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New Step-family, facing issues with daughter need advice

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
Hello,

Our situation is such - I just remarried and the wife and I are perfect for each other. I have a son who is 21 and is his own person, extremely mature, doesn't talk to us much and minds his own business pretty much, he meditates/prays at home quite a few hours a day in a meditation room, and is working as a meditation instructor, living with us until he can afford to move out.

My wife's daughter is turning out to be quite a handful. She has lived alone with her mother for the last 4-5 years. She is 12, and just started her periods a few months ago. Her mother let her have her way and boss her around the entire time they were alone, and they moved their country of residence 3 times in the last 4-5 years, so the child did not have the chance to make any longer term friends, and therefore is very attached to her mother.

As for my relationship with her, I have made it clear and transparent that I am not trying to replace her father, and have told her she is free to call me by name if she wants, and so she does. I have been very mature with her, never trying too much to be a father or authority figure, treating her as a relative equal, befriending her and talking to her instead of berating her or fathering her.

With our new situation of living together, the child is kicking up hell. She wants everything her way, at all times, or she gets very loud and obnoxious. If choice of dining out is not hers, she refuses to go out or she says she will just sit in the car and not come out. She is 12 and we are in illinois, so we can't legally leave her at home, so if she doesn't want to go out none of us can go out. We usually choose to go out on the spur and can't organize a babysitter on such short notice

She is very bossy over her mother and cries and induces crying and throws tantrums everyday, every night, and every time its time to dine out. She induces crying whenever her mother wants a glass of wine and goes to the car and sits there.

Her entire behaviour and resistance to the living situation is also tied in to the fact that she hasn't seen her mother spend time with anyone other than her for awhile, and when i spend time with my wife she gets upset with her mother and with me, shouting screaming bawling insulting.

She is quite a pin-prick, and tries to prick people as much as possible. My son doesn't really talk to anyone, he is just very silent and introverted, and when he is meditating in his prayer room, she makes it a point to stomp loudly as she walks by. If I put a DND sign on my room when I am exceptionally tired and sleepy, she makes it a point to tear it up and thrown it on me while I am sleeping and stomp out.

She loves school and schoolwork, and she likes the strict, authoritarian teachers. She is not trouble when it comes to schoolwork at all, she does everything on her own and asks for help as she needs it. But her behavior with the family leaves alot to be desired. shes shy and quiet around strangers.

She has a good heart, a childs heart, somewhere deep inside, but as of now she is one obnoxious and highly confrontational little brat that is very hard to live with. We don't know what to do with her. She doesn't seem to be very conscious of the way she behaves either, and it is sometimes shocking - she keeps saying 'everything has to be your way!", "can you stop talking for ONCE?", "nobody likes your jokes", "shut up", "me me me me me me", when it is always and ever her that is talking, her that dominates all the conversation, her that needs to have everything her way, everything is DONE her way, yet she seems oblivious. what is the matter with her, what do we do with her??

As parents, things we would never consider are physical punishment, or psychological medication unless it is very severe like autism or seizures or something. Xanax and such medications are out of the question.

Any suggestions? Thanks
post #2 of 32
Sounds like me and all of my friends and any girls I have ever met at 12. I think you are mostly going to just have to tolerate her behavior for the next 6 or so years. Hopefully someone else will have better advice. Good Luck
post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by myra_mcgray View Post
Sounds like me and all of my friends and any girls I have ever met at 12. I think you are mostly going to just have to tolerate her behavior for the next 6 or so years. Hopefully someone else will have better advice. Good Luck
This bad? Obnoxious tantrums every day? These arn't isolated incidents, not even every other or every third day incidents, every single evening without fail is tantrum and noise and crying and fussing. Not a single time we have been able to dine out without tantrums and tears. Extremely bossy, mostly so because she has been allowed to be. My wife allowed things like these but I find them positively disgusting behavior, if were talking and my wife turns her head towards me for half a second to talk the child grabs her chin and makes her look at her again.

Somehow I don't believe that this is absolutely normal behavior, I have had cousin sisters and known a number of, though granted not hundreds, of children this age and none of them were this selfish, self centered, obnoxious and spoilt.
post #4 of 32
To me, this sounds like a situation that requires family counseling, and also a change in the disciplinary structure at home.

This is one of the best parenting books I've ever read for dealing with these kind of issues, because it's targeted at liberal (ie non-Orthodox) Jewish parents, who very commonly don't spank, don't like to be autocratic, value their children highly etc. etc. All well and good, but without some built-in expectations about how each member of the family needs to restrain their yetzer hara (negative will, evil impulse - it's hard to translate but you get the idea), you can easily wind up with a tween who is dominating the household with their negative behavior, even while they are behaving beautifully in the more restrictive environment of school. You guys probably aren't Jewish, but the book might be worth a read anyhow if it's at your library. It might also be entitled "How Educated, Gentle, Loving Parents Raise Kids Who Act Like Jerks, And How To Correct The Problem Without Hitting Or Drugging Them."

In conjunction with counseling, I think that you and your wife need to discuss what kinds of consequences you are willing to enforce for bad behavior. TV and computer privileges are the obvious things that might be on the table. Defending your personal space is also a serious matter - grabbing her mother's chin, coming into your bedroom when you're asleep - her mother needs to call her out on these things.

I don't let my FIVE YEAR OLD AND THREE YEAR OLD interrupt us when we're talking, or go into a room where somebody is asleep and disturb them. And if they have a tantrum at the dinner table, then dinner is over for them and they are sent to their rooms. Sure, twelve year olds are sulky, but it sounds like this goes beyond that. Unless your dsd has a major undxed emotional disorder, she can most certainly learn the short list of 100% unacceptable behaviors and exercise the self-control to avoid them.

In fact, it might be a good idea for you and your wife to start by seeing a counselor together, to really drill down and make sure you agree on that short list. There is power in a united front! She's the disciplinarian, obviously, but she needs your support. Change of this kind is not easy.
post #5 of 32
I'm wondering how the two of you dated and this issue never came up?
post #6 of 32
Off the top of my head:
I'd take words like pin-prick and all negativity out of your personal vocabulary, whether you're saying the words inside your head or out loud. A negative and cold reaction to a child can be as damaging or more as physical punishment IME.

Shy and quiet around strangers is irrelevant from your point of view.

I'd be clearer about your expectations. If she stomps into your room when you're sleeping, put a lock on the door. If she offends you, quietly let her know- and then drop the subject. Don't hold grudges, ever. There are absolutely no circumstances under which I would allow a child under driving age to go off to the car to sulk, btw. NONE. It's too dangerous, and the car needs to be kept locked and the keys kept secure to stop that happening.

Playing internet psychologist, I'm guessing that her self-confidence could do with a boost. Give it a month for things to settle down, and in that month make an effort to pay her five small compliments a day and to try and have at least one conversation with her a day about what interests her, or share something that interests you.
post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post
To me, this sounds like a situation that requires family counseling, and also a change in the disciplinary structure at home.

This is one of the best parenting books I've ever read for dealing with these kind of issues, because it's targeted at liberal (ie non-Orthodox) Jewish parents, who very commonly don't spank, don't like to be autocratic, value their children highly etc. etc. All well and good, but without some built-in expectations about how each member of the family needs to restrain their yetzer hara (negative will, evil impulse - it's hard to translate but you get the idea), you can easily wind up with a tween who is dominating the household with their negative behavior, even while they are behaving beautifully in the more restrictive environment of school. You guys probably aren't Jewish, but the book might be worth a read anyhow if it's at your library. It might also be entitled "How Educated, Gentle, Loving Parents Raise Kids Who Act Like Jerks, And How To Correct The Problem Without Hitting Or Drugging Them."

In conjunction with counseling, I think that you and your wife need to discuss what kinds of consequences you are willing to enforce for bad behavior. TV and computer privileges are the obvious things that might be on the table. Defending your personal space is also a serious matter - grabbing her mother's chin, coming into your bedroom when you're asleep - her mother needs to call her out on these things.

I don't let my FIVE YEAR OLD AND THREE YEAR OLD interrupt us when we're talking, or go into a room where somebody is asleep and disturb them. And if they have a tantrum at the dinner table, then dinner is over for them and they are sent to their rooms. Sure, twelve year olds are sulky, but it sounds like this goes beyond that. Unless your dsd has a major undxed emotional disorder, she can most certainly learn the short list of 100% unacceptable behaviors and exercise the self-control to avoid them.

In fact, it might be a good idea for you and your wife to start by seeing a counselor together, to really drill down and make sure you agree on that short list. There is power in a united front! She's the disciplinarian, obviously, but she needs your support. Change of this kind is not easy.


and I have to add- thank you for reaching out! Things may be tough now, but it sounds like you really do care about your dsd- which says a lot.. I hope your family life evens out a bit
post #8 of 32
Well, if a child acted that badly in my house, esp. at that age, I would be saying, not just thinking, words a lot worse than pinprick. .. . I think you must have a lot of patience. She is really out to push your buttons, all the time, and I don't think that's normal adolescence. What does your wife think? Isn't she bothered by this? I would say that counselling was in order.
post #9 of 32
Girls in puberty are often drama queens, even without major changes in their family life. Thanks to hormones, they simply cannot help the fact that even little, trivial things may seem to them either end-of-the-world terrible or euphorically wonderful. But certainly they CAN suppress their worst BEHAVIOR, when given clear boundaries as to what's acceptable and when they care about the consequences of behaving unacceptably. This is evident in the fact that she behaves well in school. So she is capable of behaving well (and does not need to be medicated!!) She needs you, but especially your wife, to walk the tightrope of setting limits about her behavior while still being loving and sensitive to the fact that she's having a hard time emotionally adjusting to this new family. It's the rudeness, destructiveness and stubborn refusal to comply with her mother's decisions (such as going in to a restaurant) that is a problem and must stop. Her upset FEELINGS over her life and her relationship with her mom changing - completely outside her control - are NOT bad. THAT is something for which she needs comfort and reassurance. It is very hard to comfort and reassure while disciplining, especially when your wife wasn't great at discipline to begin with!

I assume your wife did not spank her before, so if she begins receiving spankings now, she will rightfully associate that change with YOU. Considering how dramatic she already is, she is certain to feel abused. Then you would have created one more problem in your new family, not a solution. [I]The rest of what I originally posted about spanking I have been asked to remove. Allow me to clarify, I never meant to champion spanking children of any age. I was trying to point out that spanking a child who is already in puberty - especially if it is a new step-father spanking his already-resentful step-daughter - could be perceived as sexually inappropriate, adding a further dimension to the problems with spanking in general. I don't think it's constructive to pretend I'm unaware that there is more than one opinion about spanking. Indeed, the fact that the OP posed "physical punishment" as an option seemed to indicate that he's not entirely opposed to it, under certain circumstances. I was trying to stress how inappropriate it would be under these particular circumstances, without getting sidetracked into a debate on spanking in general. I apologize, in that I seem to have created that debate anyway!)

1- You and your wife must model the calmer, more rational behavior you want her to exhibit. No crying or yelling just because the child is upset.

2- Neither of you can continue to tolerate rudeness from her. She should not be allowed to think she's entitled to punish her mother for getting married, by being disgustingly rude to her. Nor should she think you will bend over backward to "befriend" her while she's telling you to shut up, etc. No one befriends someone who treats them like that. Depending on the severity of the rudeness, she needs to be sent to her room or have priveleges taken away. And she needs to be told, calmly and clearly, that if she's acting that way because she feels upset or angry, she can come talk to either of you about that. You CARE how she feels. But she is plenty old enough and smart enough to SAY what she feels. It is not OK for her to be rude, mean or disobedient. She would not want you guys to tell her to shut up, etc. Nor would she dream of saying such things to her teachers. She simply is not allowed to act like that. Her mother has raised her and deserves her respect. You have not earned her respect yet, but you deserve basic civility.

3- As far as eating out, since you cannot carry her into a restaurant or tie her to the chair, you must be adults, use more planning and hire someone to stay with her if she will not cooperate. Do not bring her leftovers. She can have a peanut butter sandwich if she chooses to stay home. When you get home, make sure you mention to her what a great time you had and how great the food was and that you missed her and sure hope she comes along next time. Just sound happy and genuine, not teasing or pleading. Convey that you will enjoy yourselves even if she refuses to, but anytime she wants to change her attitude she will be welcomed with open arms.

Change will not be quick, but if you and your wife discipline yourselves, in terms of how you respond to her, she will change in time.
post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtiger View Post
I'm wondering how the two of you dated and this issue never came up?
If the moving-in was fairly recent, then it may not have come up at all, or at least not in any concrete way.

Also, to the OP: I grew up in IL and was babysitting other people's children for money at age 12. IL has a sliding scale of responsibility--I know people believe 14 is the absolute minimum age to be left alone, but that's not true. For instance, Illinois law defines a neglected minor, in part, as “any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that minor.”
Juvenile Court Act, 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(d)

You can download the "home alone guide" here: http://www.state.il.us/dcfs/docs/alone.doc. That's from the IL government. There are 15 factors the state uses to determine whether leaving a child home alone is unreasonable--ranging from the child's special needs and capabilities, to the time of day, and weather conditions, to whether the child was locked in a room(!) or left without food for a long period, etc.

The American Red Cross also offers babysitting classes, in IL, directed at 11-15 year olds.

So, while this isn't legal advice, it's also not absolutely illegal to leave a 12-year-old by herself for short periods (though your particular 12-year-old may or may not be capable of it)--at least, perhaps, for dinner during the early evening, if you stay local, bring your cell phone, and leave her something to eat. Perhaps a quick trial run--maybe 20 minutes to run to the store--might be a good idea.

Also: Put a lock on your bedroom door. This girl is 12, not 3--unless your bedroom contains the only emergency exit or the only bathroom in the house or something, there is no emergency in the world where she'd NEED access to your room immediately.

Good luck.
post #11 of 32
Brian, it sounds like your son is old enough that he might like to get in a bit of a joke - especially if you or your wife talk to him about it in private first. When one of you has a place you want to go for dinner, bring the subject up, and when the girl starts going nuts, calmly ask the son if he has time to "babysit" so that the girl doesn't have to go where she doesn't want to be. Offer to bring him a take-out plate.

It'd be a tiny bit mean, and she might scream until she goes hoarse or makes herself sick, but she might start getting the message.

Also, PPs are correct, family counseling is a must, and that book sounds terrific. And if she's going to go into your room when you're asleep, swap that doorknob for one that locks!
post #12 of 32
Jeannine, OP specifically said he would not consider physically punishing her.
TEh Blessings of a SKinned Knee is a really good book.
I like the idea of just hiring someone. Maybe it's the suddenness of your decisions to go out that rub her the wrong way. My 4 yr old is like that. Sometimes she hates spontaneity.
Still, counselling is in order, as is a big heart to heart with your wife.
post #13 of 32
My heart goes out to you. Geez almighty, I'd have broken my own teeth from gritting them were I in your shoes.

Counseling, yep.
post #14 of 32
Wow - such harsh responses. I wish people had taken the time to read and hear the daughter's situation.

She's moved COUNTRIES (not towns, whole countries) 3 times in the last 4-5 years. She hasn't had the experience of her mom dating or spending time with other people. She has no longer-term friends. Likely her mother is the only constant in her life and now suddenly she's gone from that to a dramatic new change with a new stepdad and older stepbrother and new house/home. AND she's going through puberty, which in itself is a dramatic life change even if you didn't have everything else going on.

What this family needs is NOT some new lay-down-the-law, no-tolerance discipline approach - especially if it is true that the mom had a more lax discipline style. They need to find a way to address the underlying issues that are causing this child to act badly. I am NOT saying be a doormat; I am saying that looking it as just a "behavior" question or being about her being a "pinprick" or "obnoxious" or anything else about her character won't get you very far. Try to empathize with her feelings and situation and work on that first. Build a relationship first - and go from there. It won't happen overnight.

Btw, you don't say how long you and the mom dated and how long you've been together. These would seem to be key pieces of information.
post #15 of 32
Sorry, I say the daughter is acting like a spoiled brat, and she needs to be reminded she is BLESSED living in her situation. If my child acted like that my sweet husband would have never married me.

My kids eat what we eat and they don't throw fits. This child needs to learn to respect you. PERIOD. She is 12 and she needs to learn she doesn't rule the roost, cause she will have a harder time when she is 18-21 trying to make it. Kids do not grow up overnight.

Maybe she does need counseling. But more than that she needs a grown up to stand up to her. Child means child. Sometimes they need tough love. Believe me I've been there. Single mom to two kids who ruled MY world. Boy have things changed and we are all happier
post #16 of 32
I was also wondering how much one on one time have you spent with SD? Maybe take some time and ask what her favorite restaurant is. If it is ok, take her there, just you and her. Find time to talk about your insecurities and hers. (Mostly hers...she's the child). My DH takes my kids out and about like they were his, and does things they enjoy (like basketball, surfing, swimming, a movie) alot without me (baby can't go) So, there is an understanding..he does what I want...I do what he wants. Maybe this will help. If not...then ground her like she's never been grounded before. She'll eventually realize what she is missing!
post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by catina View Post
Jeannine, OP specifically said he would not consider physically punishing her.
Thank you for the clarification, Catina. Sometimes I am reading these quickly while entertaining a baby and packing lunches. I certainly missed that nuance and thought he said physical punishment was one of the options he and his new wife considered.

In any event, I have already edited my original post, as follows:

I assume your wife did not spank her before, so if she begins receiving spankings now, she will rightfully associate that change with YOU. Considering how dramatic she already is, she is certain to feel abused. Then you would have created one more problem in your new family, not a solution. The rest of what I originally posted about spanking I have been asked to remove. Allow me to clarify, I never meant to champion spanking children of any age. I was trying to point out that spanking a child who is already in puberty - especially if it is a new step-father spanking his already-resentful step-daughter - could be perceived as sexually inappropriate, adding a further dimension to the problems with spanking in general. I don't think it's constructive to pretend I'm unaware that there is more than one opinion about spanking. Indeed, the fact that the OP posed "physical punishment" as an option seemed to indicate that he's not entirely opposed to it, under certain circumstances. I was trying to stress how inappropriate it would be under these particular circumstances, without getting sidetracked into a debate on spanking in general. I apologize, in that I seem to have created that debate anyway!)
post #18 of 32
Oh, I totally agree with you about spanking!
But OP did say that he and his wife would never consider it, so I do take him for his word there.
Thanks for the hug earlier!!
post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by bronxmom View Post
What this family needs is NOT some new lay-down-the-law, no-tolerance discipline approach - especially if it is true that the mom had a more lax discipline style. They need to find a way to address the underlying issues that are causing this child to act badly. I am NOT saying be a doormat; I am saying that looking it as just a "behavior" question or being about her being a "pinprick" or "obnoxious" or anything else about her character won't get you very far. Try to empathize with her feelings and situation and work on that first. Build a relationship first - and go from there. It won't happen overnight.
It's one thing for a hurting teen girl to say, "You're not my dad and you never will be. I feel like you took my mom away from me. It makes me angry when you tell me what to do!" That's how she feels. It's not comfortable for anyone to hear it, but it's entirely understandable. In that case, the adults in her life should address it honestly and try to comfort her, not chastize her for hurting her step-dad's feelings.

But it's quite another thing for her to tell her mother, "Shut up! If you won't go to the restaurant I picked then I'm sitting in the car!" She knows that's not acceptable behavior - because she behaves better than that in school. So really, to have her mom and step-dad fawn over her after that would send the message that they don't think she's capable of behaving any better or of expressing herself more effectively and that they really don't care about her enough to have higher expectations of her.

Don't we all know adults who never learned how to appropriately express and deal with rage, grief, insecurity, fear, etc.? People who expect that their boy/girlfriends, spouses or children will indefinitely be their emotional punching bags and who then feel surprised, abandoned and unloved if they wind up driving those people away? Parents should strive to teach their children how to handle these things effectively - give their kids appropriate words to use and show their kids that loving arms are waiting for them, if they just say they're hurting...but that even when they're hurting, it's not OK for them to be rude and disobedient.

I'm an adult and sometimes I wish I could take my frustrations out in my car by driving 100 miles/hour and squealing my tires a bit - I'm sure that would feel very cathartic! But of course I can't risk hurting other people or break the law just because I'm in pain. And childhood is not too early to begin learning that basic lesson.
post #20 of 32
QUOTE: "Don't we all know adults who never learned how to appropriately express and deal with rage, grief, insecurity, fear, etc.? "

Yes, and most of them were kids whose parents tried to deny their feelings or responded to negative emotions with punishment. Very few were actually just indulged or spoiled.

QUOTE: "It's one thing for a hurting teen girl to say, "You're not my dad and you never will be. I feel like you took my mom away from me. It makes me angry when you tell me what to do!" That's how she feels. It's not comfortable for anyone to hear it, but it's entirely understandable. In that case, the adults in her life should address it honestly and try to comfort her, not chastize her for hurting her step-dad's feelings. "

Clearly she does not have the emotional vocabulary to express those feelings. She may not even be able to consciously name them. It's the job of the adults in her life to help her identify and learn appropriate ways to deal with her feelings.

QUOTE: "Sorry, I say the daughter is acting like a spoiled brat, and she needs to be reminded she is BLESSED living in her situation. If my child acted like that my sweet husband would have never married me. "

Blessed? How is that exactly? Her parents don't live together; her mom became her world and now she has to share her and live with someone who is a stranger to her and who thinks she's a spoiled brat. I don't see it. She may have a potentially great stepdad and home life, but blessed is going a bit far.

Really, I feel the need to again point out that this is supposed to be an attachment parenting board. The heart of that, imo, is empathy and connection with children. But too often that seems to go missing. We actually don't know the child's behavior; we know her new stepdad's perception of it. People's willingness to start calling a 12 year old obnoxious, spoiled, a brat, etc is really distressing to me.
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