Stepchildren acting like their mother. Lord, help me. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 01-16-2010, 08:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I apologize in advance if this comes off as slightly "hot under the collar." I'm definitely venting here and have literally nowhere to vent besides here (and this is my first post in this forum).

Situation is this: I live with DP, my five year old and our three month old. The stepkids live with their mother, her DP and their one year old. Stepkids are seven and five years old. We have the stepkids basically every other evening and one night/full day of every weekend. The schedule is very flexible - meaning we might have them longer sometimes and shorter at other times. DP and his ex had a mutual break-up and are on very good terms (annoyingly good ).

The kids' mother and I are "fine." We don't really interact all that much and when we do, we're cordial. There really isn't any bad blood or anything to that effect. Any weirdness is probably on my side and it's because I don't especially like her as a person. I feel like she's loud and fake and tends to just sort of "spout off" about nothing in particular all the time. I also feel like she lets the kids watch WAY TOO MUCH television and she definitely does not discipline the way we do (doesn't "stick to her guns", lets the kids mouth off and retains almost no boundaries). Anyway, I could go on, but I'll restrain myself...

Here's the thing: since probably Christmas-time whenever the kids are here, they are mouthy and disrespectful. They yell at each other and at their dad. They don't listen. DP will go to talk to them about their actions and they will scream "GET OUT" or "GO AWAY" which sends him into total anger. DSD in particular will scream or pretend to be all "nicey-nice" and then disobey. They are rude and impolite. DSS tends to be a blow-hard and banters on and on even to the point of lying when ANY subject comes up that he knows even the tiniest bit about and don't even get me started on dinnertime.

Today was really hard. The kids were screaming at each other and we had to punish them and not allow them to go to a movie we were planning to go to (I took my five year old by ourselves). They hurt each other physically and finally DP had to ground DSS from tv. It just feels like we are starting over every single time they come over. It's exhausting and stressful and chaotic, not to mention we have a three month old so I am sleep deprived.

They really are good kids and I know a lot of this is normal for their ages and normal for the situation. I'm sure they are still adjusting to it (although we've been together for over three years). I just don't like this stressed out, tired feeling I have and I can feel resentment growing inside. I don't want this to turn into a "forever feeling". What can I do??

Anyone else have this sort of situation?

Mama to Maia (12/04), Nora (9/09), Sam (8/12) and Step-mama to Aidan (3/02) and Luci (10/04).

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#2 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 12:01 AM
 
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Originally Posted by saffrongirl View Post
It just feels like we are starting over every single time they come over.
I know this feeling well. I experience it every Tuesday evening and every other Friday evening. The only times that it gets better is when the kids are here for an extended period of time and we get into "our" routine. The fact is that they live in two *very* different households. Different rules, different expectations, etc. DSD 10 acknowledged it when we were in family therapy this summer. She said it's like they are two different people. I try really hard to be gentle with them and remind them of what acceptable in our home without sounding critical of what is allowed in their other home. It's tough. If you have the means or ability, I would suggest family therapy. It helped our situation a lot because the kids were able to see how their actions affected DH and I.

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#3 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 12:09 AM
 
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You sound very frustrated. I do want to say that DSD's mom used to tell us that every time she came home from spending the weekend here - "she became rude, distant" etc. etc. etc. She was certain we did something to cause the change.

Now that dsd lives here, whenever she goes out with her mom, wouldn't you know it, she comes back rude and distant on occasion, and I really don't think it has anything to do with that parent. I think some kids have hard time transitioning, and in your case the children are really small. Must be tough on everyone.

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Originally Posted by saffrongirl View Post

Here's the thing: since probably Christmas-time whenever the kids are here, they are mouthy and disrespectful. They yell at each other and at their dad. They don't listen. DP will go to talk to them about their actions and they will scream "GET OUT" or "GO AWAY" which sends him into total anger. DSD in particular will scream or pretend to be all "nicey-nice" and then disobey. They are rude and impolite. DSS tends to be a blow-hard and banters on and on even to the point of lying when ANY subject comes up that he knows even the tiniest bit about and don't even get me started on dinnertime.
....
What can I do??
On to your question, as to what can you do...

Here is what I know - you will not be able to change the way the other household parents a child. Just doesn't work that way. So the sooner you can accept that, the less stress you will have for the years to follow.

What else can you do?

You can encourage their father to do his best, and to pull it together. That bolded bit about "sending him into total anger" is not a very healthy thing. What the kids need to learn is that there are certain expectations when they are at your house. You have to be consistent, AND your husband has to find a strategy not to lose his temper. They need to see a parent being able to handle the discipline in a calm manner. If a parent screams when he is upset - there is no reason to think that a child will not scream when they are upset.

You want to establish a certain atmosphere, where adults set the example and don't give in to anger, even when things get frustrating. I absolutely believe that how the other household parents can make things easier or more difficult on your house. At the same time, I also believe that kids recognize different social structures even in non-divorced households: they behave differently at grandma's, and with a teacher, and with one parent vs. the other, so it's not out of ordinary to expect a five year old to follow the rules in one place that they don't have to follow at another, kwim?

I know it's not easy. Been there done that. In fact, I think I'm still "there".

Best of luck

That's where I would start, if I were in our shoes.

New endeavor coming soon...
Raising Alice in Wonderland (DSD, 17), and in love with a Superman
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#4 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 11:56 AM
 
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Every other night is really tough on kids. I would suggest that Mom and Dad look at adjusting the schedule to maybe an every other week or a 2/5/5/2 (or is it 5/2/2/5?) schedule. Reduce the transitions, and you may find that it's easier for everyone.
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#5 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 03:29 PM
 
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Aside from the obvious you-have-a-new-baby-so-of-course-you-are-exhausted-and-irritable aspect, I agree that this visitation schedule sounds really hard. Hard on them, hard on you, to have so many brief stays. Is there any way that your dp and his ex can work out a different schedule?

If not, can you find some money in the budget for your dp take all the non-baby kids out to Chuck E. Cheese or a movie or whatever on some of "his" evenings during the week, so you and the baby can have some peace and quiet at home? Do they stay overnight on those weekday evenings, or do they go back to Mom's to sleep? In the latter case, I think you could easily sell both your 5 y.o. and your stepkids on an "evening out" plan rather than the current "come over to the house and fight while Mommy falls asleep over her dinner" plan.
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#6 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 03:43 PM
 
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Lots of transitions are harder on everyone. There will always be some time needed for adjustment, so if they're there every couple of days, the adjustment might not even have time to occur. I agree with the other posters that your DH and his ex should try to figure out a less frequent/longer stay visitation schedule. Good luck!

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#7 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 06:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah I agree that they should have a better/different visitation schedule. I guess I just always struggle with how involved I should be with the custody/visitation/divorce semantics between DP and his ex. I feel like many of their arrangements don't make sense to me and certainly aren't the way I would have chosen to do things so I try to stay as far removed from it as I can. I can sort of suggest that they do some other kind of arrangement, but then I feel like I might be getting more involved than I would want to be. I also know that DP wants to see them as often as possible so he feels this every other evening thing helps him do that. Also, the kids have been doing this for the past three years or so, so I feel like they should be "used to" this.

Maybe some of it is that when they are here I feel largely out of control in my own home. I feel like I stay out of the disciplining of his children and, through my own choice, I don't really tell them what to do, etc. I tell my own child what to do and the others sort of follow. DP definitely follows my lead, but again, he is definitely not as patient as I am and will begin yelling at his kids in instances where I would talk it out if it were my kids. It just feels like there's this faction between the parenting of his kids vs. my kids and I don't really know if I have a right to be a part of the parenting of his kids...

Mama to Maia (12/04), Nora (9/09), Sam (8/12) and Step-mama to Aidan (3/02) and Luci (10/04).

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#8 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 06:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

If not, can you find some money in the budget for your dp take all the non-baby kids out to Chuck E. Cheese or a movie or whatever on some of "his" evenings during the week, so you and the baby can have some peace and quiet at home? Do they stay overnight on those weekday evenings, or do they go back to Mom's to sleep? In the latter case, I think you could easily sell both your 5 y.o. and your stepkids on an "evening out" plan rather than the current "come over to the house and fight while Mommy falls asleep over her dinner" plan.

I've definitely done this. Meaning, I've tried to arrange my schedule so that I go grocery shopping or run errands when the kids are here or I find fun things for them to do OUT of the house with DP. I just don't want them to start to feel like I'm trying to avoid being around them. The other day in fact, DP asked me jokingly if I liked his kids. I know he meant it jokingly but I got really defensive and started listing off all the things I do for them: "Wash their clothes, make their dinners, buy their Christmas presents and wrap them..." I started to feel like I was singing that song from Fiddler on The Roof, "Do you love me?" But the amount of my defensiveness made me wonder if perhaps I'm doing too much...? I don't know. I do feel like the lack of control I feel over the situation transfers to me being really anal about keeping the house clean and straightened - an area I do feel like I can sort of keep under control. But then I become Hitler Mom and I hate that. I don't know how to find a balance.

Mama to Maia (12/04), Nora (9/09), Sam (8/12) and Step-mama to Aidan (3/02) and Luci (10/04).

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#9 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 06:42 PM
 
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"Maybe some of it is that when they are here I feel largely out of control in my own home..."

... and, being the mom of a very new baby, feeling at peace and in control in the your home is pretty important to your mental health right now.

I can understand, totally, that you dh would want to see his kids on evenings during the week. Do you think there is any chance he'd be willing to take them out to do something fun and then drop them off at mom's home to sleep? I'm still not clear on whether they just visit you for dinner during the week, or whether they stay over and get on the bus from your house the next day... I just get the impression from your post that things are a little too intense in your house right now, and you need more calm and quiet for awhile. Not to mention the kids would probably behave a heck of a lot better in a public forum, and not have such a transition shock to deal with if they were sleeping in same place 6 days/week - so the visitation might be a better experience for all concerned.
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#10 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 07:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I can understand, totally, that you dh would want to see his kids on evenings during the week. Do you think there is any chance he'd be willing to take them out to do something fun and then drop them off at mom's home to sleep? I'm still not clear on whether they just visit you for dinner during the week, or whether they stay over and get on the bus from your house the next day... I just get the impression from your post that things are a little too intense in your house right now, and you need more calm and quiet for awhile. Not to mention the kids would probably behave a heck of a lot better in a public forum, and not have such a transition shock to deal with if they were sleeping in same place 6 days/week - so the visitation might be a better experience for all concerned.
Sorry, forgot to answer this. He usually picks them up after work around 5PM and then we have them until 8PM or so. He gets up for work VERY early so it's really better for them to be at their mom's in the morning so that I don't have to get everyone off to school. On weekends, he'll usually get them on Fridays around 5 and then they go back to mom's on Saturday evening. They both have rooms here and toys here, etc. They really do have two homes since they have all equivalent things at each house.

So do you think/are you saying that he should try to take them out for awhile until we/I settle in a bit better with the baby? Or as a long-term solution? I just don't want to create this feeling of them and us...I'm trying really hard to make us be a family, but it's hard when I don't really feel like that and honestly, sometimes wish they would just disappear.

Mama to Maia (12/04), Nora (9/09), Sam (8/12) and Step-mama to Aidan (3/02) and Luci (10/04).

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#11 of 16 Old 01-17-2010, 07:47 PM
 
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I think that you are very likely to feel better and have more to give in a few months. Since they are already not getting off the bus at your house or anything like that, it seems to me that your DP could pick them up and take them out for fun on his weeknight visitation without ruining the family dynamic. Especially if you send along your five year old. Then it's a Dad-plus-kids outing, while Mom and baby stay home and rest. Not unusual at all in any family with a new baby, blended or not.
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#12 of 16 Old 01-20-2010, 11:49 PM
 
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#13 of 16 Old 01-21-2010, 12:07 AM
 
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I find that after school/evening visits are very difficult during the week. Getting home, making dinner, doing homework, book, bath, bed takes up almost the entire time with children that age. It is also the most stressful time of the day, IMO. Everyone wants & needs something at the exact same time!

Is it possible to do a shorter visit during the week (maybe just 2 hours to do homework and play a game?) and change the overnights from Friday to Saturday? Fridays seem to be a busy night (school during the day- it is almost like a schoolnight) and Saturdays can be more relaxed, IMO.

My ex and I used to do Friday nights overnight for dd and have found that Saturday nights work better for her and for us. Since starting that, dd and I are more relaxed Fridays and she is much more ready to see her dad on Saturday. It's a win for all of us.
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#14 of 16 Old 01-21-2010, 12:27 AM
 
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I honestly feel like...and just a gut feeling, that if you had longer visitation but spaced out more, the kids would adjust better. Imagine how it would feel to sleep one night in your bed, the next in your bed but in a totally different house...one night with one set of rules, the very next night with a different set. That would cause anyone stress, let alone small children.

Perhaps you can approach your partner by saying that you want him to have quality interactions, not just quantity, and try every other weekend, all weekend for a trial period. See if it works.

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#15 of 16 Old 01-21-2010, 01:18 PM
 
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My parents split when I was in middle school and my sister in elementary school, so we were a little but older that your step-kids, but it was HARD. My parents lived in the same town, so we'd go over to my dad and step-mom's house every Thursday (staying the night) and then every other weekend, so we had 4-day weekends every other week. By the time I graduated high school my parents had this arrangement for 5 years - I can tell you that I never got used to it. Sure, it became a part of our weekly routine, but I'd be at my dad's and realize I wished I had something from my room at my mom's. I would have hated the every other day visitation, especially considering it'd be being shuffled from one house to school then back home then to another house with other rules then back to the original house with another set of rules probably just in time to get to bed - as an adult looking back on that schedule it stresses me out. I think it'll only get tougher as they get older and become more involved in activities.

I really agree with the pp's that making the visits longer would be much easier on the kids and probably you and your dh and kids as well - especially when it comes to managing the rules of your home. I also like the suggestion of your DH picking them up and doing some sort of activity with them during the week sounds like a nice idea as well.

It sounds to me like the kids are acting out in response to the stresses of never knowing where they're going to be (as a 5 or 7 year old, even with the routine being in place for 3 years, keeping track of what day is mom's or dad's is not easy) and not feeling like they have a sense of stability. Plus, they may not feel they have a sense of being able to just go off and be by themselves since they are never in the same place two evenings in a row. I think you/dh and their mom both likely have stable homes but the kids don't experience that.

I think this situation is definitely resolvable, especially as your youngest gets older and the step-kids grow, but just as you are feeling some resentment creeping in, you can bet the kids are probably also feeling some of those same feelings and they may be too young to process them positively.

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#16 of 16 Old 01-21-2010, 08:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the replies. I agree that I will be able to think clearer and be better able to deal with all this when the baby is older and I've slept. I think I'll try to suggest adjusting the schedule - though I hate getting involved. Obviously I'm already involved though so I need to just suck it up and have the discussion probably...

Mama to Maia (12/04), Nora (9/09), Sam (8/12) and Step-mama to Aidan (3/02) and Luci (10/04).

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