How to deal with my 13yr old Step daughter, who has been used to getting her own way most of her life!?

Pauline - posted on 06/17/2011 ( 15 moms have responded )

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Me and my Partner got custody of his 13yr old in April, and omg what a handfull, very rude, does not listen, doing very bad at school with other pupils, i mean my 2 kids are only 3 & 5 and already they are starting to missbehave as they are just copying Deanna behaviour and they were such good little boys. i have tried disipline but nothing seems to work with her , has anyone got any good advice?

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Angela - posted on 06/28/2011

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I had many issues with my sd, who is now 19. She lived with us full time and rarely saw her mother. She was later diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder. I also had 2 more children who were young.
Basically, your husband has address this issue and your husband will feel "in the middle," but it is what it is. Don't try to hard with her or she may just manipulate. Stay firm with your rules and demand that even if she does not like you, she must respect you and you will not tolerate less than that. She is going through a lot, but that does not mean she can act this way to you or in front of the children.
I didn't know how to get my sd to communicate so I made box. It was a communication box and the rules were that we she could write or ask anything she wanted and I would respond only with the box. I would never verbally bring up the conversation. I would not tell my husband and she would not get in trouble. We would slide the box under each others bed. You can find out some interesting inner feelings and it develops trust.

Patricia - posted on 06/22/2011

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Pauline - how sweet of you! I, too, worry that Pauline's husband may not be on the same page. On that note, I'd like to tell ALL women to be careful when dealing w/their husbands' exes, as well as their ex-husbands, especially when there are custody issues. You're absolutely right about adults manipulating! . For example, even though I communicate well w/my ex, I'm very careful about what I confide when we talk about subjects unrelated to our child. He is not my friend, per se, yet he is a part of my life and we sometimes agree, disagree, or agree to disagree. Also, I do not communicate w/his new wife as if we are 'friends' b/c we simply are not going to see eye to eye when it comes to a lot of things (particularly how I feel about my ex as a husband). I keep the focus on the child and that's about it. I try not to bash my ex when our child is w/in earshot, yet she's also starting to come to her own conclusions about who he is (my ex left the family for wifey #3, and is currently on #4). It is SO hard to keep my mouth shut/opinions to myself, but it doesn't help to re-hash the past or make assumptions about the future. Divorce/remarriage is so difficult on everyone involved, but I firmly believe that it shouldn't be so hard on the kids if at all possible. Fortunately, we as women are eager to seek advice and share experiences, whereas men typically do not. I therefore applaud ALL of us for not only seeking to help Pauline, but also for sharing and caring so openly - only good can come from it:-)

Fiona - posted on 06/22/2011

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In response to Patricia's post. I agree with most of it however please be aware that as the 13 yr old is a "little adult" without the maturity to see the consequences of her actions/verbal outbursts she will try and manipulate(sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly) both her BM and you. This is where Dad has to come in and play his part. He is the only link between the two families.

We went through this is with our SS and I have to say that the "communicating" didn't work as he was telling his BM one thing and getting "advice" and then telling us something different and getting "more advice". As Dad spent a lot of time at work, most of these conversations were with me and this is where I think we went wrong. I'm not having a go at Patrica here, what she says makes logical sense, it just sometimes doesn't work in reality as there are a lot of "hyped" emotions going on in the 13 yr olds head. In the perfect world all the parents (bio and step) would be able to sit down and agree on a parenting plan that incorporates all the children in the family, however, this sounds unlikely in your situation.

Ultimately, your SD needs to want to fit in, which at the moment doesn't seem like it's occuring.

Patricia is right in saying that communication is the key however, the rules of the home also need to be followed and your two little ones also need their mum and dad's time and attention as much as your SD does.

Keep smiling and trying. They don't say that the teen years cause upheaval, even in the best possible environment, without good reason.

Fiona - posted on 06/19/2011

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I totally agree with both ladies.

Your SD is at a horrible age however, the excessive poor behaviour is to gain attention because she is hurting. Most likely she doesn't want to cause you pain but you are the easiest target and she knows that you love her like your own so there is little chance that she will be "kicked to the kirb".

Ultimately, you are not responsible for your SD .. it may feel like you are but in the end she wants her parents (yep that means her BM and BD and only her BM and BD) to parent her.

My suggestion, and it may sound hard and uncaring but is said by someone who has gone through this situation, is for you parent your 2 little ones and leave the parenting of your SD to her Dad. In the end, and it will take some time, your SD will see that you and Dad make the same decisions.

God Bless.

[deleted account]

She's at a horrible age anyway... and if there was just a change of custody... the additional internal emotional turmoil she's going through must be strong.

I would suggest family counseling for all of you to learn how to work together and deal w/ this.... and especially to give her an additional outlet to vent out her feelings.

What does she enjoy? Maybe the two of you can find some common ground to do fun things and hang out together. She does need consistency and discipline, but I think it's important to build a foundation of trust and friendliness as well. Does she get special one on one time w/ her father too?

Good luck w/ it all!

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Kristin - posted on 06/25/2011

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I think it is an excellent opportunity for you and your partner to regain control of your home. you should introduce fixed rules and act when they are broken. a thirteen year old is not too old to get her butt spanked when needed

Brandy - posted on 06/23/2011

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Therapy. Family and individual.The poor kid has probably had a lot going on that she may be old enough to understand but not mature enough to process. I wish you luck!

Fiona - posted on 06/22/2011

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Patricia, I agree fully. You are so right in saying that the mum (BM or SM) is the glue that holds the family together and that as a woman they are in the perfect position to SHOW (not shouting at you but emphasising) a teenage girl how to grow into a woman. A man just can't do it ... he doesn't have the right body parts for one ... LOL.
I guess I was trying to say that Pauline needs the support of her partner first and foremost and her SD needs to see that Dad and stepmum are on the same page. If this is not happening, then stepmum needs to step back. I'm not saying she should put up with poor behaviour but redirect the discipline where ever possible back to Dad.
I love your plan of action for the Dad and he should read it, if for nothing else to understand what his partner needs as told by another stepmum.
It also sounds like you communicate with your ex well, and that your daughter knows there is no way to manipulate the situation. Unfortunately this is not the case in most blended families. In my case, we communicated with the BM but in the end those communications were used against me (i was the easiest target as I was not "related" to my SS - he was told that I was a good babysitter). Teens are not the only ones that manipulate. I'm not saying all BM's do this, just what happened in my case.
For Pauline, if everyone is not on the same page, then she can't "step it up" because she will get hit from all sides - BM and SD and Dad if he is like most men and is a problem solver leaving all the communication to the "women". He will be trying to fix the situation quickly without having the conversations that need to be had.
I guess having gone through this situation, I just wanted to caution Pauline about taking on the primary role without the full support of her partner.
I totally agree that both Dad and SM need to let their teen know and FEEL that she is part of the family.
I guess as you said - compassion emanates from communication, and it sounds like this teen needs some discipline through understanding.
I apologise if it seemed like I was having a go at the teen or the BM, sometimes its so hard to write everything down without writing a novel ... LOL
In the end, your plan of action sounds like the best way to approach the situation as it looks at everyone's needs.
Pauline, I hope that things work out for you and your family.
God Bless.

Patricia - posted on 06/22/2011

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I agree, Fiona, that the father is a huge component. I guess I'm assuming that either the father is or is not as involved in the conflict, b/c the stepmother expressed her frustration only, particularly re: her feelings and the behavior of her children.

Fathers are typically problem-solvers rather than deep communicators; they would rather find a solution than discuss the issues. (I think this is biological!) It is, sadly, often the mothers and stepmothers who are the glue that hold the family together, and who not only address the problems (as here) but also deal w/the consequences, particularly in this case where younger kids are involved who are reacting negatively to the situation.

If the dad is able and willing to get involved, he, too, must establish the same type of relationship w/his biological daughter that I suggested for stepmom. However, that relationship will not be the same for many reasons, the most important being that he was never a 13 yr. old girl. His role s/therefore be to facilitate communication between his daughter and new wife by 1. standing up for his wife while 2. putting his daughter's needs at the forefront. How? I suggest that he tell his daughter, "Listen, I love your stepmother as my wife, and for all intents and purposes she is the mother of our household. That being said, she deserves the same respect you have for your mom, b/c you are now a part of this family."


Bottom line - he's got to let his daughter know and FEEL that she is a part of his new family, just as stepmom does.

13 yr. olds are extremely manipulative, but ONLY if the adults are not communicating. When everyone is on the same page AND the teen knows this, there are few, if any, opportunities to manipulate anyone. As such, I only hope that dad communicates well w/his ex-wife b/c, if not, it really is up to stepmom to 'step it up' w/her relationship w/the teen. "Stepmother" means "one step away from being one's mother" - this is key for dad to convey. The WORST thing he could do is side w/daughter sometimes, then wife other times - instead, he needs to set the ground rules for punishments and handle discipline, in general, then back stepmom up when she has to make on-the-spot disciplinary decisions when he is not present, such as picking battles, discussing poor behavior, etc. However, if the relationship between stepmom and the teen is strong, the glue holding the family together will be even stronger! I think that is so key! (Btw - I was a stepmom, as well, b/c my ex-husband had been previously married - what a gem, right? I know...)

In any event, I cannot stand many things that my ex-husband does, but we communicate. When my daughter messes up at school - I tighten communication w/the teachers. Same thing here - if everyone is on the same page, there will be less room for manipulation. Like I said - compassion emanates from communication, and it sounds like this teen needs some discipline through understanding. I apologize if it seemed as if I discounted the dad - was just focusing on stepmom's expressed frustration:-)

Patricia - posted on 06/22/2011

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Recognize that she is trying to fit into a family dynamic w/a long history together, which most likely makes her feel like a circle trying to fit into a square hole. She is obviously acting out, & a show of unconditional love is needed so that she feels 'welcome' - even when she misbehaves. "I love you when you are good or bad, and when things are great or not. But, right now I am loving you while I am upset w/you, and I'd much rather not be upset so that we can get along with each other better. You are a very important part of this family, and we all love you. A lot of this is up to you, but I am here for you no matter what you do - good or bad - and, believe it or not, I've been 13 and I know how hard it can be." She needs to have a relationship w/you that involves her having an ear for how she's feeling. Parenting can & must involve being friends (despite what others say) b/c communication is key. My 13 yr old has SO many things on her mind, and she can talk to me about all of it. She, in fact, is currently having problems w/her new stepmother at her father's this summer, but I've been able to talk to her about the way her stepmother may feel, which is helping. Nevertheless, she feels like it's hard to fit in there, and I've told her that it's not about fitting it - it's about being understood and accepted. Please allow yourself and your family to therefore embrace your new stepdaughter - she is a little adult who needs to feel like she matters to you. Take her to do things, just w/you, that SHE wants to do, and do so often. Soon, if she can communicate w/you, then she will feel that you are on her side in her life, rather than on the sidelines watching/worrying/complaining. Teens never like feeling as if they don't belong or that they are under a microscope, and they need to feel heard - that their feelings matter. You are grown now, and this is her one shot at being a teen - please be a part of making it the best it can be for her, b/c it sounds like she will not enjoy her teen years otherwise. Anger diminishes through understanding, and compassion emanates from communication. If she feels like an important part of the family, maybe she will act out less. Good luck!

Crystal - posted on 06/22/2011

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what does she enjoy the most? Is it hanging out w friends, the cell phone, maybe computer time..... Find out what she enjoys best in life and discuss w her father what he feels is the best thing to take away from her and tell her when she can start respecting the rules and doing better then she will get he privlages back.

Sonia - posted on 06/21/2011

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well i have a daughter who nearly 16 and she was the same!!! she was diognosed with adhd 3 years ago and since i found out what she had i had a better understanding how her behaviour were and used diff strategies on how to handle her! they say reward on good points and try seeing a bit of good and when u do say ah that was nice!! well done!! kids rebell and when parents always see the bad we sort of miss the good in them!! a little time to praice and it can be hard when u got little ones! and may be try and give her a role by letting her help ur 2 young like baking cakes or reading them a bed time story!! or may be letting her dad have there time may be go flicks or mac dees!! the kid could feel a little pushed out

Lisa - posted on 06/21/2011

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I agree with the other posts.....I am the mother of three boys ages 21, 14, and 7 and have two step children who visit during summers ages 13 and 14....13 year olds are nasty, snarling, emotional creatures. But, they grow up! I have come to find that one on one talks are the most effective. At this age when disciplinary actions are taken out in front of others, the teen reacts negatively. Take her out for ice cream (coffee, in my case..lol) and tell her how you feel and ask if there is anything you can do that will help her adjust. Don't tolerate disrespect or behavior that hurts her or others, but try and ignore the small stuff. The bigger "rise" she gets out of you, the harder she will try and upset you. Most of all, keep at her, keep communicating, let her know you love her, and it DOES it get better...good luck!

Jodi - posted on 06/19/2011

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What happened that caused the change in the custody arrangement? While 13 year olds are notorious for their selfish and thoughtless behaviour (I have one), there could really be an emotional issue with respect to the custodial changes.

Vicki - posted on 06/17/2011

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Your partner needs to step in! Plain and simple. Ive been there and it was not good. I ended my relationship because it got so out of hand. Her father needs to set the boundaries and follow through. She has to know this will not be tolerated or it will get worse before it gets better. I should add I am speaking just from experience and I am not suggestion your situation will in any way be the same. In my situation it was me who had to discipline because her father would support her when she treated me poorly. It was such a difficult time in my life. I wish that on no one. I was not married to her father but we were together for 7 years. Is there any kind of public health system that can help give you and her father the tools to deal with her? That may help. Good luck...If you partner supports you and stands his ground with her I suspect you can deal with this together. Communication is key.

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