What can we (my husband and I) do with my 12 year old stepson that doesn't seem to like coming over to our house anymore. He seems to prefer his mom's house (who has primary custody) and when he does come over he seems really moody.
The rules between houses aren't extremely different although we expect him to do a few chores and clean up after himself at our house. His mom's house is a little more lax.
I saw a a lot of readers with some great ideas:
- Give him room/space. He's going through a phase.
- Don't force the situation. If the boy doesn't want to come over to Dad's house, don't force it. It will only breed resentment.
- Encourage Dad to talk to the boy. This is their problem (that albeit affects you).
- Create even more peaceful harmony between Dad and Mom's house and perhaps start doing weekly or biweekly family dinners at mom's house -- with everyone (including stepmom).
I remember being a little teen-age brat to my stepfather. He was the 'cleaning nazi' to my not-so-clean-freak self. In fact, I went to so far as to draft a letter to my mom and Stepdad once where I called them Mr. and Mrs. Highness and wrote to them about how I wasn't their slave or servant and it wasn't my job to clean their entire house. (I told you I was a brat).
I now know that I was angry about having to move away from my friends as well as the forced change in my cleaning habits. I took the anger out on my Stepdad (poor guy). My mom would always defend me which caused tension between my mom and Stepdad, too.
My Stepdad was pretty good at reminding me that taking care of my chores was related to self-pride. That chores weren't chores for the sake of chores -- they were exercises in taking care and respecting your belongings and surroundings. Once I got over my anger, the self-respect/self-pride started to make sense. I wouldn't clean up the living room and my bedroom because it was a chore -- it was more of a "I live in a nice house and I'm proud of it" mentality. It also helped me want to stick around my Mom and Stepdad's house more. When I could show I could take care of my things, I would be gifted other nice things.
Here's the other thing that I didn't realize at the time my Stepdad was doing but he reminded me (when I called to ask him about this reader question): positive encouragement. When I would do a good job cleaning the bathroom, raking, etc. he'd tell me that I did a good job and that he appreciated my help. He reminded me that he'd notice an uptick in my willingness to help out more when he said that.
And if you'd like more proof of my Stepdad's encouragement and self-pride exercises, here it is: As a Stepmom, I'm the cleaning nazi now. I'm the one who harps on the rest of the house to properly clean your room/space/office. In fact, there is a level of clean at our house that we call Stepmom Clean.
Stepmom Clean resides above Normal clean (which would be pulling the sheets up on your bed, putting dirty dishes away and cleaning up spills). Stepmom Clean involves some serious pride in belongings -- put your clothes away on hangers not by smooshing them in the back of the closet, ensure your bedroom, desk, toys, etc. are put away and taken care of, floor is swept, sink(s) clean, toilets doppleganger-free, mail organized. (in case your wondering, there is a level above Stepmom Clean...It's called Nana Clean and it involves washed windows and dirt-free baseboards).
Anywho -- Stepmom Clean is a result of my Stepdad's hard work in encouraging me to take pride in myself and my belongings. Participating in keeping a nice house also made me proud of being there and wanting to be there.
Ladies, do you have a question you'd like some advice on? Email me and let's see if we can help with your dilemma.