I am new to mothering.com and am pretty much desperate for advice
We are a large blended family. He brought 4 kids into the marriage and I brought 1 plus the 3 year old we have together. We have all been together as a family for 3 years now. The beginning was quiet rocky. We had to establish our roles as parents and determine a mix of our parenting styles.
I am having a hard time handling pre-teen issues and manipulative behavior. My 12 yr old step daughter has been manipulating her dad, my husband. He hasn't always been there for her and with my encouragement he is trying harder to make it right and be a good father. She is kind hearted and uses it to her advantage. She use to manipulate me until I put a stop to it and had her write a formatted paper about manipulation. I am basically at a place to where I do not want to come home. I have been feeling jealous of my 12 yr old step daughter. It breaks my heart because I hardly understand it. I am the only mother that she has and I want to be a mother for her. She did not have any boundaries when I first met her. She lived with her grandpa+grandma+Uncle. Grandpa did not discipline her, at all. She kicked her grandma in the chest after a major heart surgery, numerous times. Grandpa did nothing. Grandpa made her the woman of the house. She was above grandma+uncle on every decision and rules of the house. Grandma's belongings were her's when and if she wanted it, no matter if grandma needed it. She was smoking at the age of 7-8! NO PUNISHMENT FOR SMOKING?!? Now that she is 12 she is developing into a young lady and wants to wear short shorts and see through lace tops and shop at the stores that only carry sizes that are too big for her. We have not had much money for un-necessary items. Grandpa bought her a pair of $300.00 cowgirl boots and an htc evo for her birthday($100.00 a month for the phone). I have been and still am trying to teach my kids how to earn certain things that they want. Grandpa undermines me constantly, I think it sends the wrong message, myself. She is at an old enough age to understand that we are not rich and cannot afford lavish material items at this time. I find it hard to mother her when grandpa is around, too. It is like he is in charge and I am a stranger. She acts completely different when he is around, too. Well we all do, really. :| Grandpa spent $1000.00 dollars on her school clothes but bought nothing else for the the other grandkids. :| I have to somehow explain to the other kids why he does this, they usually find a way to blame me. Also, My husband has been involving her in conversations that children shouldn't be apart of. Conversations about our relationship, personal things. I do not like it and feel jealous when he does this.
Also, I have bent over backwards for my step children. I do not want anything in return except a little appreciation and I do not get it. In the beginning I focused on blending all of us together and mothering three motherless children. At the time it felt necessary to help them and be that mother they always wanted. My daughter who was 5 at the time told me that she felt left out. She was not use to sharing me. She has had the hardest time adjusting out of the bunch. Although the other kids were use to living with grandparents or being moved around. Now that I see how much these kids treat me like I am the enemy, I am starting to feel a resentment. I have been feeling like I just need to focus on my bio-daughter and let everything else fall together. IDK! It has been hard to keep my cool. I have been pretty upset a lot this past summer and I know that I haven't been helping matters by letting this stress get to me. I am 25 years old and I am responsible for my two kids plus his four, I basically run the house. Our home is not functioning the way I dream't it would 3 years ago. HELP!!
As you can see I just do not know what to do to fix this situation. I feel like I am failing my children because this issue with 12 yr old seems to be on my mind a lot. Any advice or experience will be appreciated.
Wow, there's a lot going on there! One thing that might help is talking to a family counselor to help you and your husband come up with a parenting plan? If the two of you have the same, clear picture of what you want things to be like, it'll be easier to back each other up.
Then the two of you will need to set time aside once a week or so to touch base and stay on track. It's a huge challenge for my husband and I to get a little uninterrupted time each week for that and we only have 3 kids but it helps a lot to continually be giving and getting feedback. If you can't sit down together, maybe emails would work, we resort to that sometimes.
What does your husband think of his dad getting a bunch of gifts for only one of the kids? Is there some special reason why that happened, like she's starting high school and the other kids will have their turn when they're twelve or something like that? The other kids need to know, if that's the case. If it's not then that's just crappy and it needs to be stopped. This may be way out of line, but over the top gift giving like that is a sign of sexual abuse. I hope that's so not a possibility that you think I'm nuts for mentioning it, now.
For the manipulating, I think it's normal for kids to try and do whatever they can get away with. You just have to catch her at it as often as you can and ride it out like so many other stages, unfortunately.
~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.
I assume, between the 3-year-old and the marriage, that concluding you bit off more than you could chew and leaving is not an option you would entertain.
If I understand correctly, you're only 13 years older than the problem step-daughter. So realistically you are babysitter age, not mother age, for her. And she's old enough to understand that. On one hand, regardless of your age, if you are often the only adult at home and therefore responsible for the safety of all the children, there is no choice but for you to be an authority figure for your step-daughter. You need to be able to tell her to do her homework, or not to leave the house, or not to set a bad example for the younger kids by being super-rude to you, etc. On the other hand, you cannot be her mother if she is not receptive to such a relationship, no matter whether you're the only maternal figure she has in her life, or not. The more you try to force it, the less receptive she will be.
I absolutely understand the instinct to parent a child who lives in your home - and for whom you have a lot of responsibility - especially when you see she's being parented poorly by others in her life (Grandpa, as well as your husband who doesn't put his foot down about Grandpa). That's a good instinct! But you must be realistic about how much control you actually have, or you'll drive yourself crazy and neglect the kids who are less problematic.
For example, if it's your job to take your SD to school and you know she'll be sent home if she wears a sleeveless shirt, you must calmly and firmly tell her she has to change out of her skanky tank top. (But not in those words.) When she balks, as much as possible leave yourself out of it and try not to show her she's rattling you. Let her know she's wasting her breath trying to convince you her shirt is fine, because it's not about what you think. For better or worse, that's the rule her school made. You are simply there to get her to school, in an outfit that won't get her thrown out. If she's really throwing a fit, a good thing for you to throw in might be a calm, "I love you and I care about you not getting in trouble at school. So even if it does make you hate me, I have to tell you to change your shirt. That's part of my job today, fun or not. I cannot take you to school until you change, and if you take up much more time fussing about this, you're going to be late for school and get a detention. That would have to be worse than changing your shirt."
However, if it's Saturday, your husband's home, your SD's leaving for the mall with her friends dressed like a prostitute in training, and your husband has no objection to it, bite your tongue. When you and your husband are in private, tell him (ideally without shrieking) you understand that she's his little girl, so maybe anything she puts on seems cute, to him. And you understand that he doesn't want to challenge and fight with her on every little thing, because he's trying to rebuild his relationship with her. But then explain to him what you - as a former 12-year-old girl - know about girls her age who try to look and act like they're much older and how your husband is in a unique position to guide and protect her. Build him up. He's a good man and a good father and he alone is his daughter's parent. Grandpa might have more money to buy her clothes, but she is still not allowed to wear those clothes unless her Daddy says they're OK. If your husband is like a lot of men, he may act irritated with you, for challenging him about this. But be patient. Say your piece and let him digest it. You may notice a change in his behavior, later.
Or with smoking. You must have a zero-tolerance policy. A 12-year-old is not going to damage her health and set a horrible example for her younger siblings by smoking - not on your watch and not in your home. Period. But as far as punishments and how to address her attitude of flaunting rules and trying things she shouldn't even be thinking about until she's older...let that be your husband's arena.
Even if your intentions are good, at this stage YOU doing things like making her write an essay as a punishment is only going to make her hate you. As she becomes an older teen, she will test rules and boundaries more and the adults in her life will gradually have less control over her. The more she hates you, the less influence you will have. You need to be focusing on what you like about her, and relating to her as a friend or older sister, as much as possible while still making sure she gets to school, does her homework, etc. The more she likes you and feels that you genuinely care about her - instead of just wanting to change, fix and control her - the more likely she is to listen to your ideas or advice, as she gets older.
Before you came along, this kid was hurt, spoiled and damaged in ways that aren't your responsibility and that you may not have the power to fix. That may be very hard to accept, especially if you're only 25. But you will parent her better, the more effort you make to distinguish what you can and can't control AND the less you let yourself get stuck on fixing her, so you can give adequate attention to the other kids in your care. It really is OK to let yourself enjoy what's NOT broken in your family, even while the broken things remain in need of repair.
As far as being appreciated, forget about it. Teens are self-centered and usually don't appreciate things until later in life. If you're giving your all and striving to do your best and know you deserve appreciation, appreciate yourself. Seriously. Know, deep in your soul, that you're good, you're making your best effort to improve the weaker parts of yourself, and what you're trying to contribute to the world - to your family - is valuable. Feel appreciated, or at least appreciable. Don't wait for a teenager to tell you this, or you may be waiting until he/she turns 30.
Thank you very much for what you wrote. It makes a lot of sense to stop trying to fix her behavior so much... because ultimately I just want her to know that I love her dearly and want the best for her. Today when she gets home from school I am going to try and talk with her like she is my friend, instead of asking her why she didn't do what she was suppose to do. I did bight off more than I could chew but I have committed to this and I do not want to give up just because it is hard right now. Something that I need to make clear is that 12 yr old(step daughter), 7 yr old (biodaughter) and our 3 yr son we have together lives in the home every day... His other 2 children from another marriage ages 7 and 8 live with their grandma majority of the time but stay the summers and half-Holiday breaks with us and 2-3 weekends each month with us. Then also he has 15yr old son who lives with his mom 2 hours away but I do not allow him to sneak/smoke my cigarettes or sit on the couch all day long on the computer/phone so he doesn't come over or respond to phone calls or texts or emails or anything but that is a different forum.
When we first started this family I was and now I feel more like
I do want to also say that my husband is a great man. He is stronger than ever today and has a heart of Gold. We have a deep connection, I love him very much and vise versa. I do not want to make my situation sound uglier than what it is because we have a lot of love in our home.