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My step-son keeps comparing me to his biological father, and I don't know why.


I've been in a relationship with this woman for almost 3 years. She has been married previously and has a 6 year old son. I have a great relationship with her son. He loves me so much and trusts me a lot; there hasn't been any conflict between him and me.

I feel, however, his biological father is irresponsible:

  • He left his Mom when she got pregnant and had to stay home while he had to work and provide.
  • He is about 29 years old now and he is still in school
  • He doesn't have a car and he lost his driving license due to DUI several times.
  • He lives in his gf's apartment and works in a restaurant.

In contrast, I'm from a wealthy educated family, I am educated and have a great job with great pay, and I feel I don't have a lot in common with my step son's biological father.

My step son sees me as his role model; he always tells people that he wants to be like me when he grows up, and he once told me that his dad is smart but I'm smarter than his dad.

But there is something that he often brings up and I don't understand why: His dad is 6'4" and I'm 6'2" and he often tells me that his dad is a little taller than me. I always act cool about it and acknowledge that, but he keeps telling me that every couple of weeks, anyway. Why is he doing that? Sometimes he says that his dad has more hair than me too. I'm cool with the facts but when it happens frequently, it kind of gets on my nerves.

I once talked to him about his comments, and he said he understands but sometimes he brings it up again. Any idea why he does that? As well as the comparisons, he often acts protective of his dad when his dad makes a mistake and his Mom calls it out.

N.B: I never talk down about his dad in front of him. Ever. I always shield him from the frequent fights his mom and dad have. I always say that their fights doesn't make them bad people, I say to him that 'it's just your dad and your mom can't get along and that's why they aren't together'. I've never told him that his dad is a loser, I actually tell him that he is lucky to have two dads so he can learn different things from both.


Why is my step son saying the things he is, and comparing me to his biological father?

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I've seen something like it myself. I believe we're hardwired to love our parents. My guess is that it is guilt for loving you that triggers the reaction. He needs to get the father back up on piedestal. From your description it seems he's hard pressed finding attributes that would make the father as good as you or better. Size is something children see, education, manners, not so much. –  johnny Jun 7 '13 at 19:17
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5 Answers 5

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I think that you are doing a great job by keeping this kind of posture: not telling that his dad is a looser, that he is lucky to have 2 dads, etc.

He is in a delicate situation: he has a biological dad, he knows him, he likes/loves him, and he is understanding why you replaced him. To know why you are in his place, he will make some comparisions, trying to figure out in what aspects you both are different. It doesn't means that he is doing that to hurt you. And, after seeing that you don't like that, he'll probably know that those things can be used something that makes you loose your temper - hurt you - mek you feel nervous.

The best way to deal with it: explain things you have in common, things that you are different, and that everybody has personal characteristics.

Basicaly, listen to yourself when you talk those good things, that you are doing good. You say something to him but you don't believe in what you say...

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He's 6. Don't let it get to you. My 4 yr old used to try to push my wife (his mother) out of the house because he liked me more. Now he's 10 and is embarrassed by that story... people don't think thing through very carefully when they're 6.

I admire you for taking the high road... you sound like a good guy.

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Comparison is a good thing! which means he start to realize you are as important as his biological father.

It's hard for both of you and your son, but I think only one thing matters:

let him know he don't need to choose between you and biological father, that 's all! and let him know, he is so felicitous to have two dads.

It's not hard to feel that you are good father, don't need to change, just make you real, open your heart to your son! best wish.

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They covered this situation in some depth at our foster parenting and adoption classes. Unfortunately, they don't have step-parenting classes. The key points are:

  • Love is not a zero-sum thing. He can love his biological father significantly without reducing one iota the love he has for you.
  • His biological father is a part of him, a large part of his identity. That's why he's protective. He sees criticisms of his father as criticisms of a part of himself. He also sees the positive traits of his father as positive traits of a part of himself, which is why he likes to point them out.

There's nothing really you can or should do to stop the comparisons, but knowing the underlying reasons can make it less irritating to you.

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+1 My first thought was sounds like he's looking for positive things about his biological dad that he might get. –  deworde Jun 6 '13 at 10:07
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He may very well feel a little protective of his dad. Six-year-olds are more perceptive than most people give them credit for. He knows his biological dad probably isn't the greatest, and he knows that you're awesome comparatively. He's probably looking for ways that his dad "beats" you to put it in 6-year-old terms. His dad is taller than you and has more hair than you--two areas where his dad (who he obviously still loves) is better than you. It's tough to realize on some level that someone you love so much has some serious personality flaws, and it probably makes him feel somewhat better that, in at least a couple of areas, his dad is a little better than you to him. Kinda sad that those two areas are physical traits.

I think you're doing the right thing by acknowledging it. They are two legitimate differences between the two of you. You might say, "I know, your dad is taller than me. Maybe you'll be as tall as he is when you grow up." Giving him the impression that you think it's cool, too, might cause him to mention it less frequently--a lot of times kids will mention things like that over and over again because they're looking for validation or confirmation from you, and it might take several repetitions before they feel comfortable enough about it to drop it. It's also an opportunity to point out diversity--not just obvious diversity like skin color and eye color, but also things like height.

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+1 for the need for repetition/confirmation. He loves his dad even though his dad is not as great, and he needs to feel like it's okay. It's important to let his dad "win" at some things to help relieve the tension he must feel in loving you both. –  MJ6 Jun 4 '13 at 23:48
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