Struggling to be a step parent.. please help...

Linda - posted on 05/05/2013 ( 20 moms have responded )

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I am in a lesbian relationship with my partner of two years.. she has an 11 year old daughter that I have taken on as my own. Her father has been in and out of jail due too drugs but has just recently come good (hopefully) and now we have the SD one week on/one week off. This isn't the first time that my SD has seen her mum in a gay relationship either as she hasn't been with the father for 10 years, so I can't see her attitude coming down to that. Pretty much I accepted this little girl as my own and she was great at the start. Now she is turning into a monster. She will tell me I'm not her mum, which is fine I was expecting that at some point, but she will also turn around to her mum and give her an ultimatum that she needs to choose her or me. She is constantly mean and rude. And just the other day told her mum that she wished she would die. I'm struggling so much to deal with her. On the days she is good and has no attitude the whole house gets along great, buy in this case 6 days of a week we are fighting. Its about little things aswell, cleaning her bedroom, putting the dishes in the dish washer, getting me her dirty school uniform so I can wash it, bed time is a constant argument.. Its just doing my head in, my partner tries to discipline her but its not good enough, and its true they do really play the angel part when there parents are around and make me look like a frankly cow. I can't get her to clean her room its a pigsty.. we have tried to sit her down talk to her but she back with the attitude the next day. So last week she stuck in her room for one hour which eventuated into four hours because of her attitude si my partner and I had to go to the shops to get things for dinner, we were told by her if we left she would trash the house. Didn't end up happening thank god but still. I'm not a nagged generally but you have to be when someone just doesn't listen, and I'm sorry this is my house too I am not a maid and I do not choose to live in filth I have respect for my house and I certainly am not going g to be spoken to like a piece of scrap from an 11 year old.. what to do.. help!!!!!

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Sheryll - posted on 05/08/2013

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I had to re-think what I had written earlier.
This child has two parents already even through her mother is your partner she already has two parents. Her life was turned upside down and her security is threatened whether you believe it or not when a parent brings another person in the home assuming the parent role. Her another loves you but she has no choice or say in the matter.
To bond with a child takes time. It takes time for them to develop respect and love.
It is up to her parents to discipline. Discipline comes from the word disciple and it means to teach, not to punish, humiliate or cause pain. Putting a 11 yr. old in a room for many hours is about control.
Let her parents discipline. This is their role. Give her time to bond. This doesn't happen overnight. I have seen to many step parents jump in and say I am the parent and they will do as I want them or else. This creates fiction and anger and stress for everyone. Her Mother might not discipline as you feel she should but you need to step out and let her handle it. Whether you agree or not...she is not your child. I am not trying to be hurtful but truthful. She has had a father who is troubled and how many other people in her life? It is confusing to her. So if you really plan on being there for the long haul quit assuming the parent role. Being a step parent doesn't happen over night. And nor are you her parent. She already has two parents. Being a step parent is harder and it is rewarding when they accept you as a parent. But it is up to the child not you. And it wil happen if you give it time and effort.
Here is what I learned. My step son loved me until the day I married his father then he hated me. My daughter was also parented by by a step father who died. Both children reacted the same way with step parents. I made promises to my step son as I saw my late husband do for my daughter.
1. I never disciplined my step son. He has a mother and father who love him, they also know how to discipline him and talk to him.
(He would shoot daggers at me with his eyes, never speak, brought other kids over that glared at me, and would say how much he hated me loud enough for me to hear, hide in his room ect.)
2. I always smiled and asked how he was and only if he was going to go some place, or did something harmful would I say anything. I never forced him to talk to me or yelled at him. (My lip had bite marks for at least a 1 1/2 yr. my feelings were hurt, times when I wanted to scream, and felt like a outsider even through he was living in my house. Hey it wasn't easy the first 1 1/2 I didn't think my marriage would make it.)
3. I did not talk about how much he irrated me to his father. I did not go behind his back make and try to undermine their relationship. It is easy to do and I did catch myself attempting it more than once. ( I found a very smart woman to talk to instead. She helped guide me through it. Even through I raised children this child wasn't mine. We weren't bonded. What I found was a very smart friend who I talked to, she helped guide me and held my hand when I was hurt or furious, or frustrated. She also had tons of common sense. I respected her.)
4. I absolutely did not talk about the other parent in a negative light! He lived with us and even through I heard other family members talk about his mother in a negative manner he did not need or want to hear it from me. (. What problems his mother has are hers. I know she loves him, adores him. She did a beautiful job of loving him. Her problems are her problems. He knows this, understands this and he didn't need to be caught in a war with me doing the bashing.
5. Time is the winner. He loves me, calls me Mom. He made the honor role this year in college! He is loving, thoughtful and kind. And I am proud of him!
I sent him a letter as a early teen telling him what I felt my role was as his step parent and lived up to it. He told me a few months ago how much he appreciated it and loved me for it. I was also the one that helped him see his mother as a loving person. He told me he appreciated that more than I would ever know,

I am not a soft person in general. But I do know sometimes its not about me. This is what you need to know. It isn't about winning. It is about becoming a parent. It's harder than giving birth to become a step parent. It takes a lot of time and patience. It is worth it.

Kristi - posted on 05/10/2013

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I've been a stepmom twice. Both times, I made it clear going in, we are a team. I will and I did/still do love, respect, raise and protect these children as if they were my own and that includes discipline. This is how I roll...of course, we'd work out the kinks together but you are in my house and I am the mom in this house. As Danielle said, two sets of rules don't fly too well and frankly, it's absurd.

It's also absurd to have to "Wait until your Mother/Father gets home!" Didn't that go out in like the 60's or 70's? An 11 year old kid calls me a name or throws a fit and I'm (a 42 year old woman) supposed to say, "I'm telling!" Then what? Stick out my tongue and run into my bedroom and call my BFF or post to Facebook? Um...NOT.

Unfortunately, Linda, if your partner won't back you up, you are screwed and that little girl knows she's got you against the ropes. You could try what Christal said, maybe that would open your partner's eyes a little bit.

I have an almost 14 year old daughter. I gave up the battle on the clean room awhile ago. She is not allowed to have food/drinks in there and she does have to do an overhaul like once a month. She has to pick up after herself in the common areas of the house though and when she was having a "hard time" doing so, I took her iPod until she could consistently show me she could/would pick up after herself. All in all, she lost her iPod for about a month. I've only had to give her a few reminders since then.

One of my stepdaughters (my daughter's half sisters) sounds a lot like your stepdaughter. She was a little younger but exhibited many of the same behaviors. Her mother and I sought help from a child psychologist. (We now share an ex-husband!) She told us to make a list of rules and post them right in her bedroom. For example, laundry was a big one, so on the list it said LAUNDRY DAY IS SATURDAY...if you don't put your clothes in the hamper, they won't get washed and you will have what you have to wear until next Saturday.

If she didn't throw her clothes down, let her wear dirty clothes. She advised, of course, we keep her teachers in the loop. We were giving her choices and consequences. You can do the same with your stepdaughter. If she doesn't clean her room by Tuesday, she doesn't get to go to the movies (whatever) over the weekend or she is not allowed on the computer for 3 days, etc. That way the ball is in her court. She is making the decision. You can offer positive incentives for good choices, too, if you want. Although, I wouldn't recommend material things. Definitely lots of praise and maybe an extra 1/2 hour at bedtime or something small, like one song for her iPod.

Anytime she disrespects you, automatic loss of privilege...phone, tv and/or computer time, weekend fun. Room restriction doesn't work the greatest at this age, in my experience. Consistency and follow through is a must!

Good luck and hang in there!

edited for spelling

Danielle Elizabeth - posted on 05/08/2013

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You are right to demand respect in your own house, but it has to be coming from a place of understanding and love. I would not recomendig letting her get away with murder bc then you will have an even bigger problem on your hands. You and your partner need to show her your a team and you both need to be on the same page. I never understood how people will say step parents should treat their step kids as their own but tell them to leave disciplining up to their biological parents. I have a 6 yr old stepdaughter and I'm a stay at home mom so when she's with us and her dads working then iam the parent in the household. If I treated her differently then my own child with regards to discipline I would have a terrible time while I was responsible for her and it wouldn't be fair to her sister to have one set of rules for my step daughter and another for my biological daughter. She's probably struggling as most kids do when their patents are not together , so try to not take it personally . Just be firm and loving at the same time and it's crucial for her to see you and her mom are united and she can not come between you . The ONLY way step parenting works is if the biological parent teaches the child to respect their step parent and you two must co parent just as if the child was yours biologically. I spend the majority of time with my step kid when she's here so her dad respects my decisions and knows I have her best interests at heart, I couldn't imagine feeling like I had no control in my own house and frankly I would never put up with my partner letting a child be so disrespectful especially since you are actively trying to be a parent to her child

Christal - posted on 05/08/2013

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Just top telling her what to do. I know this will be very hard but you have to be more stubborn than she is. If she does not want to get ready for school then FINE do not bring her. Even leave her home if you have to go. If she leaves a mess FINE but do not clean up after her. If she insults you walk away. Let her throw a tantrum and make a mess and then LEAVE IT THERE so that her mother can come home and see the real picture and understand that you are no longer participating in this nonsense. Let her know you are tired and you will not discipline or fight with her daughter any longer because that is HER job. Let her handle it as she sees fit. You don't need the stress and you can stay out of it. Once she listens to her mother and rules are established then you can help out.

Heather - posted on 05/13/2013

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Her mother needs to put her foot down and let that child know she will not tolerate this disrespect from her. When I started dating my SO, he had two children, then ages 11 and 13. Right away he told them that they needed to respect me as they would any other adult. When someone sassed me and said, "You're not my mother," he would chime in and say, "No, she's not. But I am your father and you will listen to her." If I tried to ground one, she'd say, "You can't ground me!!" Her father would say, "Oh yes she can. And trust me, you don't want me to ground you too."

To have their father back me up has instilled confidence in me as a parent. I also have four children of my own, so it was impractical to leave all the disciplining of his children to him and all the disciplining of my children to me. They all got into trouble together :)

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Sheryll - posted on 06/19/2013

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It sounds as if you need counseling for the family.
Because instead of using anyone of the tons of suggestions you just keep saying what you can't do instead of what you can. It closes the door to everything and everyone.
It is truly easy to point fingers at the child and her Mother but what are you doing to improve it for her, her mother and yourself? Focus on yourself, behavior and attitude and see if that doesn't make a difference.

Kristi - posted on 05/13/2013

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Linda--

Another thing comes to mind after reading these newer comments. You said she is basically Cinderella over at her dad's. I still stand by first comment and suggestions but I do have a different perspective that I missed originally.

I think her self esteem is very low. I think she is very confused and insecure. She's 11, mom and dad have never been a couple (really) in her life time. Mom has had more than one lesbian relationship since dad left. Multiple partners in and out of a child's life is hard enough. A gay relationship would be more difficult because it's harder to explain sexuality to 1st grader. I am so not judging! I am the writing staff for Jerry Springer, he gets most of his material from my life! J/K (but suffice it to say, I live in a very fragile glass house so I am not throwing stones) Then, she's got drugged out dad, in and out of prison. No stability there. This is the first 9 years of her life.

Kids tend to blame themselves when things go wrong with their parents no matter how far the reach. They also rarely give up hope their parents will get back together, again, no matter how ridiculous or unlikely the possibility...even no matter how much they like/love their stepparent. I know these things from experience, straight from the horses' mouths, if you will.

My guess is, she has daddy home and she thinks if she does absolutely everything just perfect he will never want to leave her again. So far, that's working for her. Now with you, I'm not sure if she testing you to see if you really love her no matter what or if she really wants you out to clear the path for her imaginary reconciliation of her parents and also testing her mother's loyalty.

Regardless, the dust has been settling for 2 years, seems like a long time. But, it's not really, especially when you're only 11 and the first 9 years of your life have been pretty unstable. Sometimes, when you're used to living in a certain environment, even if it is negative or crazy or busy and then it suddenly changes and you don't know how to function in that new environment so you find ways to "create" your old one.

Aimee suggested family counseling and I agree with her. I disagree that you and your partner don't need it. She is not supporting you when it comes to the way her daughter treats you nor with allowing you to discipline her. IMO, that is a huge source of contention. I also believe family counseling would benefit the three of you. It takes time and effort and patience. You have to be open minded and dedicated. I also believe it would be helpful to bring dad into it so you can get a consistent set of rules and expectations at both houses so she can't play two ends against the middle. I mean really, what do you have to lose?

Danielle Elizabeth - posted on 05/12/2013

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It would but hard for her with the family dynamic changing , but that doesn't mean she shouldnt be held accountable for her actions. People go through stuff in life that isn't fair or that they have no control over but it doesn't mean that they should get a " free pass" for their behavior . No child should have that much disrespect for an adult regardless if it's their mother, step mother , teacher, or stranger. She doesn't have to love you but she does have to respect you. Being consistent with her and always having the same consequences is important . If she throws a fit about going to school then she's loses a privilege. A child that is combative or disrespectful can cause a relationship to deteriorate even if the child is biologically both of the parents that are in the marriage if the parents do not support each other and stand united when it comes to the kids. Have you asked her why she's doing this? I know that sounds obvious , but maybe she feels like she has no control and no one is listening so she acts out in order to be heard

Linda - posted on 05/12/2013

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By recently I mean he has been back in her life for going on two years. She has seen a councellor and there is no need for my partner and I to see one. But that hasn't done any good. She does everything at his house, cleans her room, dishes vaccums and that's more than what we ask her to do.

Aimee - posted on 05/12/2013

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Maybe its time to stop focusing on the little things with her ie cleaning her room, and and not doing this or that. You said that her dad is in and out of jail and recently things changed again for her. Sounds to me like she is acting out and there are bigger things at play here. I cant imagine what that little girl is going through with everything changing all the time. Its so much easier to focus on the little things and hope the bigger things settle themselves but that doesnt happen it sounds to me like the whole family should seek some counselling.

Danielle Elizabeth - posted on 05/11/2013

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I agree with Jenny when she says kids need to learn to respect adults in general. I honestly think its detrimental to a child for the step parent to decide not to discipline . Kids thrive on rules and if they are in an environment part of the time where the adult is not enforcing good behavior how will that help the child in the long run? It is EASIER for step parents to leave discipline up to the biological parents so they are never seen as "the bad guy", but when you take on a partner with kids you are taking on their kids as well, and we all know sometimes our kids must see us as " the bag guy" in order to parent them correctly. Kids will resent their parents at some point or another whether they are step kids or biological bc they want something and you as the parent get in their way of getting what they desire , but they will love you and appreciate you for your efforts when they are mature enough to understand your reasoning

Jenny - posted on 05/11/2013

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I am both a SD and a SM, and have been one or both for most of my life, so I am very familiar with both sides. Maybe it would help to back up a little bit and start over again with the basics.
Try setting aside the parental roles for a minute and start with basic respect for adults in general. Regardless of who you are to your SD, you are an adult in the household. Teachers, babysitters, coaches, etc, are all examples you could use as adult figures in positions of some kind of authority in her life. These are all people that she would be expected to respect and take direction from without argument or attitude.
Maybe, by taking a little bit different approach to it, it won't feel as overwhelming and threatening to her. If that works, then the parental relationship will follow in time.
Good luck to you. These situations are never simple or easy, but, if you can make it work, it can be one of the most rewarding relationships of your life. Hope that was helpful!

Tammy - posted on 05/07/2013

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I suggest you call social services and have them take the child for a day. They will show her what it's like to be in the foster care system, they will show her juvenile hall, where they keep the child criminals, among other places. She will be a new person when she returns...

Linda - posted on 05/06/2013

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No thank you.. just finished having a blow up with her then for not getting ready for school and just telling me straight out no!!! In am the only one with her in the mornings as her mum leaves for work at 6am. Her father does have a partner but they haven't been together for too long so time will tell. I have tried to leave a few times because I have been on the brink of a melt down with this child.. but I am so in love with my partner and want to be with her for the rest of my life. When we dont have the SD for our week off we have the best relationship. We never argue we just enjoy each other. Its too the point with the SD that we put her to bed at 8:30 wait a few hours and we have our alone time :) but the SD will com knock on the door and tell us to be quiet when there's no noise but the tv. Its like she waits until she hears something g to stop anything from happening. The argument this morning she turned everything back around to be my fault and changed my words so I was saying something different. Everyone she deals with she considers them rude to her, friends, family everyone. She does play the woe is me quite a lot. In had had enough and just said to her this morning that she needs to stop and think about why people are being rude to her, because its not a coincidence that everyone else is in the around and that they probably do it cause that's how she treats them, that got turned into 'oh so its my fault, thanks that's awesome'. In just can't win. In want my partner and I love her so much, I do love the step daughter but finding so hard to even Want to be around her. I don't want to leave and at this point I can't because of the lease we have signed, my partner would not be able to afford it on her own. But I just can't put up with if anymore. When I was single and the only kids I had to worry about were nieces and nephews I was so laid back and carefree, just happy to enjoy life. This girl is making me change..

Angela - posted on 05/06/2013

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Well unless your partner agrees to present a united front with you, this isn't getting any better.

And I suspect I can guess the reason she won't take your part. This child now has her father back in her life on a regular basis. I'm assuming he's indulgent and her mother doesn't want to look like the bad guy in the family. Does her father have a partner? She could be giving that person a hard time too.

The problem with a strong-willed child is that she has the "power" to run to Daddy and say she's being mistreated at home (although she's not and it's just normal discipline and expectations) and her mother knows this! Warring parents can get some nasty lawsuits moving - and even be believed! This is a worst case scenario but maybe your partner doesn't want to take the chance?

Many step-parents have left a situation with a difficult stepchild. I know of 2 young people, right now, who are making their father's wife's life a misery. Their parents split up long before their father's new partner was on the scene (well about 2 or 3 years before he married this lady). Their mother hasn't formed a relationship with someone new, she's an attractive, pleasant and interesting woman. I daresay she doesn't want to take on the hassle of getting a new man and having her kids spoil it.

Do you want this kid to have this power over your happiness? Either get your partner on side 100% - or leave. Anything else will make you miserable.

Good luck by the way. I may have come over rather harsh but I was being realistic.

Dove - posted on 05/05/2013

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Well... if the biological parent won't back you up you are fighting a losing battle that will never get better and you will ALWAYS look like the bad guy. If the bio-parent doesn't back you up with her child... you really only have three 'choices'... Leave the relationship, continue fighting a losing battle, or accept the child the way she is since her mother will not back you up. Sorry.

Linda - posted on 05/05/2013

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ANd the arguments aren't just a little I don't want to do that its blown out of proportion by her. Too be honest she looks at me like I'm a piece of poo. Anything I ask or say is an issue but when it comes to needing things or wanting to go out then she is nice as pie to me. There is so much more to the situation I just don't have enough time in the day to write a novel :)

Linda - posted on 05/05/2013

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Lol thank you. But we've already tried that. My partner does set the law down but doesn't follow through or it lasts a couple of days. And we always talk about it but usually ends up in an argument because she gets defensive of her daughter. Her dad lets her do what ever she wants, she swears , stays up until 1am in a school night on facebook. In just feel like I'm fighting a loosing battle. Once it becomes good its a vicious circle and I'm back looking like the bad guy once again and feeling like crap.

Dove - posted on 05/05/2013

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I hate to break it to you, but she sounds like a pretty typical 11 year old to me. You and your partner need to sit down together and discuss what you will and will not allow and what you will or will not do about it. Get totally on the same page and present a united front... and then sit down with her daughter and let her mother inform her of the new rules and the consequences for breaking those rules. Maybe have it all written down and posted somewhere... so that when she breaks a rule.. YOU are not the bad guy and there is nothing to argue about since it's all written down.

Good luck though cuz I live a very similar reality of hormonal craziness. I have figured out that preteens are basically just overgrown toddlers. lol

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