I Hate My Step-Grandchild

My son married a lovely woman, who had a son from a previous marriage. Sadly, from the first day I met him, my new step-grandson has been a rude grump.

By Susan Stiffelman

My son married a lovely woman, who had a son from a previous marriage. Sadly, from the first day I met him, my new step-grandson has been a rude grump. I know he's only 9, but he's just a nasty kid, nothing like my other grandchildren. Help!

When your son married his wife, he undoubtedly engaged in a great deal of soul-searching before signing up to be part of this child’s life. Ideally, he and the boy were able to forge some kind of connection with each other before the marriage. This doesn’t mean he had an instant love and affection for the child, but I assume that your son thought long and hard about becoming an intimate part of the young boy’s life before marrying his mother.

As a step-grandparent, the boy arrived in your life without your vote, and you’re trying to generate feelings of warmth for a child who is a virtual stranger. Because this boy is so unpleasant, it has become a real challenge.

Just to put a different spin on the issue, try thinking, “My new grandson and I haven’t clicked yet.” This child will likely be in your life for good, and it’s best to look for ways to make things work, rather than focus on the momentary feeling.

Think about it this way: The boy may be hurting and angry, feeling powerless over the circumstances of his life. It’s extremely painful for a child to go through divorce, be distanced from the other parent, and thrust into a new family. A youngster who’s unhappy can be contrary and rude. He may have little motivation to be nice to you, a complete stranger.

On top of that it’s also possible that your step-grandson is immature and easily frustrated, lacking in the social graces that come with growing up. You’ll be far better off if you can adjust your expectations to fit who this child is rather than who you think he should be.

We tend to get more of what we focus on, so my first suggestion is that you consider the things you like about this little boy. It may be hard to do, but if you look closely enough at anyone, you can find some positive qualities, even if it’s as simple as his smile or the way he frosts his cupcake.

Humans can’t help but soften to someone who likes them. Make a special point of noticing when he exhibits pleasing behaviors. “You're really good at video games, Billy,” or “I love your laugh. It makes me laugh, too.”

Take charge in building up the positives in your emotional bank account with him. Look for something the two of you have in common. Are you both fans of SpongeBob or The Amazing Race? Emphasize even the smallest shared interests. Don’t try to jump into feeling grandmotherly toward him; your goal is simply to develop the beginning of a friendship between the two of you.

If you can consider the events that have shaped this boy in his short life, focus on shared interests and the little things you like about him, and shift your behavior to send the message that you’d like to become his friend, I predict the two of you could end up with a real connection some day. It may take time, but if you’re open, it’s likely that this boy will bring something unique and special to your life.


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