Dear Dr. Bill,
I remarried about 4 years ago and at first, everything seemed to be going well in our new family. But recently, my 15-year-old son hasn’t been getting along with his step-dad, and I feel caught in the middle. They used to get along, but once my son became interested in girls and other things they drifted apart. This has quickly turned into hostility and a few shouting matches back and forth.
I don’t what to do at this point. How do I choose between these two men in my life?
What you’re describing is fairly common in step-families. Conflict will often erupt between a child and a step-parent when the child enters adolescence.
I asked my friend Ron Deal, founder of SmartStepfamilies.com, about your situation. Ron points out that it’s a mistake to think you need to “choose” between your husband and your son. Rather than framing this as an “either or” situation, you need to see this in terms of “both-and.” Instead of taking sides, try to rise above the conflict and help each of them to see the others' perspective.
In every step-family situation, Ron believes the husband and wife need to make their marriage a priority. Allowing parenting conflicts to tear your relationship apart is the worst thing you can do for your kids.
As parents, you need to act as a unified team—clarify your expectations for your son, discuss the rules he’ll be expected to follow, and agree on the consequences if he breaks those rules. Also, as the biological parent, you should take the lead when it comes to discipline. If you’re always taking the “good cop” role with your son, you force your husband to always play the “bad cop.” That arrangement is sure to drive a permanent wedge between your son and your husband.
By the way, I’d highly recommend you pick up Ron Deal’s book, “The Smart Step-family.” You and your husband should make a commitment to read it together
Thanks for writing Lisa. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click on the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.