Help – New Step Mom

February 12th, 2013 posted by Susan Wilkins-Hubley

family on the beach

Q:

I am a 21 year old mature female who is involved with a very loving 32 year old separated man with a 4 year old daughter. I have a few problems, that I really need some advice on, mainly cause my mother died when I was 13 and I have no one to ask for advice on these things. Dear Bobbi: You have taken on a brave role at a very young age! Hang in there, it can be done. I will address your points in sections, a few at a time:

1)

She screams and cries when she doesn’t get her way or enough attention, and her dad will say no, but then he gives in, and therefore she is not learning what “no” means. How can I stop these fits and teach her that no means no, and also help the dad to stand his ground?

2)

When it is bedtime, it is always a fight for him and I to get her to bed. She won’t stay in her own room, and she will scream at the top of her lungs when she has to go to bed. I need a way to get her into bed without all the problems. First we need to address the subject of roles. I don’t know how long you have been involved with your sweetheart as you didn’t say, but one of the first things that a seasoned stepmom will tell you is to let the father set the standards for behavior. This also means that the father should be the one to do the disciplining. This doesn’t mean that you should never discipline or set behavioral expectations, but that the father is ultimately the one who should be responsible. When I met my stepdaughter she was three years old (she’s now 8) and she exhibited the same types of behaviors you mentioned. There were a few reasons for it:

1)

Her father had grown to accept it as he didn’t feel comfortable disciplining because he didn’t want to create a situation were she could possibly reject him. He had so little time with her as a parent, that he wanted everything to run smoothly. That obviously backfired on him.

2)

Her custodial mother instilled a different set of behavioral standards — at the age of three, my stepdaughter had difficulty adjusting to the different standards in each home. It takes time, and kids DO learn what to expect and what IS expected of them in each home. Even at the age of three.

3)

She was (and still is) a strong willed little girl and manipulative. She needed consistent and firm discipline that she wasn’t getting. So with these points in mind, my advice to you is to have numerous long discussions with your husband with regard to behavioral standards and then make up a “back-up plan” as to WHO will discipline and HOW. A great book that will help you do this is called “Mom’s House, Dad’s House ” by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D., and it provides a remarkable “blueprint” for co-parenting in two homes. I also suggest you have your mate read the book so that you are both “on the same page” when parenting your stepdaughter.

3)

She doesn’t listen. We will tell her not to touch something or do something, and she will look right at us and keep doing it. How can we get over this without a big fight and screaming fit (my ears are sensitive, as I am going deaf in one, so you can tell the screaming is a problem).

4)

She won’t eat dinner. She is extremely fussy and doesn’t eat anything healthy, and her dad gives her canned stuff instead, which isn’t always good for kids. I know when I was a kid, I had to sit there until I ate it or go to bed hungry. Is that too harsh? And how do I get the father to back me up on this? My belief is that children use food and behavior as a means for control and attention. Children have very little control over what goes on around them, so they use eating (or not eating) to exert some sort of control over themselves and their lives. Give her a little latitude but do not let her behaviors control YOU. You can’t always control the child but you can control your reactions to her. If she doesn’t want to eat, or behave, or listen, enforce consequences immediately. Do not wait until the next day — or until the next “treat” to take away as days go by. It’s very important that her father deal with these issues primarily, if he doesn’t she will see you as “the wicked stepmother” who is taking her daddy away and she will perceive you as perhaps mean. It sounds like she is testing you all the way. This is very normal behavior for a child who is dealing with a relatively new stepparent. Teenagers exhibit this type of behavior when dealing with stepparents!

5)

when it comes to discipline, do I do this? I am a stepparent (two months into it), and my patience is slim, maybe because I have no real “maternal” feelings for her, as in I am not the real mother. So I feel my hands are tied, but yet I can’t listen to her screaming and crying fits all the time. How do I address this? Those are just a few things, but please e-mail me back or put this on the board for experienced mothers to answer. Please…I would appreciate some help! Your feelings are not abnormal, nor are they necessarily bad. A wonderful book I can recommend when dealing with your feelings as a stepmother is: “The Enlightened Stepmother – Revolutionizing The Role ” by Perdita Kirkness Norwood. As long as you realize that the child is reacting to a situation that she never asked for, that she has no control over, and that perhaps she doesn’t even want, you’ll get through it. Don’t expect this child to accept you right away if at all. Additionally, do not accept any disrespect aimed your way. Your mate should always support your role as life-partner and as stepparent at ALL TIMES. Presenting a united front is one of the most important things that a couple must do when raising a stepfamily. If a united front is not presented to the children and to the extended family, I guarantee you it will be extremely difficult and may even fail. The children use your mate as an example, if he treats you as an equal, a fellow parent and a wife in every sense, then she will learn you are those things very quickly.

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about the author Susan Wilkins-Hubley is a 29 year old Canadian stepmom to two young children and biological mother to two more. Her family is complete with “his”, “her” and “our” children, however all family members find themselves in the “ours” category. Susan is our resident expert in blended families. If you have a question for Susan please send it our way.

Susan tries to keep her family at peace by mothering all of her children consistently and wearing ear plugs a lot of the time 🙂 Visit Susan’s website The Second Wives Club




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