We are a blended family, between us we have 4 kids. Our 9-year-old boy was 4 when his dad left and I believe that this has presented him with a couple of challenges.

Firstly, he appears to be stuck developmentally. He seems to have an unnatural attachment with the "mums" in his life (says his mum and step mum are "hot" and wants to marry them) and has difficulty in seeing me as an authority figure, he won't look at me when we tell him off for example. Or when I ask him to help, he cannot help but look at mum for validation, as if he needs her to approve it.

I've read up and can see that having a father figure when he was growing up is important for him to understand how to interact with a parenting team. Not having one around appears to have stalled him and let him to an almost unnatural connection with mum.

Secondly, his behavior has no balance, for example, he will often do and say things that are very child like (can't see that stealing is wrong or hitting when he doesn't get his way), but also when challenged on this he appears almost shameful, there's no balance.

What can we do at this stage to help him be a happy and contented 9-year-old?

  • 3
    I think Freud's old categorizations are now considered akin to reading tea leaves. I suggest engaging a professional rather than strangers on the internet.
    – pojo-guy
    Mar 19, 2019 at 8:29
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    How does he act in situations where neither mum is around and it's just the two of you? Have you talked about this with the mums? Can you contrive situations where the two of you are together - ie get him to come help you shopping, take him to see a sports event, take him to softplay or swimming or something?
    – Smock
    Mar 22, 2019 at 13:52
  • Thanks Smock - it's hit and miss, we spend an hour together every night on the sofa reading books together, and that's wonderful bonding time. He can be very giving and thoughtful a lot of the time, but will rapidly change moods, it's like a switch just goes off and you can see the mood change. Once he's started on that journey it's very difficult (for either of us) to talk him down.
    – MikeH
    Mar 25, 2019 at 9:53
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    Not looking at an adult when said adult tells you off doesn't strike me a sign that you don't regard the adult as an authority figure - rather, it means that you find it hard to make eye-contact while being told off, maybe because you're ashamed or made to feel inadequate. Hitting and stealing small stuff and then being ashamed when caught also doesn't sound so far out of the normal spectrum to me. Mar 26, 2019 at 0:48
  • Yeah I think you are probably right. The comment I made about the hitting and stealing was referring to conversation we have where he states he doesn't see whats wrong with "finders keepers" as a concept. I'd like to help him get to the point where he can see the result of his actions, and can then decide not to do something in advance. Will definitely work on ensuring he feels loved regardless though, goo point thank you.
    – MikeH
    Mar 26, 2019 at 10:42

3 Answers 3


You said:

He seems to have an unnatural attachment with the "mums" in his life

What happened surrounding your 9 year-old boy's biological mum? Maybe this is part of the problem. Maybe it isn't.

The thing is that family break-ups and, although not always, the emotional effects of break-ups can cause all sorts of problems with a child's emotional development. Your 9 year-old boy may have maladjusted to the past events, and maybe he hasn't. You haven't indicated how long you have been his step-father. Questioning and maybe challenging your authority can be a natural part of adjusting to you entering the family unit.

These problems may need more professional help than what can be provided here as @pojo-guy indicated. There may be more aspects which need assessing than are indicated here.

Therefore, I would suggest that you take your 9 year-old boy to see a therapist who can thoroughly assess his issues and help him to re-adjust to what has happened.

I wish you and your step-son the best

  • Thanks Chris. Nothing specifically happened to maternal mum, Dad just met someone else and moved on. She was naturally devastated for a while. I've been stepdad for a couple of years now.
    – MikeH
    Mar 19, 2019 at 13:12

His father leaving obviously had a massive effect on this boy. You might try a short (2 or 3 day road trip) with just him and you to a fun place that he would really enjoy. That way, when you ask him to do something, he cannot seek validation from his mum, and it MAY result in a tiny bit of trust between you. Right now, he does not trust that you or any other male in his life will leave him.

  • Thanks Gracie, that's not a bad idea at all, I will see what we can arrange! Thank you.
    – MikeH
    Mar 28, 2019 at 11:24

The problems you state are: 1. He doesn’t see you as an authority figure 2. Doesn’t take responsibility when he does something wrong (hitting or stealing) 3. Mom marriage themes

The first seems natural given you’re his step father and the second and third are pretty normal for a child.

I don’t understand how being close with his mother is a problem, except that you perhaps see it as interfering with your authority. Or perhaps there are other behaviors you didn’t list that are more illuminating.

It sounds like you married this kid’s mom and started acting like you do with your kids, who trust and love you immensely from years growing up with you. He doesn’t trust you like that yet, so he’s deferring to the parent he does trust, his mother. If you’re mostly telling him off, barking orders, and making him feel shameful for lying instead of helping him process through that so he can learn not to do it...not a lot of trust building going on and he will continue to resist you.

Seems like he trusts his mom, which is great! So important for kids to have an adult they trust in their life. Would be nice to have two, so maybe you can work on building trust and love with him purposefully. Until then, stop being threatened that he wants his mom’s okay for things. Maybe have her be the disciplinarian for awhile, until you’ve earned enough trust to discipline effectively. Use honey, not vinegar.

  • There's a lot of judgment in this answer, it looks like you have jumped to conclusions. I've not said that he doesn't see me as an authority figure, just that he has difficulty doing it consistently. The attachment with his mum isn't just a being close, as I've stated he says she is hot and tries to stroke her face. You have just assumed that I have married his mum and started acting in a particular way, you have no idea how much effort we have all put in a a blended family, to state that I bark orders and that there isn't a lot of trust building going on, sounds like transference to me.
    – MikeH
    Mar 25, 2019 at 9:40
  • Perhaps you didn’t communicate the extent of the problem completely or fully. You’ve also perhaps mistyped, because your question says “has difficulty in seeing me as an authority figure”, nothing about ‘consistently.’ You don’t discuss all that great work you’ve supposedly done to build trust, or anything about your relationship with the boy except him disobeying you. You asked strangers on the internet for advice, if you’ve got it all figured out why waste your time here?
    – user35316
    Mar 25, 2019 at 13:20
  • Wow, you do not like being challenged do you. I haven't detailed everything I have done in the question, no, that would take a lot of time and is largely incidental. At no point have I said I have it all figured out, you have again jumped to a conclusion and that's disappointing. I appreciate you are new here but I've never had anyone make wild assumptions like this and be so judgmental without offering as a suggestion. I was looking for help trying to balance his moods and to support him, you have got personal, told me I'm threatened and that I need to be seen as an authority figure.
    – MikeH
    Mar 26, 2019 at 10:17

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