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Bonnie, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience:  and pediatric nurse practitioner with 30 years of experience counseling parents.
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Hi. My 9 year old son has been very and argumentative

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Hi. My 9 year old son has been very nasty and argumentative with me, and only me, for months. His dad and I are divorced and have both remarried. My son doesn't get along with his step-father, my husband of 5 years. My son told me today that he had been acting that way toward me because he is angry at me for staying with my husband even though he hasn't been very good to me in the past, and that I would have to choose between them. He said, "It's him, or me". If you don't divorce him, I'm going to live with my dad (and his wife and son). I don't know what to do! I want a happy relationship with my son, and don't want to get a divorce.
Hello and thank you for consulting JA,
I am so sorry that you find yourself in this dilemma. I have heard this scenario before but usually in an older child. Your son sounds quite precocioius (or overempowered). It is time to straigthen out the power hierarchy here.

Nine year old children do not have choices like he is proposing to make. The adults (parents and family court judges) make the decisions for them. So first thing is to get him straight on that (and make sure father is not playing into this way of thinking by offering an alternative).

But, I know it is his wellbeing you are concerned about, so the relationship issue here needs to be worked on. Always remember that there is no step-father who he would be happy with. It is just a very difficult relationship that takes lots of work. My advice: provide son with a therapist to talk abut his anger and other feelings. Once he has a good relationship with therapist (preferably a man), step-father should be included in the sessions...towards the goal of improving their relationship. In the meantime, step-father should not be involved in son's discipline. You and he should be on the same page abut the rules and the consequences BUT you should be the enforcer.

Now if the problem is that step-father does not have an open mind about therapy or discipline, then, you have a serious problem and it may be your relationship that needs attention first. Even so, son should start therapy as soon as possible so that you are not dealing with this alone. The therapist will be a great ally to you too.

Again, I am sorry and can sense that this is very painful for you. Congrats for reaching out for help here and I hope you can take the next step soon,

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