to love their stepparent.

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