Can someone please help with my step-daugfhter and I?

MARY - posted on 01/15/2013 ( 5 moms have responded )

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I have been married to my husband for almsot 7 years and he has a 7 year old daughter. We have had full custody of her since she was 3. Her bio mom has not seen her in 2 years and has not talked to her in over a year. She had a rough road with her bio mom she didnt feed her, left her in dirty clothes, and mentally abused her in some way. So when we got custody she started calling me mom my husband said not to stop her becasue her therapist said she is doing so on her own becasue i make her feel safe. I cant have kids of my own and i love my step-daughter very much but latley things have been different she talks back gets and attitude and we ar efighting all the time over things like brushing her teeth (which she doesnt want to do) we didnt have these problems until recently and I get so upset i start yelling and that doesnt solve anything. I am wondering what i can do to try and ease the situation with her becasue i love her like she is my own and i dont want her to feel i am always upset with her but that is how it seems. Please any advice is welcome, thank you.

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Most of what you are seeing is normal for her age, so don't stress too much over that.

You are right that yelling doesn't help, and given her past could be more detrimental for her than it would be for most kids. I know it's hard not to yell when you are frustrated--sometimes it feels like it's the only way to get them to listen!

Read Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen Ph.D. It is a wonderful book with lots of good ideas for resolving conflict at your step daughter's age.

Some basic tips that help me with J (he just turned 8, so we're kind of going through the same phase, and let me tell you, it got BAD toward the end of last year!).
Explain WHY it is important for her to do something you've asked her to, and give her a choice. For example, brushing her teeth. Explain that it is important to brush our teeth so that germs and bacteria do not grow on them and make them rot. If they rot, you will have brown ugly teeth, they will hurt all of the time, and we will have to spend all of our fun money or vacation money to get them fixed. So would you rather spend 2 minutes to brush them now, or spend several years with brown, painful teeth and spend all of our money that we could use for trips to the zoo or to the beach on dental appointments? Try not to lecture for too long--stop to ask questions intermittently, like "Does that make sense?" and avoid asking "Do you understand?" because that makes her feel like you don't trust her intelligence.

Let her live with natural consequences whenever possible. J hates to wear a coat to school, but if he doesn't, his teacher will not allow him to go out for recess--he has to sit in the library. So if he doesn't wear a coat, I don't make him. If he doesn't put his lunchbox dishes in the dishwasher, he doesn't get a lunchbox the next day--he has to buy lunch (he doesn't like school lunches).

Sometimes you have to make consequences, but make sure they "fit the crime" so to speak--you don't want a "punishment" you want her to learn. If J doesn't pick up his toys when I tell him to, I throw them out (I actually just keep a box in the back of my car and put the toys in that box to drop off at Goodwill the next time I'm out. I don't want to fill up landfills with perfectly good toys just to teach my kid to pick up). He knows the rule, so it was HIS choice to donate the toys to charity, not mine. I always make it clear that I do not want to donate the toys. This helps make it clear to him that HE is in control of his life and what happens to him.

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Tracy - posted on 01/23/2013

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I agree with everything said completely. Great advice from everyone! I would add to make sure there is time set aside for fun/play/family activities. It can help make sure that the day to day stuff that brings on fighting (because kids fight for control at this age) isn't the only thing going on. You would know, and so would she, that there is a conscious effort to have fun and be lighthearted that is separate from the "do what I tell you" routine. :) Sounds like you are doing great though.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 01/18/2013

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Sounds like a typical kid to me. All of them find their "defiant" gene around that age.

She's still treating you like her mom, trust me. Just pick your battles. Tooth brushing is necessary, but maybe she could do it at a different time? (for example)

Sally - posted on 01/18/2013

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Unfortunately, being rotten to you is a sign of trust and love. She knows that you care enough to still love her if she treats you badly. Work with her and her dad to set reasonable rules and consequences for not following those rules and try very hard to be patient and consistent. I say try because no parent is perfect and kids are very good at knowing exactly what buttons to push. Sometimes mommies need time outs too and that can actually stop a kid faster than punishing them would. It's also healthier in the long run for her to see you acknowledge you lost it and apologize than to grow up thinking you're perfect.
Good luck

Tracey - posted on 01/17/2013

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Sounds like normal hormones to me. Do you have a happy, calm bedtime routine with stories and cuddles, that might help?

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