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?

  • 4
    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
    Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 19:17
  • 1
    Wow. Look at your laundry list of reasons why you think you're so much better than his father. You think that attitude doesn't show? Or kids don't pick up on that? And look how sensitive you are. He mentions that his father is slightly taller. Objectively true, so why do you care? You seem like you have some insecurities and feel the need to prove how great you are. Sorry if that seems a bit harsh, but worry about you and less about how you and his dad compare. It's clear his dad gets criticized when he's not around to defend himself, even if it's by his mom or you try to minimize it. Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 16:33

7 Answers 7


I think that you are doing a great job by keeping this kind of posture: not telling that his dad is a loser, 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 comparisons, 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 lose your temper - hurt you - make 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.

Basically, 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...


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.

  • 8
    +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
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 23:48
  • 1
    Sometimes an upvote just isn't enough to say "this is exactly the thing I was thinking". I know this is almost two years old, but that is a fantastic answer and I just wanted to say something.
    – msouth
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 13:59

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.

  • 1
    +1 My first thought was sounds like he's looking for positive things about his biological dad that he might get.
    – deworde
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 10:07

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.


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.


I'm a foster parent, our kids are in foster care for good reasons, and yet ... they're torn and very loyal to their parents. They do a lot of lashing out at us. It takes comic forms including:

  • You're not pretty like our mom, you don't wear enough makeup. ("Yes, your mom is very pretty." and she does wear rather a lot of makeup...)
  • You have to use cookbooks because you don't know how to cook. Our mom already knows how to cook.
  • You can't cook good food like our mom and dad.
  • You are fat/your feet are too big/your boobs are too big. Our mom is skinny. ("Every body is different.")

It happens that I've been digging into cookbooks in an effort to find something they'll actually enjoy. I happen to genuinely believe that I look good. So it happens to be easy to let this all slide off. It all adds up to "my dad is taller than you," more or less.

My armchair psychoanalysis take on all of this is that they worry that they're being disloyal to their mom. They feel a deep, deep loyalty to her and they need us to know that we're not better than their parents. My self-serving addendum to that is because we are better.

Just keep in mind that he's in a really tough spot. He loves his dad, and knows he's supposed to be loyal to his dad. Liking you is disloyal to his dad so he has to lash out and make sure you know his dad is taller than you.


Maybe leave him with his biological dad for a week under some pretext of an emergency. He will be quickly disillusioned of him.

At six, kids are much more judgmental and see things in black and white. You always acting cool and trying to emphasize the "grey" makes matters worse. Instead of the "grey", he sees it as "white" and you as "dark". Perhaps!

Perhaps he sees you as a loser for not having the courage to call a spade a spade. Some kids are that judgmental.

So take him out of the fantasy of a distant caring Dad ... else he might end up seeing him as we see God. Maybe that is how he has started perceiving him.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .