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Should Kids Call Stepparents “Mom” and "Dad”?

Should Kids Call Stepparents “Mom” and "Dad”?

Should Kids Call Stepparents “Mom” and "Dad”?

Figuring out how a stepparent fits into kids' lives is hard. Circle of Moms members wonder about everything from whether step-parents should come to school meetings to how involved in everyday decision-making they should be. More frequently, though, the discussion turns to whether or not kids should call stepparents “Mom” or “Dad.” If you, your kids, or your spouse are dealing with this question, here are four approaches to consider.

1. Give Kids a Say

My husband, Jon, is a stepparent to our two oldest children. From the moment he stepped into their lives seven years ago, they chose to call him by his first name. Making it their choice just seemed like the best way to handle it. Even as their half-brother toddles around our house yelling “Daddy” at the top of his lungs, the other two have remained resolute in their decision.

Letting her three children decide what they wanted to call her husband seemed logical to Circle of Moms member Laurie M, too.  She is one of many members who feel that children should make their own choice based on their comfort level instead of insisting that they use "Mom" and "Dad."


2. Relationships Matter

JoAnn M.’s opinion is that what her three stepsons call her doesn’t matter.  “The term they use to describe me is just that, a word,” she says. “The fact that they call me by my first name is unimportant, as long as we enjoy a good relationship.”

Sometimes it’s the other relationships in kids’ lives that cinch what they call their stepparents. My children still have their biological father as a part of their lives, so the term “Dad” was already taken.

For member Alicia Y. the word wasn’t connected to anyone else. She never met her biological father, so her stepfather has “always been 'Dad.'”  Many Circle of Moms members say that when the biological parent isn't in the picture, the decision to use "Mom" and "Dad" isn't as difficult as it is when there a multiple parents who need a name. 


3. Be Respectful

When multiple parents are involved, there are multiple opinions and points of view.  Mom Annie N. isn't just worried about what her kids call their stepmother, she’s troubled by what they call her. Her kids have started calling their stepmother “Mom” and Annie by her first name.

There may be debate about what to call stepparents, but Circle of Moms members were very clear about this one. “They should not call you by your first name, it is disrespectful,” says mother of three, Carla B.  

Respect is a recurrent theme when it comes to deciding on monikers, but members don’t always agree as to whom kids should be showing that respect.

Some feel that allowing a child to call a stepparent  “Mom” or “Dad” is disrespectful to their biological parent. Julie L. argues that “showing a child that we respect the other parent's feelings is an important lesson” even if that parent is unlikable.  

Others argue that stepparents who step up to fill the parenting void left by a biological parent have earned the respect bestowed by the terms “Mom” and “Dad.”  As JoAnn puts it, “the words ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ carry a unique and special meaning.”

4. Flexibility is the Name of the Game

Step family expert Ron Deal says all of these things kids' feelings, relationships, and respect play a role in what he calls “the Name Game.”  He explains that kids typically choose a name that is indicative of the emotional connection they have with a stepparent. That name may change as the children get older or as the relationship with their stepparent or biological parent changes.

Case in point: over the years, my middle son has changed what he calls my husband. When I was “Mommy,” he was “Jon-ny.” When I was “Mom-o,” he was “Jon-o.”  Now he simply lumps us together as “my parents.”  To me, that means we’ve won the Name Game.

Image Source: all of olive via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

ToniAnnWisnewski ToniAnnWisnewski 3 years
I am a stepmom to 2 boys and mom to 1 girl. My husband had sole custody of the boys when we met. It is stipulated in my husband's divorce that the boys are never to call anyone else mom or dad. When speaking to me, they call me by my first name but to others they refer to me as "my mom". They call me mom when speaking to my daughter ( she has the same dad) . I have a wonderful relationship with both boys and helped raise them as my own. When their biological mom passed away a few years ago- I was there for them. I know how much they loved her and I know that they love and respect me. They know who's who and what "titles" mean. If I were you, David, I would get some legal advice to stipulate that you are dad and no one else!!!! Your children can love and respect him for what he does when they are with him but they should also love and respect you for who you are----DAD!!!! Good luck!
David15134996 David15134996 3 years
Wow alright im in that type of situation the mother of my chidren tell them when I'm around that I'm not there father .I didn't say anything thinking that what she says don't matter I'm always no matter what me and the moms go though I'm still daddy /farther in their eyes.but when my own blood derespected by calling me david my first name that broke my heart . Even onefathers day they wrote on face book how they love their father . My sis said did u see what your dauthers put up on face book about you ? I said no then read it oh oh was I so happy! Until I found out they wasn't talking about me they was talking about the guy my wife cheated on me with that's now living. With her. Wow at a young age they loved me now I'm nobody but david to them. Not even understanding the fact their my blood I brought them I this world.!!! But thats fine I stop stressing and just let god handle that :-) .untill next time pease and remember one thing gods your father first.
marcieandreasik marcieandreasik 4 years
in my opinion i wouldnt do that because i would have a problem for my son to be calling somebody else mommy/daddy my son only have 1 mother which is ME and 1 father and thats that so therefor i wouldnt do that because i dont want that done to me!
AngelHudson13403 AngelHudson13403 5 years
I am a mom of 2 daughter's and a step mom to 1. So that makes my husband a father of 1 daughter and a step dad to 2 girls. I was a single mom as my girls father chose not to be part of their lives. He paid as little child support as he could to stay out of jail. I met my husband and we got married. My girls were 8 and 11 at the time. His daughter was 5. My husband's ex wife is remarried also so my husbands daughter calls both of them daddy. She call me by my first name. I am not her mother and don't want to take the place of her mother so her calling me by my first name is perfect for us. My girls call my husband by his first name, although when they are with their friends and not paying attention they will call him dad. My daughter's father passed away in April 2012 and none of his family bothered to notify us, so we didn't find out until we got a letter from the Social Security office and the first line read...Sorry for your loss about a month later. My husband was there for them as we helped or tried to help them grieve not knowing anything of how he passed, where he was buried or if he was cremated. The only thing we have found out is the exact day he passed away. Nothing else. So anyway now both of my girls call him either dad or by his first name. Depends on what they want of course lol
RoseEvans1856 RoseEvans1856 5 years
My daughter calls both her father and my husband "daddy" and will just add their first name after it to differentiate the two when talking. Her father just got married and my daughter asked me if it would bother her if she started calling her stepmom "mom"? I told her to call her whatever she is comfortable with calling her. Her step mom is pregnant so calling her mom or mommy is inevitible, anyway. My daughter pretty much started calling my husband daddy after our son was born. We never told her to, she just started, mainly because we kept referencing him as daddy to the baby. But then, I really like my daughter's stepmom and feel lucky that my daughter has another woman in her life who wants to be a parent to her and loves her just as much as I do!
JenniferMercer9372 JenniferMercer9372 5 years
I believe that te child should be able to call the step parent what ever they choose. My mom married my step dad when I was 23. My biological father is a big part of my life and always has been. I call my bio father-daddy & my step-dad-dad. I am very lucky & blessed to have two dads. My children's father died in a car accident in 2009, I remarried in december 2011 and in the last couple months my children decided that they wanted to start calling him dad. My husband always said it was up to them, and when I told him that they wanted to start calling him dad he was happy because he says they are his babies anyway no matter what they call him. Unfortunately my childrens paternal family have made them feel like they can't call him dad because "that would break their heart". Because of their attitude my kids felt torn because they wanted to call my husband dad but didn't want to upset their paternal family. I explained to them how I call both my dads daddy & dad and their daddy would always bee their daddy and calling their stepdad dad wouldn't ever change that fact, it only meant that he loves them like that are his and that they look up to him and love him like a parent.
TracyAmesDennison TracyAmesDennison 5 years
I am on both sides of this issue. My husband's daughter calls me Tracy and occasionally Mom. No big deal. She asked me if it bothers her and I said no. Her mom is a piece of work though. They have moved 7 times in the last year and she doesn't let the kids play outside because she doesn't want to go out and watch them.I am glad that we got 50/50 custody this past summer so at least some of her life is happy. She loves being here. On the other side of this, my kids call my husband dad though he is their step-dad. Their bio dad was abusive to us and when I left, tried everything in the book to hurt us.There was no contact with him for a year. We sat down and talked to them and said that they could chose and either way was fine.
JomishaJackson JomishaJackson 5 years
My parents divorced when I was about 10 years old. My dad eventually got married and my mom seeing other people. However, we never called either mom or dad. It was always their first name. I guess it was so much of hurt from the divorce. As we got older and began to put the situation behind us we began to recognize our extended family for what they were: our step family. Us kids have grown close enough now that we don't bother with the step. Our parents never forced us into what to call their significant other. Matter of fact they were introduced to is by their name. Now that I am a step mother I wonder how my stepmom felt? My husband has a four year old daughter and she calls me by name. The idea of us being in her life has been a constant battle until about a year ago when I made her mom realized that the situation isn't about you or I, it's about your child having a relationship with her father. It kind of bothers me that my husband allows her to call me by my first name because our son gets confused and sometimes call me by my first name. But then I remind him that I am not her mom because she has a mom. Whenever I mentioned to someone that my son is my child, she'll ask "I'm not your child?" I'll explain to her that she's my baby just as my son because I love her just the same. I wish for her to call me mom but the fact that she doesn't doesn't change my love and care for her.
ChandraNavarre ChandraNavarre 5 years
My step son was a year old when my husband and I were dating. So, as he did EVERY woman when he was able to talk, he called me Momma. This did not go over well with his biological mother for obvious reasons. However, this was not malicious intent on mine or my husbands part, just a baby who couldn't/wouldn't say my name. Over time, he came to call me BB because my hubby calls me "Baby" all time. This name became so very special to me because it was picked especially for me. But it took awhile since he was so young. He is now 4 and we have him half and half with his mother so I am very involved and always will be. But this created a barrier between us because she has always felt that I was trying to replace her when I have always tried to include her. I am hoping as time passes, she will mature and my little one won't be put in the middle anymore.
malihayes malihayes 5 years
Depends on the situation. For someone who was adopted and never knew their biological parents, my mom and dad were just that, my mom and dad. Since my son's bio father deserted him after he was about 1.5 yrs and I filed for full custody, I found the right person who has fulfilled that position in every way. Sometimes he calls him dad but mostly by his first name. Since he has never really had a father in his life, it seems natural that he will consider him as such and call him as he sees fit which is fine with me!
JodieStreet94468 JodieStreet94468 5 years
It depends solely on the age and situation of the child. My son, now nine, was just under 2 when I met my husband and he started calling him daddy before we even got together and I have never corrected him because his birth father has never been in the picture. We told him and around 3 or 4 that he has two daddies. My eldest 'daughter', now 17 called both her birth father, and step-father dad because she got confused over names and I started upsetting her birth father. She was about six when he mother moved in with the step-father.
christenawarner christenawarner 5 years
my husband and I got together and he had 2 kids. At first they called me by my name and then when me and hubby had our son and he started calling me mom my stepkids didn't understand why he got to call me mom but they couldn't so I told them they could call me whatever they wanted and in 2009 we got custody and ever sence then they have called me mom and now their bio mom isn't in the picture they both think I gave birth to them :)
GlennaNewman GlennaNewman 5 years
When I married my husband 34 years ago, he had 4 children. The oldest had a different mother than the other three. We never made them call me mom, they always called me Glenna. I knew they had a mom and never wanted to try and take her place in their lives. They still call me by my first name most of the time, but occasionally they do call me mom and have introduced me to other people as mom. It makes no difference to me because the love for each other is there regardless of the name they use for me. The kids are grown and we have 13 grandchildren now and all but one either calls me grandma or grandma Glenna. The one just calls me Glenna and thats ok too. Over the years we have become one wierd extended family because we have Thanksgiving and Christmas at my husband's ex-wife's house which includes another ex-husband of hers and her current boyfriend. We all get along great because there is a love for those kids and grandkids that is far greater than any hard feelings we might have had for each other. We respect each other and really do care about each other.
RebeccaProck RebeccaProck 5 years
I think this goes for what to call step-grandparents as well. My parents divorced my senior year in high school and, after having a few different boyfriends, moved in with one of them about six years later. He's not a bad guy but I have never really liked the relationship they have. When I had my daughter I told my mom from the beginning my child would not call him grandpa. I felt this was to be reserved for her real grandpas. She continues to go against my wishes, however, and always refer to him as grandpa to my daughter. I have spoken to my mom about this and she stopped for a while but then continues it again. My daughter, now four, understands my views as she will only call him grandpa at their house and calls him by his name when neither of them are around. She has an excellent relationship with my husband's father and loves playing with him. The only relationship she has with my mom's boyfriend is him sitting on the chair watching TV when she goes to see grandma.
CarolynMoore98108 CarolynMoore98108 5 years
My stepson was 12 when his Dad and I married. He called me Carol. He has a Mom who loves him very much. So we were Dad and Carol. My grandson has a biological father who chooses not to be in his life. Now his Mom has met and will marry a super guy named Joe. I think bio father is just that. Joe is should be Daddy Joe or Dad, because any man can be a father but it's that special person who loves and cares so deeply who deserves the title Daddy.
MichelleMorrison93966 MichelleMorrison93966 5 years
my daughter is 2 and has always been good with making up names for the people in her life herself. she chose what she was gonna call each of her grandparents and the same with the step parent figures in her life. me and her father fell apart around the time she was only 4 months old and both have gotten into other relationships. my daughter and i are living with my boyfriend who's been in her life for over a year now. when we had first started dating she made up a name for him and its stuck. he loves the little nick name it gives them something special and she has done the same now for her fathers girlfriend. we all agreed that calling the significant others by "mom" or "dad" would be a little confusing and slightly disrespectful to me and her real dad but i see no problem with it when she gets older if she feels that its right. i want to leave it up to her though.
buddercup008 buddercup008 5 years
to Lindsay how dare you talk that way bout your child she is your flesh in blood if you don't want to be called mom anymore then that is to damn bad maybe you should of said no to sex and kept your legs clothed poor child to have someone like you as a mom children are a God sent yes they will be gross at times but they are children they are not always like that so stop being a baby and grow up
buddercup008 buddercup008 5 years
Hell no Spepparents don't need to be called mom or dad my babies better not ever call their idiot stepparent mom so HELL NO stepparents should not ever be called mom or dad unless they have a child together with lil wife or husband.
SusanColborne SusanColborne 5 years
My daughter us adamant that her Stepdad is her DAD he has had more to do with her & been in her life longer than her bio one, he ws physically abusive to me & stalked us after I threw him out he ws with her for three years from birth stalked us till last year even after I married! He ws too quick to get caught. My daughter feels tht my husband is more of a father to her & will not have any1 call him her stepdad he is her DAD. Children should make up their own minds in regard to what they want to call the step-parent I believe it helps them deal with the change in the family & I know a child tht was forced to call their stepdad & act a cerain way, tht child is now very angry & hates his stepfather
JessicaKozel JessicaKozel 5 years
It should definitely be up to the children. My oldest son's father and I split up when he turned 1, and 6 mths later I found my now-fiance. My son's dad still sees him every second weekend, and he calls him dad. But my fiance has been raising my son since he was 18 months, he's around him 90% of the time, so he has also earned the name dad. I don't feel its wrong, because he is more of a father to my son than his real dad is, he puts more work and effort in raising him. My son's real dad tried to tell me it was wrong, and that if my son lived with him instead he would never let our son call his dad's girlfriend 'mom'. And while it would bug me a bit, I asked him why as in my opinion, if you're doing the work to raise the child, then you deserve the title. Just because you're not the biological parent, you're still a step-DAD or step-MOM, so the title is still there ,and that its not up to us to decide what our kids will call us. If he feels comfortable calling my fiance 'dad', or his biological dad's girlfriend 'mom', then so be it. My son knows that my fiance is not his 'real' dad, and he knows who his bio dad is, to him he's the luckiest kid cause he has two dads :)
Starfish48482 Starfish48482 5 years
I think it should be up to the children. Two of my stepchildren (5 & 6) call me "Mom" and "Sarah", depending on whatever happens to come out of their mouths. The eldest is 16, and isn't comfortable with the mom title, and I respect that entirely. For what it's worth, their mother abandoned the family after my partner and her divorced, and only contacts them to berate them. My 7 year old calls my partner both by his name, and sometimes "Daddy". Her biological father is in her life, but he didn't come around till she was four, and usually ends up cancelling plans with her last minute anyway, and I honestly think she's kind of given up on him. She calls him by his first name when talking about him, but "Daddy" to his face.
EviDowell EviDowell 5 years
it depends, it they have a biological mom and dad in their live's who loves them. then no, their step parents should not be callled mom or dad. They can however choose an endearing nickname for them, just not mom or dad. if their biological parents are not in the picture and their stepparent IS the real parent, then yes. they are the true parent in that case
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