Married a man about a year ago with 2 kids, SD is 15 and SS is 11. They come from a place where the BM did nothing, slept all day, complained about everything, never worked, and was pretty much a waste of human skin. Fast forward to my house because they live with us now. Kids do nothing, complain about everything, demand everything, never take initiative to do anything around the house yet expect the money to flow freely for ANYTHING they desire. I didn't grow up that way. And neither did my spouse, so I don't understand why these kids have been allowed to become lazy, irresponsible, disobedient human beings. They clearly do not respect their BM,or at times their dad. I couldn't give two rat turds about the BM, she's hardly in the picture anyway. But it bugs me they don't listen to their dad. They ignore things he asks them to do. If I'm not there to make it happen, it doesn't. I'm the enforcer a good deal of the time - at least, that's how I see it since I'm the one that comes home to the mess, gets on them about picking up their crap, cleaning up their mess, etc. That said, I'm at the end of my rope and there's not enough to tie a know and hang on. I work full time, do almost all the cooking, all of the grocery shopping, etc. I'm sick of the demands that are placed on me the second I walk in the door from a long stressful day at work. They are utterly CLUELESS when it comes to the fact that we work. I want so badly to be a good mom to them because they've NEVER had it before - and I'm not exaggerating. I'm just so tired of being unappreciated and feeling like I do everything. Dad works/commute about 10 hours in the day. Part of my demands I know I place on myself because I want to make everything great for everyone, but I'm tired. I don't know how to stop putting demands on myself. I don't want to live in a pig-pen. I get tired of watching the dishes stack up in the sink. Please help me unplug from my demands. I feel like if I don't do all the things "a good mom" is supposed to do, then I'm failing. But, if I try and enforce the rules and get ignored like their dad, then I'm failing there, too. Damned if I try to be a good mom, and damned if I don't.
I want this step-parenting thing to be better
First, you can be frustrated about where they have been, but "a waste of human skin" ?! Yikes. She is their mother, simply for that reason, you need to find some acceptance of her and make peace with it. I certainly hope the attitude you show here doesn't peek through when you talk to these kids.
Beyond that- make up a chore chart so everyone is accountable for certain tasks in the day. If they don't follow through, they miss out of privileges or have some other consistent consequence. Don't make it into a battle, make it matter of fact and move forward. Hand over all of the consequence stuff to their dad. Don't try to be their mom, they already have one.
No, they don't. I'm not sure you read my entire post. She is NOT their "mom." Never has been. These are not words I've chosen simply for the sake of choosing them or trying to be mean, these words are coming from all the people who have been a part of their lives up until now. Even SHE admits she was never a mom to them and is "grateful that now they have a strong female role model in their lives."
I don't make anything into a battle. Hence the frustration. Their previous role model is as I described, and if you knew her, I think you would agree. It's tragic, but it is what it is. The chore chart doesn't seem to be working. As I mentioned, if there isn't monetary reward involved, they don't see it as something worth doing.
As a parting thought, I've got way more class than to show my feelings about their bio-mother to these kids. If anything, I try to find the positive. The kids are her worst critics. Not me. Since I don't know you, I'll try and imagine that you don't assume the worst in people as you did with me.
I know there's a difference between feeling angry/frustrated/resentful/flabbergasted by your step-kid's mom (and wanting to vent on an anonymous forum, to other moms); and expressing those feelings to - or around - the kids themselves. The first thing does not guarantee the other. So, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt!
#1- Plenty of teenagers have attitudes like what you describe. It's not necessarily a failure in someone's parenting. It could be your step-daughter's innate personality; or the influence of the kids she hangs out with; or what she perceives as cool or acceptable, from movies she watches, etc. And the boy may simply be imitating his big sister. I'm not clear how long they've been living with you guys, but if they were living with their Mom until just recently - and you believe she has similar attitudes/behavior - then obviously they could've picked it up from her.
#2- People are usually understanding about toddlers being primarily self-centered. After all, what else can you expect, at their maturity level? While teens and 'tweens are certainly more capable than toddlers, of being considerate of others; they're still children - i.e., rather self-centered - and they're at a very distracting stage of life! They have one foot at home with their parents and the other foot in the overwhelming world of keeping up with their peers and looking ahead to a life on their own. It's simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. Like some adults, who anesthetize themselves with alcohol when things overwhelm them, many teens take the edge off by diving into whatever easy things they may like (video games, spending money at the mall, whatever) and just tuning out the boring or challenging things around them (like figuring out how they should pitch in around the house). What I'm trying to say is, focus less on "What's wrong with them!?" and more on "I see they're tuned out. Well, it's time to tune them in!"
#3- Don't give up on the chore chart. They need very clear guidelines about what's expected of them; and ALSO for you to be consistent. Them being lazy is NOT going to make you let them off the hook. Now, you might want to amend the chore chart. Is it clear when you want these things done? How you want them done? (I find that, for an 11-y-o boy, "Clean your room" is not sufficient. "Make your bed. Put away your clean clothes. Take your dirty clothes to the laundry room. Get everything off your floor and desk and put each thing where it belongs, not under your bed. And vacuum," is what he needs to hear. And he'll need to hear the same guidelines again next week, even though you'll feel like a broken record!) Last, are your expectations reasonable, or are you expecting perfection? Kids are going to leave things laying around, or fail to put their dishes in the dishwasher, sometimes.
#4- Consistently give reasonable consequences. One that works well around here (I have 16- and 12-year-olds) is, if you leave something laying around until I pick it up, I'm putting it in my secret box, in the garage. You may look through the box and take what's yours, after you complete the rest of your weekly chores. It doesn't require yelling, nagging or anything terribly unpleasant. When your kid asks if you know where his iPod is, you can pleasantly say, "Oh! You left it on top of the TV for 2 days, so I picked it up for you. It's in my box in the garage." Naturally, your kid will be upset and act like you're mean and unreasonable. But have the confidence that you're being perfectly reasonable and just keep smiling. Once your kid quits whining, he/she has all the power to decide how long it will take to get his/her iPod back. Just do the chores! Sometimes your kid will call your bluff and say he/she doesn't care about getting the item back. Fine. That's one less thing that will get left around the house. Of course, he/she still has to do the chores. Keep applying consequences, until you find the one that motivates him/her. You can't go out with your friends until they're done. No allowance until they're done. If you don't do your laundry, you won't have clean clothes to wear to school. Something is going to be worse than doing the chore.
#5- The key is, you can't let yourself be so reluctant to give them consequences that they never receive any. I'll admit, this is my problem. I may say, "You can't go to your friend's house until you finish cleaning your room." And I may know in my head that's perfectly reasonable. But the last thing in the world I want is to keep them from visiting their friend! So, if they dawdle and don't get to go, I swear I feel as disappointed as they do - maybe more! In such cases, you have to check yourself (to make sure your rule was reasonable), then stand firm and remind yourself you're not being selfish (making the kids help you). You're teaching them to be responsible, capable, considerate people that others will be able to stand living with (like their college roommates, or future spouses)!
#6- As far as money, try separating the allowance from the chores. Don't pay them for each thing they do. Tell them they're expected to do chores because they're part of the family; and you're willing to give them an allowance, to help them learn to manage money. And you will fulfill your part, when they fulfill their part. All or nothing. But, for this to work, there must be some clarity ahead of time, about what they're to spend their allowance on. Let's say you give your SD enough of an allowance to let her buy her own clothes. Her friends are going on a shopping spree Friday, but she blew off her chores all week. When she begs, "Give me my allowance Friday and I'll make up all my chores on Sunday!" you have to be the bad guy and say no, or she will never learn what she needs to learn. She may tell you she hates you and remind you that you're not her mother. Smile and tell her you love her enough to teach her to be a responsible person; and you may not be her Mom, but you're the one who pays her allowance. Then turn on your heel and don't listen to her comebacks. And don't let her see you cry over that.
Hang in there!
I'm not totally clear on the situation, but if they lived in a place until recently where they didn't have a role model for picking up after themselves, pitching in, taking care of their belongings, etc, there may be many many years of habits to overcome. My kids are younger than your step-kids and I have to stay on top of my kids to get them to pick up after themselves, take care of their things, and pitch in for chores. And they have lived with these expectations for their entire lives. So it will take time for the kids to change habits that have been well-ingrained for years.
Also, if their mom was not caring for them, not mothering them, possibly not even attending to their basic needs, things like washing their own dishes and putting away their laundry were probably pretty low on their priority list. If they were worrying whether or not mom remembered to go grocery shopping, if she was going to come home that night, or whether or not they were safe, they were just trying to survive the best they could. I would expect them to need quite a bit of time (perhaps years) to be convinced they are going to be taken care of, and to be able to even get to a place where they are thinking about anyone besides themselves (and perhaps one another).
If they have been parenting themselves for most of their lives, they are not used to having someone else parent them.
Forgive me if I don't have all the information. It looks like you might be new to this forum, but it often takes several questions and clarifications to understand someone else's situation. For most of us the history is long and complicated, and a couple quick sentences for background aren't enough. (and occasionally there is just too much background and too many differences to ever feel like people are understanding your situation the way you are experiencing it). But sometimes you do have to explain and clarify several times.
Jeannine - You are AWESOME!!! Thank you for taking the time to "talk." I REALLY appreciate all the things you had to say. I see where I can make some adjustments, with the chore chart and not expecting perfection. Although I've worked on not being a perfectionist with them, I know it inevetiably must creep in from time to time. Ahhh...I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Thank you! Thank you! :)
Aricha - Thank you for your comments, also. I appreciate your perspective and the things you pointed out. It's very helpful. :)
I'll be cutting and pasting both your comments to a separate piece of paper so I can print them out and review them - help me to keep things in perspective. I genuinely want the best for these two little lives I've been blessed with being a part of. And, I'll do my best to help facilitate their upbringing in the most positive manner possible. Thank you, both, again for taking the time to comment.
I am dating someone right now who pretty much deals with this regarding his own child and his child's bio mother. She is lazy. She CAN work and does when she can find it but she mostly just sleeps all the time, dates around, has to have a man in her life and puts the man she is dating ahead of her kids (she has two other kids by other men) and leaves the kids all home and won't even tell them when she is going out somewhere or where and when she will be back. The reason they split years ago was because of her infidelity and using drugs. Him even allowing her to see their child is breaking his agreement through court about 11 years ago. He isn't supposed to let her have anything but supervised visitation and he lets her have their child 4 nights per week. This is mainly so he can work and have his own life. There have been countless times my SO will tell me he will have to go to her house (well, trailer) and pick up his son because his own mother forgets it's his dads day to get him and stayed out all night somewhere and never came back home. The kid will literally sleep til 2 or 3 in the afternoon on the days he is to go to his dads. :-( It's really sad. The only time my own bio mom wasn't home with me as a child was when she was working 1 of her 3 jobs. She never put anything first before her kids and worked her butt off. Lazy women like this disgust me.
Oh and I forgot to comment on the situation with the kids. Maybe you could do a chore chart and talk to them about helping around the house in a nice way. I really don't know how to go about doing this. I haven't had to deal with such a thing myself. You could incorporate them in helping you prepare meals and make it fun, talk to them and get to know them and all about whats going on in their lives that way. Spend a lot more quality time with them and hang out with them and get to know them each on a personal level. Any kid likes that with anyone they know. Make sure they have meals with you and DP all the time as much as possible and go from there and start asking them to do chores after you have formed more a bond with them.
Lots of kids don't do chores and while it must be frustrating, maybe you could lower your expectations? So what if the house is not spotless? A slightly messy house might be something to let go. If things lying around bother you, you could try the brown box idea that worked for me (but my kids were younger). I had a big brown box in the garage that I just dumped everything lying around - clothes, pens anything the kids left lying around. They had to then rummage around for what was missing. I threatened to throw it out with the weekly garbage, but never had to. A couple of other ideas - have the kids use disposable plates, hire help...