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New Step-family, facing issues with daughter need advice - Page 2

post #21 of 32
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...
Absolutely correct.

OP, I'm going to be blunt; your attitude towards this girl is terrible. It sounds like you treat her well but your thoughts are so negative. Do you really think things are going to get better by labeling her a brat, even in your own mind? She is 12. You are an adult.

Get into marriage counseling. Read books about child development. Read books about positive discipline, but let her mother take care of that. Most children are not "very silent" and I wonder if your expectations are out of line.
post #22 of 32
Originally Posted by bronxmom View Post
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.
Exactly! Well-said. Hand-in-hand with teaching her that vocabulary and guiding her in how to express angry feelings in a way that gets her the comfort and reassurance she needs is teaching her that she does not have a right to hurt others when she feels bad.

You said earlier you weren't advocating being a doormat, but aren't you being a doormat if your 12-year-old daughter tells you to shut up and you feel obliged to hug her and give her excuses why it was OK for her to say that, instead of telling her she may not talk to you like that?

Originally Posted by bronxmom View Post
this is supposed to be an attachment parenting board. The heart of that, imo, is empathy and connection with children.
I do not think it is empathetic at all to raise children to believe they are entitled to behave in ways that will drive people other than their parents away. You can absolutely be connected to and sensitive and responsive to your child without abdicating your parental responsibility to teach them to be considerate of others.

Originally Posted by bronxmom View Post
We actually don't know the child's behavior; we know her new stepdad's perception of it.
Of course that is true. Just as when women write in saying their husbands or ex husbands have abused them and they are justified in seeking supervised visitation...we aren't hearing the man's POV, so we don't know for sure that the woman isn't just a manipulative liar. (Those women exist!) I think we have to respond to what we read here with the basic assumption that our fellow board-members are telling the truth, to the best of their ability. If they're not, then they know the advice they receive is based on untruths...even if we will never know.
post #23 of 32
What Jennine said.

"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."

If you truly love a child, if you truly respect them and acknowledge their innate potential, if you are committed to doing the hard work of parenting (or stepparenting) them well and helping them develop into functional adults, then you DO NOT let them treat you in ways that will cause OTHER PEOPLE to decline to form close relationships with them. Charity may begin at home, but so does self-control and the move away from the utter self-centeredness of toddlerhood.

Counseling. Counseling. Three cheers for counseling!!! Everybody beat the drum for counseling!!!
post #24 of 32
OP did not state that he expected the girl to be "very silent"--he used those words to describe his meditating son. I certainly didn't get the impression that he expected a 12 yr old girl to be a very silent meditator!!
In fact, I got the impression of someone who cared a lot, but was understandably rattled by what seems to be me to be pretty extreme behaviour.
post #25 of 32
She has a step-dad who cares enough to come to an AP board to get advice on how to handle the situation. I do think she is blessed because she has food, shelter and a loving family. 12 is not far from 13, 14, 15, etc. Taking responsibility and acting a bit self-less on her part is not too much to ask for her age. (i.e. going out to dinner with parents and not complaining (like a brat
post #26 of 32
I would appreciate it if we could avoid calling children spoiled, obnoxious or brats on this board.

My point about only knowing the stepdad's perception is not that he is lying but that perception is very important. For example, it seems to him that she throws a fit every time they want to go out for a meal. Fair enough. What's his definition of a fit? That she wants to go sit in the car and doesn't want to participate? Annoying but not exactly a tantrum. Does she lie down on the floor and kick and scream? Then yes, clearly there's a problem. We just don't know what constitutes a tantrum to the OP.

How often do they eat out? Sounds like a lot and without any foreplanning/warning. (And I say this as someone who all too often drags my kid to restaurants she doesn't want to go to) If they go to a place that's more adult-oriented perhaps it's alienating and more of a chore for the child. Perhaps she really wants to be at home. Perhaps a solution would be to eat out less frequently and hire a sitter. In other words, perhaps the child has legitimate grievances. Perhaps she expresses them poorly. I agree she should be helped to express them more appropriately - but her concerns/grievances/issues should be addressed immediately nonetheless.

The quickness with which people are willing to label this child (and 12 is still very, very far from an adult) a brat based on very little information is truly disturbing.
post #27 of 32
I would appreciate it if we could avoid calling children spoiled, obnoxious or brats on this board...The quickness with which people are willing to label this child (and 12 is still very, very far from an adult) a brat based on very little information is truly disturbing.
Thank you so much for saying this.

When my teen went through a rough patch, his behavior at school did not change. He didn't feel safe enough at school to let his sorrow and frustrations come out. It's not just toddlers who do that.

I believe we would still be in that negative place if we had not found a therapist who supported AP for teenagers. We stopped thinking in terms of "fixing" our child and instead focused on where the pain was coming from. We stopped judging and started listening. Once we were out of the most painful part, life naturally fell back into place.

By the way, I never said the OP wanted a "silent" SD. I was pointing out that most children/teens would not be described as "mostly silent" and perhaps he needs to make sure he's not judging SD but what was normal with his S.
post #28 of 32
I was your step daughter! My mom was a single parent. I was asocial, so the person to whom I was closest was my mom. When she remarried, my behavior at school was perfection. Honor roll, etc.

My behavior at home - I took EVERYTHING out on my step dad. And pretty much made his life a living hell.

What did he do?

Well, nothing. When I did something inappropriate, he just said "you know, that hurts my feelings, maybe we could talk about how we could make it better." This was his line for pretty much everything I ever did or said to him. My behavior passed after a year. Mainly due to his amazing patience and kindness. He never lost his temper, never lost his patience. And this was an incredible feat - the man was truly the best step dad anyone could wish for.

I am so grateful to him. If he was ever angry, I never saw it. He really made huge attempts to open communication with me, to share with me, to give me options. If I didn't want to go out to eat (I also did the "I'll sit in the car bit"), he would pick me up take out on the way home. Or he'd compromise on restaurant options.

So, my advice - either do family counseling or learn to cultivate patience. With patience and kindness, this will pass. But, as long as you have a negative outlook on your wife's child, as long as you view her as a brat, problem, etc., then the issues will continue. Understand that her actions are nothing against you personally. She is 12 years old, has moved countries many times, and now her living situation AND her relationship with her mom is changing dramatically. Of course she is going to push back and probably use you as her punching bag for awhile. She's 12 - she's not going to handle these transitions as an adult or as your son does.

Let her know how it makes you feel, but do understand where she is coming from and cultivate patience.

I'm really surprised by some of the responses on this thread. Children are not brats who are acting out for no reason at all. This girl is going through some major changes ... she doesn't need negativity, but understanding and patience.
post #29 of 32
Just found an article at Attachment Parenting International about step parenting teenagers that looks helpful!

post #30 of 32
Dear Brian54,

There has been a lot of good advice given here.

I specifically loved Sailor's comments about how his own step-father handled his bad behavior. I do this with my own step-children AND children. I don't let them verbally abuse me. When they say or do something hurtful, I gently tell them that they've hurt my feelings. All of our children have good hearts and they're all defenseless in the face of learning that they've hurt someone.

I do not punish my step-children, nor do I insist that DH does. I just keep on doing my thing with them: I model the kind of behavior I would like to see from them and I'm never shy about letting them know how their words/actions effect me (positive AND negative).

That said, I do sometimes punish my own children when their behavior is particularly hurtful or inappropriate. For example, my DD (10 and learning the meaning of "hormone") recently called her sister an as*hole. I consider myself an AP parent, but in my world, calling your sister an as*hole warrants a consequence. DD knows better. She was just being mean for the sake of being mean. She's not 3. She's old enough and skilled enough to be able to be expected to handle a difficult situation in a more appropriate manner. And we have a zero tolerance policy for cruelty in our home.

I've digressed, but what I really wanted to do by posting to this thread was to validate YOUR feelings as the stepparent.

OP, it's okay and appropriate to be confused, jealous, angry, at your wits end, and downright pissed over being mistreated. You came here and you asked for support. And I think that's okay. I also think it's okay for you to think your step-daughter is acting like a spoiled brat. I don't think it's okay for you to act that way toward her, but if you feel that way, I think you're entitled to have a community in which you can safely talk about your experience as a step-parent.

This is me giving you support. It's really hard to be a step-parent. It can be lonely and frustrating. You can't be expected to muster the same feelings for your stepchild that you have for your biological children. If you ever achieve that, then I applaud you. But don't let anyone tell you that you're a bad step-parent if you don't love your step-children the same way you love your own children.

The transition to a blended family can be as stressful on the adults as it is on the children. And just as the children need an outlet for the feelings they encounter through that transition, so do the adults.

You're a good person. You care about your stepdaughter. I can see that. Don't take to heart the criticism of some of the poster's here regarding how you feel. You're entitled to your feelings too!

You can support your step-daughter by allowing her to be angry, by helping her to find more appropriate ways to express her anger, by letting her know when her words/behaviors hurt you, by modeling the kind of behavior you want to see in her, by reaching out to her in her calmer moments and trying to be her friend, by asking her from time to time how she's feeling and then just listening when she responds, and by continuing to love her mom.

This is getting long, but let me just say one more thing: you are not ruining her life, no matter what she says. You are not responsible for her pain. It can be very easy for step-parents to internalize their step-children's pain by convincing themselves that "maybe if I hadn't married her mom, she would be a happier person."

Be gentle with yourself and give yourself the permission to feel pain and anger, too.

It's really okay.

I promise.

post #31 of 32
Originally Posted by bronxmom View Post
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.
I'm with Bronx Mom, well said and thanks for chiming in on the dd's behalf
post #32 of 32
Sailor and Bronxmom said it very well. I too am surprised by many of the responses here. I was very dismayed by the OP's use of words like "pin-prick" and "little brat" when it seems reasonably evident what the problems are for the 12 year old (complete social, physical, emotional upheaval in her life).
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