How do I deal with a secretly vindictive stepdaughter? Her father thinks Im just too hard on her.

Rhea - posted on 11/26/2010 ( 15 moms have responded )

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Im at a complete loss with my 12 turning 16 yr old stepdaughter. Her mother has always disliked me and I fear its rubbing off on the kids. She is taking her clothing to her mothers home every time she leaves (she alternates weekly with her mother). The biggest issue at hand though is how she tries to control the situation to her advantage. She comes on Friday with a chip on her shoulder for me and it just doesnt go away. Im polite to her and when her father isnt around and I talk to her, her replies are flippant and uncaring. I have talked to her and her father to no avail. I find it very unfair to my 13 yr old son who has to deal with her behavior towards him as well. Daddy can do no wrong and when he puts his foot down when he finally witnesses her behavior, its my fault. She only has a few chores when shes here to which she does when she feels like and not when shes been requested to do them. I have animosities growing for my stepkids and it scares the snot out of me. I dont want this, and have tried doing things with her and her brother (who hasnt talked to us in almost a year, doesnt like our rules) with no luck either. It just turns into what can I get this visit? Help! Xmas is coming and I dont want to buy her clothes if she keeps taking them, but Im not giving them money either, her brother has gotten into drugs and smoking. Counselling has told us we are doing ok.??

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Barbara - posted on 11/28/2010

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First off- the clothes are hers- second- how cool that she likes the clothes you got her so much she wants them available. Frankly, I would just ignore her as much as possible. She knows she is getting to you, so she feels powerful. I would kill her with kindness- "I really like that color on you- it goes well with your eyes." That kind of thing. STOP giving them things when they visit other than the essentials like food and shelter. If she runs out of clothes while at your house- offer to wash what has been worn already: "Oh, you don't have any more clean clothes? I'll throw your stuff in the washer for you. No problem."

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Diana - posted on 12/30/2010

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I agree with many of the above suggestions and insights. If you can step back a bit, and take a look at the big picture, you may achieve a better understanding.

Please delete this posting if you feel it is too harsh. I have a very different reaction to your situation than many people have. I offer my post kindly.

Knee jerk response to clothes, so what? They are her clothes, and she is maintaining control over something she can maintain control over. Good for her, it is a survival response. Your issue over her clothes is your problem. Do not put it on her.

Remember, your ( you and your refers to both you and to your husband, through out) step kids and your kids didn't have any say in any divorce or remarriage. They are victims, not you. If you start with that perspective, I believe you will attain a greater understanding of the situation, leading to more relevant and effective behaviors and attitudes.
What isn't fair, is the kids’ circumstance. YOU made choices, AND got what you wanted. Help them move on from the past by being positive and understanding and gracious and supportive, but most importantly, respectful, responsible, reasonable, etc; both of you, as a team.
As for rules, I suggest you make it democratic. First, it gives them a modicum of control in a situation in which they have lost all control (new step-parent/home). If people have a say in the system in which they live, they obviously have a greater incentive to abide by it. Also, if it is truly democratic, there likely will be things which you won’t particularly like or want to tolerate, but as long as it is level headed and safe and legal, it is a start.
You CANNOT call it democratic if you plan on using veto power. If you wish to exercise veto power, just skip the whole thing, you are missing the whole point. As an option, you could perhaps insert an automatic review or a two month trial, or whatever. If there are aspects which very much bother you, you might be surprised in two months, at how you have changed your own perspective…
Start very small, so you can manage to assure it is a positive and successful experience. Add favorite cookies to the meeting!
Or if a meeting is not quite manageable or realistic, have a posting place in the kitchen to post ideas, votes, etc. Perhaps make it a family competition, or game. Perhaps, also, it would be a way to glean issues which you hadn’t thought of. Even better, it might be a great way for everyone to emote. Your job would be to not take things personally. There would have to be a rule that any posting cannot be used against the posting person, ie, it must be considered a SAFE place. Nasty posts would be required to be reworded in a positive way.
If you all, the entire household, can develop a plan, together, the entire household has a greater chance, IN THE LONG RUN, of working things out. The short run will be very bumpy. The important thing is to return some control to the kids, which you have taken away by the remarriage. Returning some control demonstrates to them that you are according them both respect and responsibility, but in a controlled manner. If you accord respect to them, slowly, it will be accorded to you.
As for chores, remember that they live in two households. Do NOT require them to essentially have double duty, ie, chores which have to be done twice, once in one household, and a second time in a second household. That is NOT fair. Keep the chores relevant to THEM and their stay with you, for example helping with dishes which they have used or need to use, or bringing in the toilet paper from the shopping; but NOT the weekly lawn mowing, or cleaning the house, or garage.
Life isn't fair, but until you reliably demonstrate how you are a GOOD addition to their biological parent's life, from THEIR perspective, you haven’t done your job, fulfilled your responsibility to them. At the moment, they see nothing good, and you have shown them disrespect by coming between their parents, regardless of the details. EARN their trust and their respect, which, of course, is YOUR job, not theirs. And remember, it is YOU who are the adult, so, role model adult behavior, perspective, attitude, and self discipline. Every time you fail to act like an adult, admit to it, to them, and apologize, to them, and strive, for real, to improve. You could even seek their support and/or suggestions, for your own failings (we are NOT talking about anything to do with your relationship with your spouse, EVER. That is between you and your spouse. )

As always, when you are starting/trying something new, it helps if first, you let people know you are trying something new, so they understand that this is a new behavior and a new effort, and won’t be confused, and they may even help you; and second, start small.

The movie, Cheaper by the Dozen with Steve Martin, holds some entertaining insights. In the end, what pulled their blended family together was an outside threat, behind which everyone was able to get. While one doesn’t wish an outside threat, should a threat, however small, present itself, you could use it to focus ….

Remember, you two made choices, for your own best interests, not the kids’. The kids had no say in it. Certainly you can extend respect and courtesy to them now, by inviting them into this new situation, and respecting them for having reasonable negative reactions.
This is not about winning, nor about controlling. If you make it such, someone has to lose. Is that what you want?
It is you two, as a team, who can develop a family with them, if you extend respect and courtesy and control to them. As a team, you can achieve a great deal. If you seek a quick fix, it will also be transitory. Unless an issue is illegal or life threatening, I’d go for the long view. As all good parents know, pick your battles, or you will lose the war, which is to achieve a family.

Rhea - posted on 12/22/2010

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To Sue, thank you for sharing your story, wow, my hat goes off to you. How you got through that, dont know if I could! Everything you explained though, is pretty much my life with the kids. It is tough, but my husband finally the other day talked to his daughter and she fessed up she didnt like me and had nothing to say to me. He promptly put her in his vehicle to drive her back to her mothers and she didnt want to go, becasue she knew she wouldnt be back for quite some time as he had instructed her that he would be talking to her mother to not allow her to come back for two visits (equalling a month in total). She knew then she would be missing out on Christmas, New years and all the fun we as a family have during the holidays. See, she doesnt get any real family time at her mothers, they are just possesions there, as long as she is there, she is spending time with them. As for the clothes, we got her lots of house clothes, (pjs, housecoat etc) and stuff that if she uses it, well it just doesnt matter where she takes it anymore. If she runs out of pants, then its either up to her to bring some from her moms to wear as she doesnt like anything I buy her anyways, or shell have to wear what shes got here until it doesnt fit anymore. She has been better this visit, she and I came to an agreement to be civil with each other for her fathers sake. Her dad has finally come to the realization that his children have adopted way too much of their mothers bad habits and I am the one dealing with them as another female figure in their lives they can take itout on. He says hes had enough and is on my side, we'll see how long this time lasts. I thank everyone for your input, it truly has helped me know Im not alone and my husband has seen a couple of your posts and I think that was the turning point for him to show him I need more backing than he originally knew. Merry Christmas to everyone!

Sue - posted on 12/21/2010

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My thoughts are with you. I was in your situation where I had two step daughters. At first things were ok, but looking back now I think I was hard on them because I wanted to show them who was boss. At first their father agreed that if we had a problem we would show them that we were a united front. This worked out for awhile but slowly he didn't disapline them at all, stating that they were just kids and should enjoy themselves. The other problem I had was the girls mother, who they clearly adorded. Problem was that if she said jump to my husband he would say how hi. If she verbally attacked me, would take her side. I had problem with clothes too. They would take them and often I never saw them again. If I bought shoes for instance, the mother would buy them shoes as well and the girls wore those instead. I tried not buying them anything to see if the mother would step up and get them what they needed but she claimed to have no money so I bought them and then once again she bought stuff they liked better. They, esp the youngest one would steal my personal papers, jewellery ( I think she was about 10 at the time) her father wouldnt ask her about it until I nagged him. Of course they lied and he would believe them and so he accused me of making it all up. I had known those girls for about 5 years before all this happened and I truely loved them and they loved me. But as time the mother and even my husband started to tell lies about me the kids believed them. I went away for 2 weeks to visit my family and when I got back the youngest one told me that she wished I hadnt come back. She had always been the one who had her father wrapped around her little finger. This comment hurt me badly and I told their father. His reaction was that they had more fun when I wasn't arround. The marriage ended when he had an affair with a 19 year old and started to hit me.
Trouble was they did things when their father wasn't around and even if he did see the behavior he would turn a blind eye or tell them to say sorry which was very artificial from all of them. I know that telling you my story hasn't prob been much help except to let you know there are other people going through the same stuff. I did learn that blood is thicker than water so stepmothers come off second best.If you don't have your partners complete support, then you stand alone and of course if there is an ex involved then you feel that know one on your side. Well good luck and in answer to your xmas present problem, try suggesting that instead of a present arrange a day out, just the two of you. I did this a few times and it make a diff, also tell them that what happens between you two stays that way and that they can use any words to espress themselves. Back this up with showing her that she can trust you by not telling anyone anything and make sure she hears " sorry that is between her and me"

Diana - posted on 12/08/2010

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Unfortunately it all lies in the hands of the dad. I had a similar situation in a second marriage, but the father (my former husband) put his son's behavior first every time and did not respect the damage it was doing to my children. It caused resentment in my children when he let his son get away with complete disrespect, his daughter (who lived with mom) was fine, she was distant but still polite and never caused trouble. My own two children tried very hard to make it work, but you can't have two sets of rules for what is to be a combined family. He knew it was causing trouble but wanted to make sure his son knew that he came first and that he could be as disrespectful as he wanted, his daddy was there for him. It's a tough road, combining families, I wish you well but the only thing I can tell you is to stand up for your son, while he needs to adhere to family rules he also needs to know that you don't expect him to be treated badly at the hands of the stepsister just to please his stepdad. How does the stepdad treat your son, and does he understand how this is affecting your son? Does he realize how hard it is on him?

Rhea - posted on 12/08/2010

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Hey Lisa, Ive read it and I totally get it. Do ou feel like wrapping your own head around a tree yet? (Let alone anyone elses, lol) JK, Im not sure what to tell you as Im going through pretty much the same. Tell her stepdad to lay down the law?? Take away her right to money? Is she old enough to have a job? If she doesnt like to go live with her father? I dont know huni, those are all ones Ive tried to get her father to use, and she just toodles off to her mothers. So Ive just gotten to a point where Ive stopped buying her anything and she has to ask me for it before I'll go get it. She used to take it for granted, and now shes beginning to understand Im not going to be used. Lemme know if this helps :o)

Bobbi - posted on 12/08/2010

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Don't buy her new clothes every week - she should be allowed to pack as she wishes......they are her clothes after all. My stepdaughter's mom used to make her keep the nice stuff we bought at her house and change into old outgrown stuff before she came over......maybe it's the mom's doing, not hers!

Rhea - posted on 12/08/2010

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Thank you Patricia, I have talked to her father about how he needs to be the one to tell her these things, and when hes upset with her, he does, its just he is hardly ever upset with her, and he doesnt think the things she does to me is all that important or necessary to be dealt with. Im being to harsh is what Im told. Im ready to throw my hands up in the air and quit. I appreciate everyones comments, it has helped to show me Im truly not the only one dealing with this, I get more support from people I dont know than from my husband. *SIGH*

Patricia - posted on 12/08/2010

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For Christmas, put money into a college fund for her. As far as the other stuff. You need to have her father deal with it and make sure he doesn't say things like "Rhea doesn't like it when you..." Enough making you the bad guy. He needs to make it clear that HE will not tollerate the behavior.

Lisa - posted on 12/07/2010

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Hi Rhea, I can relate with your stress. First of all I am having a lot of DRAMA with my own daughter. She has a stepdad. So it it a little different. But she is my thorn in my side. She is always buying new clothes and shoes. Won't be respectfull, won't respect rules, is mean to her 10 yr old brother, and goes to church all days when we try to have house cleaning days. I am at my wits end!!! Maybe we can come up with some new ideas.

Donna - posted on 12/02/2010

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Never compete with your husbands children for his attention.If your husband feels this he will surely shut down.You have to be the grown up with her just as you are with your own.I think we expect too much from our teens sometimes forgetting that they are still learning by our example more then our demands.She is need of that she is watching just how strong is your unconditional love she will learn to respect your kindness and so will your husband .

Kimberly - posted on 12/01/2010

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I think that it has come to the point that you need an outside source to intervene. It is not you, it takes everyone involved to make this work, and if they do not want to take responsibility for their actions then you need help. A counselor would help with these problems. This is not all on you. Everyone has to have someone neutral to talk to and then help bring you all together. Hope this helps.

Rhea - posted on 11/29/2010

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I appreiciate the feedback thank you to both of you, it helps somewhat, I fear I may not have been clear tho, she takes her clothes to her moms and they dont come back. Oh and she washes her own laundry so no problem there, and they have stopped receiving things when she comes a while ago. The movie passes are good, will take advantage of that, and counselling doesnt start until she turns 13 in May :( My son has a great relationship with his dad, and he understands more than even I think, we talked over the weekend. Ignoring my stepdaughter has been what I have taken up lately, not sure it has done any good other than to be a competition for her fathers attention. (To which he knows about and doesnt help fix)

Ann - posted on 11/28/2010

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first off; get a new counselor!! secondly.. I kind of like what Barbara has suggested. You cannot let this come between you and your spouse, though...then she's won. As far as your son... just let him know that he needs to follow your rules and he'll be good. hopefully he gets along with his stepdad. Suggestion for Christmas: get movie gift certificates. Then it's not something that lasts...she'll use them and that will be that.

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