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Pregnancy & Parenting
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Help - I'm having trouble with Dad and stepdaughter

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Hello all, I have a friend of mine tell me this was a great group of folks and I sure hope so. I need some advice from those who have stepchildren. My hubby and I have been together for 5 years and in the last 9 months his 12 year old daughter came to live with us.

I have stood back and let him do the parenting thing but he isn't really doing anything. He will let her go for days without doing chores including showering and then get "Springer-ish" about it for a day.

And then it will go back to no chores and no showers. When I say something about it to her, he tells me that I'm picking on the child. and that I'm mean to her. (I always say please.)

When it was just me and him the place stayed relativly clean and now that the daughter is there he expects me not to say, "pickup your room." or "put your plate in the sink." He views these things as being harsh to her. I'm stuck. I don't really want to leave but I can't get him to be a dad. He spends no time with her at all. and I want them to have a loving Father/Daughter relationship like I had with my dad.

I really need input from those who have step children.


Edited Jan 24 2008 16:35 by hkellick
Reason: Moved to Pregnancy & Parenting forum
23 Replies (last)

Being a stepparent is husband and I have been married for a little over 2 years and we have two teenagers in the 14 year old son and his 14 year old daughter...he disciplines my son because he is hard to handle (ADHD, Asperger's Syndrome, Bi-Polar), but whenever I get angry with his daughter, he tells me I only get angry with her when he is angry with my I don't have any great advice except to hang in there...keep asking her to do things that are expected of her room, putting dishes in the sink, have a right as the mother of the house to ask these things of her...and she should show you respect...I tell my husband this "I am not her mother and I am not trying to take her mother's place, but this is my house and I am the parent of the house, and she should show me respect"...she does not have to like you...she has to respect you and your home...

Good luck...feel free to write anytime...I will check in with this post and see how you are doing!

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Thanks, I sometimes feel like I dont' have a voice in my own home.  My concern now is she is basically running the house. Last night after being told since Sunday to clean her room I asked dad to remind her to do and he just yells at me.  He says that he is trying to be nice to her and I just don't get it, how is asking her to clean her room mean? I had to, and he had to. Tells me that  he is tired of dealing with  her so he's not going to and that she needs to be on "Auto Pilot" (his words, not mine) I am really starting to question whether I should stay

Jennie, My huusband is the step parent in the family and he never tried to really discipline my two oldest kids. But he did build a good relationship with them and was always there when they needed him. That being said my advice would be for you to try to build your own relationship with the girl. it's not easy to have some one move into your life and you are just expected to accept them but remeber she is only a 12 year old and starting to move into a time in her life when her whole life is changing quickly. She also is being forced to accept you without question.

Try doing special things with her that help to move her in the right direction. Tell her hey kid go get in the shower and when you get out we will try something new with your hair or tell her lets clean your room up and see if there are any clothes you have out grown and then we'll go shopping and pick something new out to replace something we had to get rid of. Ask her to help you get the dishes done so you can sit down and play a game of cards or a board game. Make a movie date and rent a chick flick with her. Paint her finger nails or just listen to her talk about what ever she wants.

Remember she is just a kid and still learniing how to socialize and fit in. If you can't see yourself doing these things then I would suggest you find some sort of counseling for you and your husband if possible but if he doesn't want to go then go by yourself. You have to decide how bad you want this to work and then take control. Just rember she is the child and  her life has been turned upside down and she may feel very out of control.

Best of luck Beth
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I get what you are saying and I have tried the movie and she says no. I have tried the shopping but she will  not let US go through her clothes. She still has clothes from her early childhood that she will not give up, and I don't make her. she seems so attached to her things and I think it's because she  has been moved a lot  my her mom.

Sarah, asked to live with her dad and I have known her since she was 5 so it's not like I'm new or anything. I have tried playing games with her and tried asking  her about music and all she wants is downloads and things bought for her. she doesn't want a conversation. I bought a doll  house that WE could put together like she asked for and it's never been out of the box. I got  her roller skates like she asked for, doesn't want to use them (her dad and I both got a pair too) I have tried to connect with her but she just either wants money or things.  

I haven't really tried to dicipline Sarah, I've always told her that she knows what's going to make her Dad mad and she still doesn't want to do it. I think she is doing it to get his attention. Since she is pushed aside by him.  I've told Sarah that I don't want to replace her mom and always make it a point to speak highly of her mom, I just don't get this at all. 

Her mom told me that Sarah was so difficult at her mom's house that she doesn't want her back, I didn't tell Sarah that, It will devastate her to know that. Her mom is her world.  So I guess if her dad isn't going to enforce HIS rules I should just let it go?

I can't stand the yelling and screaming when he finally snaps. I've suggested counciling but he won't do it. He says that I just need to not worry about it. that all families yell and scream----huh? My  family didn't.


I have a 10 year old step-daughter.  My husband pretty much told me when we got together that when she is with us it will be a united front.  What I tell her and ask from her carries the same weight as if he had said it or requested, etc.  She is very respectfull, does anything we ask of her and I don't think I could ask for more in a child.  My husband and I also have 2 boys and they are a little on the wild side but fairly well behaved.  They require so much more intervention than my step-daughter does.

I guess what I'm getting at is that if you and your husband don't stand together, then your step-daughter will receive all kinds of mixed signals and will learn to play you off each other.  Fighting and yelling should be kept to a minimum.  We always try to keep our discussions to ourselves and keep the volume minimal.

Maybe you could get a list of chores together, things she is responsible for on a daily/weekly basis.  At her age there is no reason why she shouldn't be able to help with laundry, setting the table, clearing the dishes and keeping her room clean.  Showering shouldn't even be an issue it should be a given.  Present this list to your husband at a time when he is most receptive to new ideas (probably not a good idea when his favorite team is playing on television).  Tell him that she is getting older, needs to learn about responsibilities and won't be living at home forever.   Ask for his input and ask that he support you in making sure her tasks are completed. 

Figure out what is appropriate if she falls behind ( no telephone, no tv, no computer, no purchases made at her request)  Once you have all the details, approach her together and let her know that she is expected to do her part.  Her father wanting to be nice may not be in her best interest.  Setting guidelines, enforcing them and being fair and respectful of each other are very important and will make a lifelong impact. 

I'm sure this is all easier said than done.  If he's not willing to help, maybe he'll be willing to support you and let you make sure she helps out.  If he is unwilling to do either, then I'm not sure what else to suggest.

Hope this helps some.  You can add me to your friends list or send me a message if you'd like to talk more.
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she has a list of chores that we did as a family. she doesn't follow it and he doesn't enforce it. We use to be a united front but he lacks often.

thanks for the ears, I do feel better. I know I'm not perfect and I don't want to make him seem like the bad guy but the dynamic of the house has changed and he hasn't. When I try to talk to him he shuts down. I think the issue lies more with him and she may be taking advantage of it (and what child wouldn't).
I don't have step kids, but I have a question - Why has she decided to live with dad?  Was this her choice or courts or mom doesn't want her?  What I'm trying to say is - maybe the reason she wants to live with dad is because she knows he'll let her do whatever she wants and won't discipline her and make her accountable for her actions.  If it was her choice I'd flat out tell your husband either he starts acting like a father and enforces the rules of the house or she goes back to mom's.  I just saw where mom doesn't want her back either - gosh it sounds like this kid needs help and now!

If it wasn't her choice your options may be a little harder - but I would still confront him and let him know that he needs to be a man and a dad and start disiplining her before she comes home on drugs and pregnant.  Letting a young adolesent girl not have any responsibilities and consequences for not doing what is asked is just asking for trouble IMHO. 

I suggest maybe you going to an Al-anon meeting.  Even though there may or may not be drug / alcohol issues I think al-anon with help YOU learn to take care of yourself and find your peace in this situation.

I have an 18 year old stepdaughter who lives with her mom.  Her father and I moved in together when she was 12 and she stayed with us 3 days/week up until about a year ago.  Frankly, the last few years have been really difficult, and habdog, I totally know what you are going through - it was as if I'd written it.  The only good thing is that if she is living with you full-time there won't be the inconsistent messages from another household.

So here are some suggestions:

1)  If you can afford it, see a counselor with your husband.  If he won't go, go without him for your own sanity.  However, having a third party listen to both sides can really be helpful and also give you some tools on how to interact with a budding teenager.  (If you think it's bad now, wait til she's 14). 

2)  It may also be important for your stepdaughter to get some counselling.  Having a mother that doesn't want you is just about the toughest thing in the world I think, and extremely difficult at that age.  This doesn't mean it's ok for her to misbehave, but at least gives a reason.  It may be that all 3 of you need to go together sometimes.

3)  Talk to your husband (without the daughter being there) about setting up some 'house rules' and about being a 'united front' as jennifer said.  If he agrees, they should be written down and put up on the fridge or somewhere, with a schedule.  There should probably be some for all of you, not just for her.  If they are written down, then it becomes more difficult for them to be ignored.  Something with dates attached so that boxes can be checked off.

4)  If there are things that she hasn't done (especially personal hygiene) he needs to be the one to get after her - you tell him, he talks to her.  Every day.

5)  Keep being consisent.  Do what you can to be a friend, don't be the enforcer - you can't win in that role.  They'll both be mad at you.

Jennifer said a lot of this and knows what she's talking about. 

Best of luck.  It's going to be a tough few years.  I hope it works out for you.
maybe he in his dad mind thinks or sees her as much younger than 12 and feels guilty for the divorce and doesnt want to push anything else on her?

i think 12 is an age where you have to start doing little grown up things and she does need freedom a bit.
maybe she acts this way because its the only time she gets attention? and puberty is going to be happening so that skipping showers thing isnt a good idea. i think it would make it harder for her in school.

maybe talk to her on your own and say you dont want to be pushy and you want everyone to get along. and ask her why she hates doing certain things. she could be depressed herself.

and the room thing...shes 12..let it be messy. its time to let her start to have her private space too. but the dishes thing is just silly. she can put a plate in a sink and take a shower.
allowances are GREAT motivators for chores as well.
plus you can start to teach her about how to handle money and talk to her about what she wants for her future.

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Keep those tips coming guys I need them.

Sarah has an allowance and she get the money as soon as she does the chore. She also has about a hundred dollars saved for her biyearly shopping trip. I take her shopping in July and December with what money she has saved for each 6 month period.

As for the room, it is her dad's rule to keep it clean and I think he makes himself look foolish when he made such a fuss about it being clean and told her she would be punished if it wasn't and then never followed through with his statements.

Sarah asked to live with her dad and I talked to her about staying there and we did discuss chores and homework (which she doesn't do that either without a fight) and No, it wasn't me saying "You HAVE to do them" it was "are  you sure you want to do this, you know your dad will want you to do chores and homework, not like your mom" and she was okay with it. I know she's a kid and doesn't always see the bigger picture but I did talk to her. 

she has failed every grade and her mom pushed her through. This year was the first year she got something other than an F.

I know that she worked very hard for her Ds and Cs. and she cried almost everynight because she never had to do it before and now she does. But she knew she was going to have to do it. The problem was that Mom's b/f she didn't like and I might have been the lesser of the two evils (not that I'm evil, but you know what I mean) 

One other thing, if you can, try to find one or more things for her to do that are positive and 'just for her'.  A sport, playing an instrument/taking lessons, being involved in a club at school, doing volunteer work, getting involved in a youth group at church or something like.  Having something that's really positive and 'just about her' could really help.
looking over all of it...i think it would be good to go to a doctor and discuss the emotional issues and bad grades and not connecting to others. she could have a disability or severe depression. it shouldnt be a struggle in school to not fail. maybe she needs to be a year behind or in a special tutor program. or perhaps some ADD meds.

its not a bad thing. it will just make it all easier for her.
maybe talk to her teachers and ask if they notice any things in her that would point to that. like how she acts in class and everything.

just always when presenting it. keep it positive and remind her it will make everything easier.

you cant make people get along. and you cant make them have a relationship. but you and her can get along and she can have a great stepmom.

i just wonder if the all or nothing type of interaction with the father also makes her avoid contact because whenever there is contact there is conflict. so theres that tension and fear.

and you need to tell her dad.."look...parenting is hard and it never ends. if you dont feel like doing it all the time thats fine. but we should talk about universal rules for her so whoever can remind her to do things. screaming at each other isnt working for anyone because everyone is just p.o.ed. "

he sounds like he needs work or you need to have a backbone where you dont put up with him or her walking all over you.
(not to be harsh.i really dont mean it that way but dont be afraid to stand up for yourself) and if he is screaming at you for trying to be responsible and a caring parent....well then maybe you should talk about leaving because if he wont change or go to counciling its not doing you,him or her any good.

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Great help guys.

Sarah has already been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. she sees a councilor every week. Her dad doesn't always want to take her because he's too tired on Mondays, the day of the therapy.

I tried to get her in a sport or school activity and her grades were too bad. I tried to enroll her in a summer program and her dad didn't want her going. 

we have petitioned the school to test her but they said she wouldn't take the test (Literally just sat there)  I asked her Doctor to check her for depression and she stated clearly that Sarah wasn't depressed.

we fight with her everynight to take the meds she already has.

I always leave the Dr. appointments up to her dad because I figure he may want to know what is going on and he just complains about the $20 co-pay, and never has any news of what the Dr. is thinking or doing.

I always try to ask her about positive things and she quickly turns them negative. "so and so picks on me but they are my friend" and "this person hates me but I don't care" and "I can beatup this person because I'm taller" this types of things.

I have spoken with the Dr and they always say "I'll put it in her file" that is frusterating in and of itself.  When I ask dad to do things he just gets so bent about it.

Have I become a single parent here?

Sounds like she needs you. Just be there and don't buy into the yelling and sreaming. Remember you are the adult I know it's hard to always be positive but if you can hang in there she will eventually swing your way. My son is 14 and we have had a few tough years with him Being the youngest he got pretty spoiled by the rest of us and never felt like he had to do anything to help out or help himself. Getting him to take a shower was always a big argument until he wanted to grow his hair out. I told him that he had to keep it clean or it would be cut. After several years of arguing about the shower he now showers on a regular basis.

This child needs someone in her life to care. You may feel she pushes you away but just push back in a different way. Good luck!!!!

Are there any big sister organizations in your area? They might be able to offer some support
why the med fight?

sit her butt in the chair and she will sit there until she takes the med. no words.

not take the test...

it really sounds like this girl is playing you.

i think for yourself get some therapy so you can learn to assert yourself. they both sound selfish. shes happens...

he is being really selfish...and yeh..he complains about the copay..who doesnt.. ;)
but not taking her and stuff..he soudns liek he avoids trying to be a parent..feels stressed/guilty about it..freaks out...then goes to autopiolet and repeats that cycle.

why didnt her dad want her doing sports? that doesnt even make sense? he needs someone to really set him strait. being a mature adult is about getting to do what you want. especially when a child is involved.

she needs to take that test and stop being a brat about it.
tell her she is going to do it. and things are going to change starting today. this is really silly that they creat problems like this for you. dont be afraid to take over..its sounds like you have two children on your hands.
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I just got a call from Sarah's grandma asking me why Sarah hasn't had a shower. I told her to talk to  her son! I guess the do-do will hit the fan tonight.

well as a stepchild i can say that it's very hard to listen to steparents. no offense but all i really wanted was my real parents. it also didn't help that my stepmom was only 9 years older then me. but my dad had the same problem with his stepson. my stepmom wouldn't discipline my stepbrother as a child because she felt that she didn't spend enough time with him as it was and what little time she did have with him she didn't want to spend it yelling at him. now he's 12 and on a path that will land him straight in jail. my dad tried to discipline him but my stepmom would defend her son and declare it unfair. don't let your husband make that mistake. if you don't discipline your child then you don't love your child. my mom laid her foot down on everything in her house as i was growing up and i have values and goals in life. save your stepdaughter.
I have very little experience with thwhole stepchild thing (My parents are still together, I don't have kids or steps and my boyfriend was too old by the time his 'rents got remarried for it to make a difference).
I do however have some advice for you on your relationship.
It sounds to me like he is being selfish and not listening to you at all. Also, if you are considering leaving, that usually means you should. I'm all for sticking it out and trying to make things work. Marriage is a forever deal. However, it also takes work, from BOTH OF YOU. If he's not willing to put in the effort for you or his daughter, well...
I'd say sit him down when there are no distractions and neither of you need to do anything for a while. Don't do it in bed (cause he'll probably try to kiss and make-up and that's a temp. fix) and while she is not around.
Tell him exactly how you're feeling and that you want the two of you to seek counseling or else you're going to be forced to leave.
At least, that's what I would do. Things have got to change, and it sounds like they need to start with him.
Your experience sounds alot like mine, except I was the child. I was an extremely stubborn child, and I hated my stepmother for a long time. I wasn't exactly at the point of not showering and failing every grade, but in some ways I had a similar attitude. I am so thankful now though for my stepmother and putting up with me all those years, because if not for her I don't know where I would be now. It was her who took care of me, my mom also did not want me (and told me that). I think it was knowing this fact, thinking that I was worthless, that gave me most of my issues when I was young. From my point of view, because I am still young and remember how I was (and just because it sounds a similar situation), I can say that, yes, she is definitely testing you! She hates everyone right now, and probably feels very lost and alone. She just wants to see how she can benefit from the situation. She is just seeing how far she can push you before you snap, then when you do, that will just reaffirm her belief to herself that she isn't worth anyone's time. You must not let her win! She may hate you now, but will thank you later. I must stress the importance of being consistent! She needs help. She needs love and discipline. I hope you can find a way to deal with her, she needs someone like you in her life, someone willing to care. I know if it were not for my stepmom, and her endless patience with me, I would not be where I am now. Talk to your husband, if he is unwilling to love his own daughter enough to make her shower, then he does not deserve to be a father. Some of the other's suggestions of talking to him were very good. I agree that you should have a unified front, he needs to be willing to help as well. Maybe then she has a chance. I'm not going to say that it won't be hard, you may have some rocky years ahead, but you may find that it is worth it. Whenever I talk to my stepmom about how she put up with me etc, she always says it was worth everything I put her through just to see me now. Be strong. You may be this little girl's last hope. Good luck to you, I hope it works out for the best in the end.

First let me say...I am the step-child and from my experience it seems like your step-daughter's anger is directed not at you, but at her father. Is he divorced from her mother, did she pass away? If Mom is still alive, how involved is she in your step-daughter's life? My dad passed away when I was 12 and my mom got remarried when I was 16. For a long time I had anger with my mom, feeling like she abandoned my dad in a way, even though he was gone. But instead of addressing my feelings to Mom, I took it out on my step-dad. I never went to the extremes that your step-daughter is going to but I did purposely exclude my step-dad from things. As the child it is NOWHERE near easy to accept a step-parent, especially if the biological parent is still in their life. You want to like the step-parent but at the same time you feel like you're being dis-loyal to the biological parent. It's a very tough position to be as a child. Do you have children of your own? Realize that she is 12 and more than likely going through one the toughest times in a teens life...puberty. Not to sound all cheesy but her body is changing and what not and hormones are crazy. Remember when you were 12?

As far as Dad's non-involvment with her....hes probably just as confused as she is. But you can't force a father/daughter relationship on them. Of course its okay to wish they had a good one but they both have to want that.  You really need to sit down with your husband, when your step-daughter is not around, and explain these things to him.

Lastly, remember is your job to raise her too. You have every right to ask her to do her chores and whatnot.

If all else fails, I would suggest going to a couples counseling. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH GOING TO COUNSELING!! My mom (who is a therapist herself!) and step-dad have a *wonderful, happy* marriage (of 5 years) and go to counseling every two weeks. It might take someone on the outside to show your husband (and you!) what needs to change.

Hope this helps!
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