Brytin and I went through some growing pains earlier this school year and I picked up a bunch of stepparenting books that I thought would solve the household's problems.
Of course, it was just a phase and all is well now, but I still learned a few things from the books.
From "7 steps to bonding with your stepchild" by Suzen J. Ziegahn, I read this little gem that I want to share with you.
Pages 25 and 26:
"One of the best ways to build rapport with your stepchild is to balance being a friend with being an additional parent. As you may be thinking, there is an incredibly fine line between the two roles. If you act only as a parent, you may create a wall between you and your stepchild; he will see you only as an authority figure and resist any efforts on your part to socialize with him. But how do you be a parent and a friend? Well, interestingly, this is easier to accomplish in the stepparent role.
"As a stepparent, you will participate in raising your stepchildren, and the stepchildren need to recognize this.But you also have an opportunity to be a companion, mentor, and friend to your stepchild outside of the parenting role. How? Even though you are an additional parent to them, you are still different from his biological parents. And when children need to confide in someone, often they will not confide in their parents, for any number of reasons. They see their parents as just that - their parents, and fail to see individual character qualities that other people see. For example, your own father or mother may be a wonderful listener, but would you have realized that when you were growing up? Probably not.
"Your stepchildren see you as an adult, outside of the parental definition of adults, which to children doesn't exist I(parents are not adult, they are parents). If you approach your stepchildren correctly, you can be both the disciplinarian/parent and someone they respect enough to confide in and share important details of their lives with. So, put on your best diplomatic face, and be stepchild-friendly. This will increase the chance of a successful relationship. Plus there is always the possibility that your stepchild likes you, admires you, and would like to be friends with you. Getting your stepchild to like you as a person, a separate individual from his biological parent, will allow your stepchild to see your strengths and weaknesses. It will encourage your stepchild to make conscious choices about relationships with other adults he chooses to spend time with, and chooses as a mentor for his own life."
For many reasons, Brytin and I have a unique non-biological relationship, but it still fits that I get to be his friend :)