A study released earlier this year points out that being affirming and attentive is important for all dads, but particularly for stepdads. Researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, found that stepdads are more likely than stepmoms to have conflict with a teenager. The stepdads reported more behavioral problems in their teens, and they admitted that they spend less time praising their children in comparison to biological dads. Generally the relationship is worse if the teen is a boy.
Anyone who has been a father and then a stepfather knows that they aren't the same. While many aspects of these two roles are similar, it is the unique ones that lead to disillusionment. Franklin put it this way: "I've been to every Promise Keepers conference and I've studied fathering with my men's group many times. But nothing has prepared me for being a stepfather. With my own kids I have a natural leadership authority that allows me to teach them and be directive. With my stepchildren I constantly feel like I’m one step behind, like I have to establish myself each time I engage them."
Children in eleven U.S. cities are giving moving tributes to their fathers as they read their prize-winning essays during Father of the Year celebration events. Each essay has a story behind it, and Haley Hubbard, a 12th grader from Tulsa, brought the entire audience to tears as she stood with her stepfather and read this essay:
Pre-teen and teenage kids can pose a tremendous challenge for stepfathers. As they develop their identity and self-esteem, they are very sensitive to dramatic changes in their family structure and living situations.
Whether you realize it or not, your stepfamily has likely assumed a specific integration style. By that, I mean a set of assumptions about how your stepfamily 'ought' to come together. I like to use cooking as an analogy to identify some integration styles that stepfamilies attempt to utilize. Let’s start with the ones that generally don't work.
Orville is about to become a stepfather, and he wrote to me with a question: the 8-year-old son of his fiancée minds his father very well, but wreaks havoc at home. "What should I do?" Orville writes.
Ali McGraw told Ryan O'Neal, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Well, here's one dad's love story which did involve saying "I'm sorry."
When Dietrich Gruen first became a stepdad, he struggled to find common ground with Matt, his step-son. They found it in the strangest of all places—not in fishing or music or cars. Dietrich and Matt's common ground was their own admittedly broken relationship.
If a machine breaks down, a repairman looks at all the parts and pinpoints the problem. Let's see if that works with kids.
The delightful humorist Erma Bombeck, who passed away some time ago, once dedicated a newspaper column to her stepfather. Being a stepfather is one of those heroic roles that rarely gets the recognition it deserves. Erma Bombeck knew that first hand, and wanted to give a little back to her stepdad.
Will the behavior you model as a dad really impact your child's personality and life choices? If your answer is yes, Judith Harris would like to debate you. "You have been led to believe that you have more of an influence on your child's personality than you really do," she writes in her book, The Nurture Assumption. Harris argues that genetic influences in child development have as profound of an impact on child development as the environment. She believes parenting and fathering have been "oversold."