There are parenting/relationship questions in my inbox almost every day.  Here is a recent one. “My 13-year-old stepson refuses to cut his hair.  He doesn’t wash it regularly either.  We’ve tried paying him to get it cut but that doesn’t help and neither does his mother.  What next?”

  • There is more than one battle going on here. It appears to be a battle with the young man and with his biological mother.  The length of a 13-year-old boy’s hair is not a battle worth fighting as a stepmom.
  • Paying him to get a haircut isn’t a good plan either. This teenager has already been told to get a haircut and has refused. It is obvious that the young man is controlling the situation. Money might have initially worked as an incentive but now it would be bribery, which is never a good idea.
  • Washing his hair regularly is a different issue. It is not important that the 13-year-old go with a hairstyle or length his stepmom approves of, but cleanliness is important.
  • The biological parent must take the lead. That is almost always the case regardless of the issue. The step-mom will need to back away in the situation. Dad will have to explain that washing is non-negotiable and that this young man will be required to wash it every few days or suffer the consequences.
  • Lighten up on the hairstyle hopes and let Dad take the lead. Step up to the plate, Dad, and let your son know what’s expected!

How have you handled difficult situations with step-children?

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