DEAR ABBY: My 9-year-old stepson, "Bryan," is turning into a feminine little boy. He knows all about girly products and what is on sale at the mall. Bryan's mother treats him like a baby. All they do at their house is sit around and watch TV. She has no friends, and neither does Bryan. He does not get involved with anything; he is exactly like his mother.
When Bryan is at our house, we try to get him involved in activities, but the boy is lazy and doesn't want to participate. Then he tells his mother that his father yells at him. My husband does yell, but only to get Bryan off his butt to do something. The result is Bryan wants to spend very little time with us because of his mother's constant babying. At our house, he has chores and we make him help with things. At her house, she does everything for him.
How can we make Bryan less feminine and involve him with friends and activities? -- "WICKED" STEPMOM IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR STEPMOM: It is a parent's job to help a child be the best that he (or she) can be. That does not mean the father remaking the child in his own image, and that may be what the boy is resisting. Bryan is not particularly "masculine," and he's not interested in what you and your husband are trying to force him into. Your insistence on trying to make him fit your mold may be what is driving him away.
Instead of yelling at him to get him "off his butt," if you need his help with chores, say exactly that. ("Bryan, I need your help with something.") And since he isn't interested in the usual "boy things," perhaps it's time you and your husband expose the boy to art, music, dance, to see what does turn him on.
If none of the above does the trick, then some professional counseling for the three of you to establish a healthier level of communication is in order. You may be able to help Bryan be more social, but don't count on changing the core of who he is.