I have a stepdaughter who is 6 years old and she tries to be very hurtful. We had her for the weekend and the other day and she said "You know my Mommy still loves my Daddy". I kind of let that one slide instead of saying something back like, "that may be the case but your Daddy and I are together now" I mean, what do you say when a child says that? Also, she was in the mall yesterday with us and kept saying, I want this, I want that, keep in mind money is tight and I am not one to deny my child what she wants (My fiance and I have a four year old daughter together) but my child doesn't do that. So while my fiance went to get more money out of the ATM she said it again "I want the ice cream" so I told her quite bluntly her father just left to get money from the machine and she could just stop being a spoiled brat. Was I out of line? I know there are better ways I could have handled it but I was ticked off.
The comment that her mommy still loves her daddy was no doubt repeated from what her mother has told her.Children at this age repeat what they hear so keep that in mind. I really doubt she said that to upset you.
Some children at this age ask for things when they are out shopping. Maybe her mom does over indulge her and she just expects things. Maybe telling her before you go out shopping that you DO NOT have money for things. or give her a small amount to spend and thats it.Patience and no two children are alike so comparing her to your child is unfair.
Try reading The Power of positive parenting by Dr. Glenn Latham. It informs parents on how to deal with those types of problems among many other things you will encounter as a step parent and parent - all while making you feel good and your step child and children feel good. Because here is the deal if you make her feel awful about herself and label her as spoiled etc. She will eventually become more and more that way and you will have to put up with more and more of a rotten attitude and rotten behavior and you may also not feel so good after knowing you've helped to ruin her self concept. That book by Dr. Glenn Latham is excellent. Also try Play Therapy The Art of The Relationship by Dr. Garry Landreth. Family First by Dr. Phil is good as well.
THank you both for your replies. They are very helpful. In a normal moment, I wouldn't have labeled her. It's just that I got angry and irrational, which is a big no no as a parent. Strongernow, I will look for that book by Dr. Glenn Latham.
Last edited by ronniesteers; 06-26-2006 at 12:17 PM.
Sometimes it helps to stop and put yourself in the child's place. Her daddy now has a new (almost) wife and a new little girl. When children feel they aren't getting positive attention, they will accept negative attention...they just want any attention. They will misbehave knowing that will get your attention. A 6 year old has no way of identifying or expressing why she feels hurt. All she really wants is to know she is still her daddy's little girl and to be accepted by you and your daughter.
Many times children think if you buy them something, that means you love them. It doesn't work so they ask for something else or get frustrated and angry. Try showering this young girl with praise and kindness. If she's willing, give her cuddles. If not, go slowly in that area but it won't be long. I've heard people say that you will "spoil" a child by praising too much but that is nonsense. Have you ever heard an adult complain that their childhood was okay but they got too much praise?
Most of the problems people have is from a feeling of not being loved.
And don't feel bad about yourself either. It's natural to feel more for your own child but with a little work, you can come to love the other little girl too.
Make sure she gets showers of praise and hugs right after doing chores, talking nicely, being respectful towards her elders and her play mates, reading, doing academics, helping clean, talking in a discussion - anything deemed as pro social, appropriate, good, positive etc. It is also OK and actually a great idea to reward her with toys and healthy treats after she has completed some chore or event that she did not want to do and has done a good job at behaving herself. Also remember it takes baby steps and those baby steps of good behavior change have to be honored and respected and rewarded. Just raise the bar little by little and allow her to grow and develop into a mature, kind, empathic, and responsible person. Remember it takes a while for parents to get the hang of this type of parenting. It may take months or even a year to adjust to this new system but it is best to start now than never. Let us know how it goes.
Last edited by strongernow; 06-30-2006 at 09:13 AM.
I will. I still have my reservations about changing her behavior, though. Her father left when she was just a baby so she never knew what it was like to have him there full time. Plus, I don't control how her mother acts and reacts toward her, and she has custody of her. I'll let you know how it goes.
Last edited by ronniesteers; 06-30-2006 at 11:13 AM.
My stepsons were 4 and 11 when my husband and I got married. The youngest, Mack, used to say things like that, and worse, and it drove me crazy. At one point it got so bad that I even dreamed about killing him.
I know that sounds crazy, but that's how angry and frustrated I was, and that's how my unconscious mind was working.
Anyway, I eventually learned a few things. One was that he did not always understand the hurtfulness of what he was saying. He might realize that it got a reaction out of me, but he did not know how deeply he wounded me. When I started remembering that he was a little kid, I found it easier to dismiss his comments.
Another thing I eventually realized was that he sometimes felt conflicted, as if having fun with me was somehow disloyal to his mom. And that maybe if he was mean to me or made me mad, he was supporting her. To combat that one, I bent over backwards trying to speak nicely about her so that it didn't seem like we were enemies. (almost made me sick sometimes, but I did it!) And I made sure he knew that MOM was MOM and would always be MOM, and that I was never going to try to take her place.
He used to drive me nuts by whining and asking over and over and over again for things. Really being whiney and bratty. My husband would usuall give into this and I found out that Mom, at home, was an even easier touch. I stuck to my guns and he eventually learned that with me, no meant NO and he could pester me to kingdom come and he still wasn't going to get what he wanted. Or worse yet, he might get sent to his room. Years later, he jokingly complained to me that he couldn't wrap me around his little finger like he could his mom.
The last and maybe most important thing I did was treat him as though he were my own son. I felt that it was important for him (both of them) to feel as though I completely accepted him, that he was not an outsider intruding in my home or marriage. The rules might be different at my house, and I might expect a different quality of behavior from him, but I loved him no matter how rotten or bratty he was sometimes.
You used the phrase "my child" in describing your four-year old daughter and seem to give the indication that you consider the stepdaughter as "his". I may have perceived that incorrectly. But if you are looking at the situation that way, try to think of how she feels coming in from the outside, feeling like an intruder or even that she is unwanted.
Try to make a point of paying her a little solo attention. Compliment her and praise her. Involve her in things and let her "help" you, even if she's really just making a mess. Be sure to thank her when she does things right, even if it seems like something that should be taken for granted. Ask her for "advice" regarding the four-year old and let her feel like a big sister. Tell her how happy you are to see her each time she arrives and how much you'll miss her each times she leaves.
And be sure you're not projecting any anti-mom sentiment on to her. She's the kid, she's got nothing to do with Mom and Dad and their relationship.
I hope things get better and that you find the relationship a little easier to deal with. There is no such thing as never being frustrated or never being angry with a child. They do things that drive us crazy. But we have to remember that we are the grownup and that it's our job to act like one. That means we usually have to put forth more effort than they do, but the payoff is well worth it!
btw - my stepsons are now 20 and 27. There were many times over the years when I wanted to throttle one or both of them, and our relationships have not always been completely smooth, but all in all I think we turned out pretty well.
You guys are right the other parents and adults involved in this can also shape the childs behavior in a negative way. So your job in doing it the right way will help but you are not 100% responsible but I bet she will like you and respect you and grow up to love you and be a better person. As a child I remember there were adults in my family that were so cold towards me and I always felt worthless around them while there were few adults out there that saw the positive in me and no matter how small of a gesture it was I always remember that person seeing me not as some stupid brat but as a person with talent and good behaviors and of worth. It does make a difference.
Thank you Ember for sharing your story. It helps put things into perspective and gives me hope that things can turn out for the better. The reason you may have gotten the impression that I think of her as "his" and mine as "mine" is because of the behavior issue. I do that with my own daughter too when she misbehaves - distance myself from the situation or make her an "it". Hopefully you know what I mean by that. Well, anyway, she (stepdaughter) is coming over today to spend the night again and I'll try again. I think part of the reason she "doesn't like me" is because, like you, I stick to my guns with discipline and I believe that most of the time with her mother, and sometimes with my fiance, she just gets what she wants. (In part, he blames the fact that she's from a broken family but I think they both just feel guilty for the divorce). I will let you know how it turns out and thanks again for the encouragment - you too strongernow. By the way, I should say I am diagnosed as bipolar and have less mood swings since I've been on medication, but I still have them. I suppose if things get really bad this weekend I can take a Xanax.
Last edited by ronniesteers; 07-01-2006 at 08:47 AM.
****, the divorce guilt thing! 99% of the time that was why my husband caved in to things. I tried as much as I could to be understanding about it, but sometimes I couldn't help but get mad when I really felt he was being manipulated or taken advantage of.
Some people will laugh at this, but I don't care. I really do believe that kids, especially younger kids, appreciate rules and boundaries. It helps them know where the limits are. They don't have to guess or push or act out to see what will happen. They find comfort in something stable and reliable. And you know what? So do we.
Mack, when he was maybe 11 or so, was in counseling for a little while. His mom had just been divorced again and he was having trouble dealing with his emotions, as he had just adored his stepdad. He was acting out with his Mom and at school, etc.
When we went to pick him up one Friday night, Mom came out to the car first. I give her credit for telling us this, though she didn't convey it very nicely. Apparently she & Mack had been in a session that afternoon and Mack was saying that no one liked him. The counselor had been pushing him, saying, "No one? No one? No one likes you?", and Mack finally said, "Well, my stepmom likes me." When the counselor asked why he thought that, Mack replied, "Because she only yells at me when she has to."
In other words (according to the counselor, via Mom) I didn't let him push me until I flipped out and overreacted. He could count on my reactions.
Of course, I'm not gonna claim that I never flipped out, because of course everyone does once in a while. But it was really nice for me to hear that Mack supposedly felt I "respected" him. Let me tell you, I still and always will count that among the top ten compliments of my life. It meant a lot to me.
Most of my temper problems in life have been when I let myself start obsessing about someone or something. Which is what I did early on when Mack was acting like such a little turd. I get to the point where I think about that person or thing all the time and get so frustrated that I just want to explode. What a therapist finally said to me one time was, "Then you're letting them win. Don't you suppose [whoever] would love to know that you're putting so much effort into thinking about them all the time?" Well, heck, that put me right into perspective, and ever since then when I start getting really carried away with being angry about something, I try to remember that.
I have six nieces and nephews under 10 and they all know how far they can push me. Obnoxious behavior gets them ignored; bad behavior gets them sent to a room or timeout. No fun there. I try to remember to praise them for things like sharing, playing quietly, helping with chores, etc. I don't always remember, and I can't say I never lose my temper with them, but I do try and both of my sisters ask me why their kids behave better when I'm over.
I don't mean any of this to sound like I'm perfect, because I'm certainly far from THAT point. But I'm a big fan of deep breaths and counting to ten, and I try to remember that they are KIDS and that I'm not. I'm sure I provided more than my share of bratty moments when I was a child, probably most of them without even realizing it. Geez, I think back to some things I did and said and I just wonder how my parents were able to tolerate me!
Hang in there. It is NOT always easy, and you will unfortunately always have that slightly removed "step" status, but you can still have a great relationship.
As for the weekends, just remember to keep at least a little "alone" time - a walk, a bath, 10 minutes in your bedroom with the door closed - for decompression. It helps!
Thanks Ember. It sounds like you've had to deal with a lot as well. It took me awhile to get back because I've been enjoying my few days of off work because of the 4th of July. Anyway, the part about obsessing over things until you explode - I'm definitely guilty but I'm much better than I used to be (at stopping the thoughts, redirecting them, etc.) This past weekend, Angelina was here and we were all in the pool when she said to me, "You know, I hope you and my daddy get into a fight so he and my mom will get back together." To which I responded "Well, even if your father and I do fight, we love each other enough to stay together." and then I swam away(and asked her to go find Stephanie so she had something to do too). I didn't tell Joe about it until yesterday then he said, "It's every divorced kids fantasy, I think to have their parents get back together." I realize in part that that is true. Joe and I have had too many fights over the fact that he never established any boundaries with his ex (or so I thought). Not to be overly obsessive and judgmental, but I guess I just wanted him all to myself sometimes too (or at least feel like he was all mine). Until next time.
I think all your feelings are normal. Just don't let them overwhelm you.
When Mack was around 8 and his mom was remarried (since divorced and remarried again), he once told me that he wished his dad and me and his mom and his stepfather could all live in the same house together so he could be with all of us all the time. That is how kids think. They are not capable of thinking in terms of adult love and relationships. Their desires are self-centered.
Also, I think someone else mentioned the impact of her mom at home and how she may be influencing your stepdaughter. If mom is unhappy at home, your stepdaughter may wish, in her little girl way, that dad was back home just because she thinks it would make mom happy again. It might not even have anything to do with you.
Don't dismiss her feelings - she's probably confused and insecure and afraid - but do shrug off her words. The only power she has over you is the power you give her.
Just the fact that you're trying to find a way to deal with her is great. It shows that you care both about her and about your husband. Many people would just dig in their heels and give up, thereby guaranteeing themselves an unhappy step-relationship. It will get better!
Let me preface this by saying your post touched a huge nerve with me, and I apologize if I am overly harsh.
First of all, I've never been a step-parent, but I do have a three year old. I have been a stepchild, though. I can remember when I was five years old and my mom brought home this stranger for the first time, and I can remember when they told me they were going to marry. I was so upset. My real dad had never really been a part of my life, but I had lived with my mom and grandmother. They said they were going to marry and we would move out into our own place. I wanted to stay with my granny.
My whole life was changing, and I blamed it on him. So, of course, I was obnoxious toward him. Instead of trying to get around it, at times, he clammed up and didn't say anything or he was hateful right back. He and my mother are still together, and I've forgiven him for a lot of things he did. But, even now, I think back that he was the adult and I was the child. If he had acted like an adult and realized why I was doing what I was doing and risen above it, we could have had a completely different relationship than the one we had.
So, here is what I'm saying in regards to your situation. First of all, when you marry someone with children, you are marrying the person as well as their child. It isn't fair to think otherwise. She was there before you were, and she will still be his child, no matter what. You are the adult here, and she is the child. It is your job to figure out where her words are coming from. Children crave stability. Her whole world has changed and is changing even more with the addition of you in it. So, of course, she is going to blame you for the changes. It is your job (because obviously you knew your fiance had children when you became engaged) to help make this work. At her age, all she can see are the changes in her life, and you need to show her and help her understand that while the changes may not be what she wants, it may not be as bad as she thinks.
Secondly, you have to get over being mad at her words. For goodness sakes, she's a child and a young one at that. Children say hurtful things all the time. I'm sure your own daughter has said (and even if she hasn't yet, she will) things that hurt you. I can't tell you how many times I hurt my mom with my words, but the difference there is that what I said was directed at her personally. Your step-daughter's words are directed at you, but even if he was marrying someone else, she would be saying them to that person.
Third, you have a child of your own. Your step-daughter may also be afraid that your daughter will take her place with your fiance. It may sound silly to you, but she's a child and children often have silly thoughts. My mom and step-dad went on to have another child, and I often felt as though I was an outsider in the family. That's not fair to any child.
While I agree with the other posters that children crave discipline, I also think they crave understanding. Have you ever thought about sitting down with her and saying, "I understand that you want your mom and dad back together, and it's ok to feel that way." To hear that it's ok to have the feelings she's having may help her out more than anything.
And while her feeling that way may make you mad, it's more than understandable and more than OK for her to feel that way. I would even go so far as to say that it's completely and totally normal and she has ever right to feel the way she does.
Again, I apologize if I was overly harsh. But, step-parent issues are a huge deal to me, having grown up in step-parent home.
I'm sorry you had such a hard time with the step child thing. Basically, my relationship with Angelina has been O.K. ( a little rocky sometimes) but she has known me since before she was a year old. So I'm not "new" to her. Stephanie has been around for 4 years so she's not "new" to her either. Although, they both compete for my fiance's attention sometimes (normal). Anyway, just wanted to let you know, I'm human too and make mistakes (even with my own daughter). I do alot, work full time, take care of the house, my daughter's extracurricular activities and sometimes that means I'm stressed. I try not to take that out on the children
Last edited by Administrator; 07-15-2006 at 02:22 AM.
Reason: The member only offered a different view. defensive statement deleted.