Why Won’t My Stepson Listen to Me?

February 12th, 2013 posted by Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP

Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP

Dear Dr. Gwenn,

I have a 3 and half year old step son that I love with all my heart but I cant get him to listen to me and I am needing your help.. His mom backs me 100%. As for his dad he has never met him. He will not sit for me in time out. I have even sat with him in my lap to get him to do time out. Plus he has got to the point where he is now kicking me. Signed, Allen

Dear Allen:

First, the fact that you and your step son’s mom are on the same page is fantastic. That is one of the most effective ways to help teach your stepson that you are his father. Given how uninvolved his birth father is, and how young your step son is, this may be more about old fashioned discipline than about him not respecting you as a step father. I’d suggest you seek professional counseling and family therapy to help sort out what issues are at play and determine the best strategy to help you and your wife deal more effectively with your step son. In the meantime, don’t negotiate with him. Toddlers do best with firm but compassionate messages. No is no. And time out is time out. If he needs a time out, plop him in the time out spot and walk away. If he leave the spot, calmly put him back. This may go on for a while but over time he’ll get the message. It is when you cave that problems start. Best, Dr. Gwenn © 2005 – 2007 Pediatrics Now. All rights reserved. PEDIATRICS NOW™ is a trademark of Pediatrics Now

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Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP (36 Posts)

Pediatrician, Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Gwenn is an experienced columnist, educator, and practicing pediatrician. Dr. Gwenn strives to write as if she were talking to a parent. As a parent herself, she knows how important it is to obtain information but also understand how precious little time parents have to find that information on the internet. Pediatrics Now was developed to fill that gap and provide a bridge between the parenting and pediatrics worlds.


  • Amanda Brooke Perry

    I need help in the same area, except my step son does not live with us. He is 5 and I have been in his life since he was 2. It is so stressful. I can direct my children to do something and if they do not listen they have a consequence. But my step son will go to the point of saying “your not my mom, I don’t have to listen to you” or ” I hate you” & “I am never coming back here”. I try really hard to keep things up beat and fun when its our turn for visitation. But when getting treated like dirt it is extremely hard to handle. We no long use corp. punishment in our home, do to other issues that have been resolved. Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

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