Parenting is never easy, but when you have a blended family—with bio-kids and stepkids, your spouse’s ex, and other extended family members thrown into the mix—things can get very difficult very quickly. We receive questions every week in Empowering Parents from readers who ask: “How can I discipline my stepkids effectively and get their respect? No matter what I do, they just won’t listen to me.” Carri and Gordon Taylor, nationally recognized experts on creating thriving stepfamilies, have answers that have worked for countless stepparents.
It can be extremely hard to find the right balance when you’re a stepparent. Many adults try to blend their families with high expectations: they may think it will be similar to their first marriage in terms of time spent with their spouse and the attention they’ll be able to give the relationship. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
We like to say that first marriages are “apples,” and second marriages are “oranges”: you can’t compare the two, because while a first marriage is all about your new partner, a subsequent marriage revolves around the kids—and making sure that everyone has a place in the family. In working with stepfamilies over the years, we’ve found if the parents try to rush it or “force new family,” it’s not going to work out well. And here’s the tough part for adults: the steprelationship is the barometer of how (or if) the family is coming together—and the child is the one who will determine that, because you can’t make anyone like you.
It’s important to realize that everyone’s role shifts when you create a stepfamily. In fact, when you first bring everyone together, all the kids will try to figure out where—or even if—they belong in the new system. If they don’t believe they have a place—or if they think someone is taking their place—they’ll often act out. We’ve come up with five tried-and-true “secrets” that helped us after we created our own stepfamily. We’ve also used them to help thousands of other couples successfully blend theirs. (Read to the end for the “bonus secret” that we think every stepparent should know!)
Related content: More on Blended Families — “My Child and My Spouse Don’t Get Along!”
Secret Number 1: Defer to the Bio-Parent
Surprised? It’s true. As a stepparent, it’s important to defer to the bio-parent. Even though this might go against everything you expected, the steprelationship needs time to develop. It’s important not to be the heavy, but you can’t disappear either. Maintaining your presence and at the same time supporting the bio-parent is difficult, but will be productive. The irony is that when you relax and support the bio-parent, the relationship with your stepchild will form faster.
You’re the good cop; let the bio-parent be the bad cop. If there’s a behavior for which your stepchild needs a consequence, let your spouse deal with it and support their decision. The good cop finds out the interests of the stepchild and develops the relationship by getting involved in the child’s life based on those discoveries.
Secret Number 2: Don’t Compete with Your Counterpart
Don’t compete with your counterpart; rather, uphold them. In other words, don’t try to be a better mom than your stepkids’ bio-mom, or a better dad than their bio-dad. No matter what you think of the bio-parent’s style of discipline (or lack thereof) it’s important to respect and acknowledge the strength of the biological connection. This can be difficult to do when your new spouse is still at war with his or her ex, and possibly still fighting over the kids and other issues.
Many stepmoms decide they’re going to make up for all the hurt and pain. Many stepfathers have an attitude of “I’m going to shape up this platoon and lead the troops out of the wilderness.” But as somebody once said, “If the stepdad is leading and no one is following, he’s just out for a walk.” We encourage stepparents to establish a relationship with their stepkids rather than being a dictator or rigid authoritarian. Simply be present in the child’s life and avoid “fixing things” or competing with the bio-parent.
Secret Number 3: Discover Your Stepchild’s Interests
Discover the things your stepson or stepdaughter likes. Start off as you would with any friendship: find some common ground and do things together that you might both enjoy. Remember, you’re just there to build a relationship appropriately, not to parent or take the place of your stepchild’s mother or father. Come in as a friend or a benevolent aunt or uncle; in other words, choose a role other than “parent” in order to foster the relationship.
Secret Number 4: Get Out of the Way
Let your spouse have one-on-one time with his or her kids—without you. This helps reduce the displacement and loss the child might be feeling, and assures him that he hasn’t been displaced by somebody else. This flies in the face of the myth of “instant family.” In our own stepfamily, we always encouraged each other to go off for the weekend or do special things with our bio-kids solo, and it helped everyone immeasurably. In all blended families, this reassures the children that they still belong and haven’t lost the love of their bio-parent to the new spouse.
One of the most common complaints of biological parents is that they believe they’re caught in the middle. We often hear, “I love my spouse and I love my children, but I feel like I’m being pulled apart.” Many stepparents get all sick and nervous if their spouse is still spending time with his or her kids and not including them. Our advice to them is, “Well, if you plan to be in this marriage awhile, don’t worry about it—you’ll get your turn.” In the meantime, this relieves the bio-parent and releases them to enjoy their children— and lets the stepkids know you’re not there to take their parent away.
Secret Number 5: Act Lovingly Even If You Don’t Like Your Stepkids
We hear this all the time: “I feel guilty because I don’t love my stepkids.” The reality is that you may never love them as your own—or even like them. And remember, you can’t make your stepkids like you, either! You are the “intruder.” In their minds, you’ve displaced them. But even if you don’t like them, you can learn to act lovingly toward them. Love is an action; so behave in a loving manner toward your stepkids. It may surprise you down the road; as the relationship develops, love just may develop!
It’s important to realize that because of the pain kids experience after divorce—and continue to feel with a remarriage—they may act out. They may not have the skills to talk it out and express what’s really going on inside. Many couples will come in for counseling and in essence say, “Fix these kids.” Yet the kids aren’t broken—the family is. So we ask the adults if they are willing to acknowledge the pain and brokenness that they created. If the couple is able to gain the skills to listen and understand what the child is going through, over time, the kids will usually respond productively.
Bonus Secret: Find Something Right
Find something good about your stepkids. Instead of focusing on the negative or complaining about them, find something positive to say to your spouse. That gets your husband or wife out of the middle, and puts you in a more positive frame of mind about the kids.
Here’s the analogy we like to use with the stepparents we see: The stepfamily relationship is a “baby relationship”: it’s brand new and very weak. In essence, it’s like you’re trying to pull a Mack truck with a piece of string. And if you pull too hard or discipline too rigidly, you’ll just pop the string. So take the time to develop the relationship, making the string into a cord, the cord into a rope, and the rope into a chain. The chain you end up with some day will be strong enough to take all the pushes and pulls of normal relationships. (And by the way, we are talking about years—not days, weeks, or months!)
We understand that these “5 Secrets of Effective Stepparenting” are not always easy to follow, but over the years, we’ve seen fabulous things happen in stepfamilies when they do it right. And it’s happened in our own family—we’ve been able to develop some wonderful relationships with our stepkids by sticking to these principles. Just remember that it takes a lot of time, perseverance, maturity, commitment and patience on the part of all the adults involved.
Related content: Stepchildren Making You Crazy? 5 Ways to Manage Conflict in Blended Families
Carri is a mom, step-mom and grandmother with 24 years of stepfamily experience. She and her husband Gordon are nationally-recognized experts on stepparenting and blending families successfully.
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Our blended family consists of 5 adult children and one high school senior. My biological children are the first three in age and my wife's are the next 3. there ages range from 30-18. Our youngest, my wife's daughter is 18 and a high school senior and lives full time with us. She has what appears to be a good relationship with her father. Some back ground, she stopped doing overnights at her fathers 4 years ago when her brother went off to college. I've known my wife for 5 years now, we were married last fall, Thanks giving weekend approximately 4 months ago. I seem to get along well with my wife's older 2 children. The youngest however, seems to not want a relationship at all. Examples of behavior are, she has not once initiated hello's, good byes, good night etc. It's like I don't exist. She may ignore my contact all together. I'll do something nice, she'll say "thank you momma" and not acknowledge I had a part in the event, activity etc. When it may even be clear it was my doing. While learning to drive, she damaged my wife's car. She, my step daughter offered to pay for the damage. I fixed the car saving her thousands of dollars. I did not receive a thank you. I attempt to express interest in her interests but she ignores my attempts. An example would be congratulating her on merits achieved or sporting event accolades. If I text her a congratulations, it will be ignored by not responding at all.
My wife is a good willed woman, we practice love and respect. When I bring this to here attention, she comforts me with "this is just typical teen age behavior. The two of you will develop your own unique relationship". This may be correct, but the relationship seems to be one of non existence. I find it very difficult to not withdraw from her behavior. I know I am to love her regardless but am exhausted as to how to do this. Thanks in advance for any insights.
My blended family consists of: 3 boys (16, 14, 1) and 2 girls (20, 11). My partner has 3, I have one adult daughter and together we have a one year old. So life before this, I was a single mom with a daughter that had moved out for college. It has been a life changing experience. After a few break downs, I had to put my foot down and be assertive with everyone. Too often I feel I am the one that always having to take lead. They all depend on me in way or the other. I've put things in place at home such as a chore schedule, large calendar, rules, routines, checklists, reminders, etc. I did all this because I am the one having to organize everyone. It was a little easier when I as on maternity leave but I am back at work. I am adapting to work and family life too. My partner works out of town for 2 weeks and is home for 2 weeks. There are times when I have all 4 kids to myself. Usually the kids go to their moms 4 days after dad leaves for work. Yesterday, I had another breakdown. I couldn't stop crying. I wanted to runaway from all responsibilities. I did take the afternoon off from work to sleep. I am in the process of gathering my thoughts to have a serious conversation with my partner. I am being asked too much and I need help. He complains that he is tired too because he works 16 hours a day at work. But I too work full time and take care of the kids all day. Whether they are with me physically or not, I am still thinking about supper, homework, activities, baby, bathtime, etc....
My husband and I just got married a month ago after dating for 3 years. He has 5 adult children ranging from 18-26 along with 4 grandchildren ages 2-5 and I myself have 3 children ages 4-13, plus together we have an 11 month old. His children are very attached to him and he to them. They all lived together in the same house until he moved in with me about 2 years ago and about 7 months ago my husband & I bought a house together. His children still live at his other home in another town a very short drive away. Whenever we are all together, they don't talk to me unless i talk to them first. I ask how they are doing and they say ok/fine/alright and end it there. I do play with and talk to their grandchildren, when they were born I was there. But to get them to talk to me is like playing 20 questions. When we got married they were in the wedding and as soon as the reception came to a close- they said goodbye to their dad and left. Not once did they come talk to me or say anything to me. They rarely come over, if they do they don't look at me or say anything to me. I know he cares for them and very close to them, so I have tried to be a friend and not push myself on them. They are nice to my kids and talk to them but when it comes to me- they just stay away. Since they are adult children, I have no idea on how to handle this. I have tried to talk to my husband about it but he never says anything about it. I recently told my husband they are adults and I have tried the last 2 years to be a part of their life but they don't seem to want that and I am leaning towards just walking away from trying to build a relationship with them because I have 4 younger children who I need to be focused on. If his kids want me to be a part of their lives, then they can come to me when they are ready. As for the Grandchildren, there is no issue there- I still play with them & look forward to seeing them.
I don't know if I am going about this the right way or am I wrong ? Is it wrong for me to just, in a way turn my back on his children ? I feel like I'm trying to hard too keep them in our life when they are old enough to make that choice for themselves -
What is the best way to stepparent with adult children ?
My boyfriend and I have been together 4 years. He has 3 children and shares 50/50 custody with his ex-wife. I have 3 children, two of which live with me full-time and one that is grown and moved away. Our combined children range in ages from 9-13; two girls and three boys.
I've read several articles on this site and found them very helpful, however I'm having trouble finding anything to help me with the unique issues that I encounter with 3 children only living in the home 50% of the time and 2 children living in the home all the time.
1- The two girls (10 and 13) share a room. The 13 year old (mine) complains that the 10 year old doesn't always clean up her stuff before she leaves for her two weeks with her mom. It then becomes the responsibility of the 13 yo to clean up after the 10 yo.
2- When the 10 yo comes to live for her two weeks with us and she can't find something she will often claim, without naming anyone, that "someone" has stolen her stuff. This also happens between the 2 boys that share a room (9 and 11).
3- We got a puppy recently and my son (11) wanted the puppy to be able to sleep with him. My boyfriend said this wouldn't be fair to the other kids who don't live here full time. This issue comes up a lot about things not being fair to his kids. I disagree because it's difficult to share everything with them when they're not here all the time. Also, it seems like my children are expected to share almost everything out of fairness but, in reality, his children have a whole other house with their own bedrooms, toys, pets, etc. that they don't have to share with my children. Of course, that's unavoidable and I know they can't and shouldn't be expected to share things from their other home. But I think it should be taken into consideration that his children have two of everything when determining what is fair where my children are concerned.
The latest issue that has prompted me to seek outside advice is that we are buying a new, much larger house. We've decide that the 3 boys will share a very large room in the basement. That's what they want because they all get along reasonably well. The 2 girls, however, definitely don't want to share a room even though they get along reasonably well. My daughter doesn't want to share a room because she's never really had her own room. She did briefly before we moved in with my boyfriend but had to give it up so we could move here. She is also almost 3 years older than his daughter and a teenager that is more mature than his daughter with different interests and likes to have some time to herself. We asked the girls which room they liked the most and, of course, they both chose the same one. My theory, and I'm really trying to be objective, is that the oldest one should get to choose. I also think that since she will be living in the room 100% of the time she should get to choose. My boyfriend's daughter has her own very nice room at her mom's house where she lives every other two weeks. She's also never had to share a room. She also doesn't spend very much time in her room. She is usually in the living room watching tv. I really am trying to be objective and I'm not sure I'm right and am open to suggestions if anyone has any.
As a stepmom the best thing to help your husband with is accepting reality. IMO. He can't give his kid a family by remarrying and making step-siblings. But he can be a dad. He should focus on what he can do and what his child will accept (loyalty to mom will never let the child accept the new family).
My stepchild said that brothers were not like my stepchild because they never had divorce. My stepchild is right, family comes from Latin famil, which means the same. They are raised different and not the same. They didn't experience divorce either.
Everyday is Father's Day with the brothers. But for his child, it's once a year - 1 of 365 days. So I've let my husband have that day with his child. Father's Day is for those two only.
My stepchild resents grandparents and mother for not allowing the stepchild to have a family. Constant reminders that she is the mom and they are the maternal family prohibit the stepchild from having any family. And sadly, in the end the kid has a mom, dad and grand parents but still has NO FAMILY.
But the good news is some have a mom and a dad and while it's not a family it's better than not having one or the other.
It is sad. Stepmom, bio mom, siblings and dad have a family - but stepchild doesn't. But there is still a lot of love.
DO NOT LET LOVE BE LOST BC IT ISN'T IN THE CONFINES OF "FAMILY". ?
Hi there! I love your blog. It's a great resource for my family and others, I'm sure.
I'm in a unique situation: in a previous relationship I was a stepparent, but now I'm no longer in that relationship. However, I'm married now as my husband is now a stepparent. It's actually been helpful being a former step mom because I have first hand experience.
Every day we are learning and growing together. Some days are easier than others, but we don't give up.
Thank you for this great article!
My biological parents had an abusive, both mentally and physically, marriage. They divorced while I was in my teens, but by that point I had already become quite defiant and acted out for the following 10 years or so. I have struggled with mental illness which went undiagnosed for the majority of those years. Which, made things even harder for the family to grow in a healthy manner. I am now a strong, independent, self-aware, 28 year old female.
My step father and his son and daughter came into my sister and my life when I was in the midst of this transition into adulthood and I think as a family we struggled. My step dad was raised in a military home where as my mom, had been a strong female trailblazer her entire life.
I am the oldest and take after my mom in... well, in almost every way. I took over the role as protector when I was very young and struggled with that identity as I grew older.
After many mistakes, fights, time apart and everything else in between, things are beginning to slow down. Unfortunately, we are now as a family out of the fight or flight mode and have to come up with new adult boundaries for these now more equal relationships.
My step dad is struggling with this. His negativity combined with his bullying demeanour is threatening the relationship all of us kids have with him. But most of all the relationship with my mom.
I wonder where do I start when it comes to defining the boundaries of how I wish to be treated within this step relationship while, still being respectful of my mom and her being in the middle? Can I just stop talking or interacting with him? Do I keep trying to build a relationship for the sake of my mom regardless, of how his behaviour negatively effects me?
I appreciate any constructive thoughts you may have.
Hello, I don't know you at all but I feel your frustration. I began to see what I would be able to do because right now I am frustrated and irritated by the way my boyfriend treats my daughter. We have been together for over 2 years and were friends for 2 years before we got together. He has a daughter in her early to mid 20s and I have an 11 year old. I believe I have raised her good. She was my only child as a single parent going through many relationships trying to find a good fit for us. Unfortunately, I had relationships end because they didnt accept or disciplined my daughter beyond what I would have done myself and I left. She is a good girl. Shes been very very independent from me having to work and go to college. She has always been by my side through all the ruff relationship times and I feel bad because she saw mom being depressed and cry and she had to go through that with me. I bought her things often, she wouldnt ask for them, we would just enjoy our time together and I would end up buying her things. I made sure she did her chores and behaved.
My boyfriend and I now have a 17 month old boy. Its been very rocky because he criticizes everything I would do as a parent for our son. Do it this way or do it like this.... constantly but I always bite my lip and did it his way. Our daughter was in a tough position going to school where we used to live before my boyfriend and I began staying together. She would go stay with my parents because I had a graveyard job that seemed to take up most of my schedule with no time to spend with her except before she went to school and only a an hour after she got out of school and then I had to leave for work. This schedule was 4 days a week. My daughter and I thought it would be best if she stayed in school to finish instead of taking her out and starting at a completely different school during her last year of elementary. So, I would spend my days off with her and the work days working and going to school while I stayed with my boyfriend. We decided she would be was more comfortable stayinh for another year because my sister who is the same age as she is were going to begin middle school together. I really wanted her with us but accepted her wanting to stay with my parents for another year. Now when she comes to visit on the weekends my boyfriend avoids her and recently put "feeling annoyed, uggghhh, my peace and quiet just thrown out the door" as his facebook status after I suprisngly come home with her after not seeing her for 2 weeks because she also spends weekends with her other grandparents. I was excited, we brought dinner home for us all to eat and he comes and sits down with a quiet and annoyed demeanor. Finishes up quick and goes back to watch tv. Then before she comes to sit with us he goes to take a nap. I dont understand. He always talks a big talk about caring about her and telling our families that he cares about her and when we do have arguments about her he puts her down, saying shes lazy and doesnt help and this and that. When she comes over she is my biggest helper because she watches after her brother while I am able to catch up on house cleaning or other duties. She cleans and ofcourse watches tv when she can. I dont know what to do. I am angry that he is semi two faced in saying he cares about her to our families yet when she is here all he does is play with our son and dismisses her and avoids watching tv or even being in the same room. I am also upset he would write such a thing as his status when it was clearly about her. I dont want my daughter feeling unwelcomed when she comes to spend time with us. I am feeling like "leaving" and saving her from the heartache as I did in previous relationships. I am lost and dont know what to do either.
My boyfriend and I are planning on marriage. We have his youngest living with us, but since she turned 18, she acts differently. We want to salvage the relationship, discipline/teach her to respect us and our home, but are torn between including her in decisions and events (which will be her winning in her eyes), or us sit down and talking her allowing her to vent and ending out with rules at 18, which she will feel as if we are forcing her).
What do you suggest?
I have been dating someone for about 2 years now, I have 2 children from my previous marriage, a boy almost 5 years old and a daughter almost 3 years old, I have my children full time except every other weekend. My boyfriend also has 2 children from a previous marriage, a daughter that is 10 years old and a son that is 9 years old. He has them every other weekend, 1 evening a week, school holiday breaks and 4 weeks out of the summer. His ex wife is not easy for Him to deal with, she almost encourages their daughter not to spend every other weekend with their Dad, however his son always wants to come. His daughter had cancer when she was very little and has always been "favored" by her Mom's family, creating a slightly unappealing attitude. Now, this all being said, I have never had any kind of altercation with their Mother or with his Children. Recently his children have voiced that they feel like their Dad pays more attention to my 2 children when they're around. In the last 2 years, all 4 of our children together have spent Very Minimal time together as we are both just scared of subjecting them to these changes. He has asked his children how they feel and what their feelings are toward me. They have nothing negative to say, just speak as if they are jealous, which is totally understandable, their parents have been divorced for 6 years and they're used to having their Dad all to themselves. Neither one of us are sure how do deal with this. We have talked about marriage numerous times, but he is afraid and not willing to "lose his kids" over getting remarried, thinking his children will refuse to come see him if we marry due to having to share him with my children, totally understandable, however I do not for see his son doing so at all, his daughter is questionable, but her coming on his weekends is always questionable. Last night I mentioned counseling for he and I to help us figure out how to deal with this situation and it go as smoothly as possible for them, as we are almost at a stand still b/c we are unsure of what to do next or what the next step or right choice is. Neither one of us are ready to give up on our relationship, but are very scared to even have our kids around each other because of the way his feel and this obviously presents a big issue on whether we have a future together, normally we talk at least morning and night on the phone, but when he has his kids, I'm Lucky to get a call once a day. Not Fair to me at all. There has to be a way to deal with this and their feelings and us be together. My kids love his kids as do I & he loves mine as well. Please Help! I keep telling him if we are happy, they'll be happy and that a happy marriage is the foundation of a happy family.
hear from many parents who wonder about the best way to blend families
together, so you are not alone.I hear
how much both you and your partner care about how this would be for each of
your children, and want to make as smooth of a transition as possible.James Lehman outlines some tips on how to do
this in his article series on blended families, which starts with https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/.Your idea about
seeking out counseling might be helpful as well.If you are not currently working with anyone,
try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at
1-800-273-6222.211 is a service which
connects people with resources in their community.Please let us know if you have additional
I hear you.Many parents struggle
with finding time for the whole family to spend together as kids get older, and
the demands on their teens’ time become greater.You are not alone, and I’m sure that living
in separate households only makes this harder.As James Lehman points out in his article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-part-ii-what-to-do-when-your-stepkids-disrespect-you/, it can be useful to schedule time for everyone to spend together and
connect as a family.Please be sure to
write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.Take care.
what to do
We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and
sharing your story. Because we are a website aimed at helping people become
more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can
give to you regarding your marriage. It may be helpful to look into local
resources to help you develop a plan for addressing your particular issues
between you, your current husband and your ex. The 211 National Helpline is a
referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can give you
information on the types of support services available in your area such as
marriage/family counselors, support groups as well as various other resources.
You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto http://www.211.org/. We wish you the best going forward.
I was with my ex husband for 18 years and we have 2 sons together. Very soon after my relationship ended I met my boyfriend who has 2 children (one girl & one boy). The kids get on great as they knew each other before we got together (our kids go to same school).
We bought a house together 6 months ago and I have my kids 50% of the time and my partner has his kids 40% of the time.
Both our eldest are 10 and our youngest are 7, we've been together for 2 years and lets just say it hasn't been sunshine and roses. I'm still in courts with my ex.
My only real issue is my partners relationship with his daughter, at times you would forget that he even has a son as he doesn't pay particular attention to him. His daughter however is the Apple of his eye and she can do no wrong. Literally I've witnessed a number of times my partner disciplining his son for the exact same thing his daughter just did or continued to do. My partner admits he's parents them differently which I understand to a certain point and love how close he is with his daughter (I never had that with my dad) but now it is affecting our relationship. Quite literally I will be sitting next to my partner having a conversation his daughter will walk in, sit right between us or on top of him and start with silly noises or laughter or something strange and I feel so uncomfortable that I have to get up and leave. This weekend I could not take another second of him and her. She is a lovely little girl but I'm worried things will only get worse. How do you suggest I handle this, it feels like there is another woman in the relationship and that my partner chooses her over me not that I would ever put him in that situation but how should I respond?
Parenting differences can be quite challenging in most adult
relationships, and these can be even more pronounced in blended families.
Something I often recommend is to talk privately during a calm time, and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/ in developing standard house rules for everyone to follow
while they are staying in your house. Sometimes, it can be helpful to
involve a neutral third-party, such as a marriage/family counselor, to help you
come up with these rules, and negotiate your differences. For assistance
locating these and other supports in your community, try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222. I
recognize how challenging this situation must be for you, and I wish you all
the best as you continue to move forward. Take care.
One of the
challenges of being a stepparent is separating the feelings you have for your
stepchild from the conflict you might experience with that child’s biological
parent. You are not alone. Recognizing these feelings you are
having is the first step to resolving them, as Debbie Pincus points out in https://www.empoweringparents.com/blog/calm-parenting-what-to-do-when-you-dislike-your-child/. Sometimes, it can
be useful to have additional support, such as a counselor or support group, as
you work through a situation like this. For assistance locating resources
in your area, try contacting the http://www.211.org/
at 1-800-273-6222. I recognize how tough this can be, and I hope you will
write back and let us know how things are going. Take care.
We hear this question quite often from families, so you are
not alone. From our
perspective, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/its-never-too-late-7-ways-to-start-parenting-more-effectively/ an
ineffective parenting pattern. Sometimes, it can also be useful to use a
neutral third party, such as a marriage/family therapist with experience
working with blended families, to help you move forward in a more effective
way. For assistance locating these and other resources in your area, try
contacting the http://www.211.org/ at
1-800-273-6222. Thank you for your question; take care.
My stepson has lived with my husband and I since he was 4, is 11 now. We also have a 4 yr old together, two 1 yr olds and a baby on the way. The problem is with my stepson, I'm always the 'full time' parent, the 'discipline' parent, the 'homework' parent, the "wash clothes, brush your teeth, plan every party, every single thing" parent that takes care of it all.
My husband and the bio mom are in this constant battle of being the 'favorite' parent that neither is a responsible parent. My husband used to complain that his ex never took care of his son, didn't care about helping with school, never took to dentist or dr for checkups, was in denial about his adhd, let him do whatever the heck he wanted, etc etc etc.... Well, now, he doesn't either and it's driving me insane! My stepson has been doing horrible in school and every time I ask my husband to help him (I'm busy with our other 3 kids) he gets frustrated in 2 minutes and just says "forget it, he can fail" or "you handle it, I don't have the patience." I used to just do it but now it's so much more challenging with 3 toddlers and I feel it's not too much to ask for him to help him since I pretty much take care of the little ones all day/night as well.
I told my husband all summer long that he needed to sign his son up for latchkey, take him to the dentist and take him for a physical because he needs it for a refill on his adhd medication before school starts. Signing up for latchkey just took a phone call and the 2 dr appts would at most take up half a day. i have my hands full with my little ones and asking him to take care of rhis short list, I don't think is too much to ask. After all, I just did all my stepson's back to school supplies shopping, clothes, cleaned his entire room taking out 3 trash bags full of stuff and 2 trash bags of clothes that he just outgrew (took 6 hrs because of all the kids), planned his birthday party, shopped for party, picked up his other medication with all 4 kids in tow and emailed his new teacher about his learning problems and the special program he's on at school where he's being evaluated. Well, my husband didn't do anything and now that my son is back from summer vacation at his moms, latchkey is full, no dentist scheduled and his mom doesn't make him brush his teeth so he just got back with some orajel because his gums are swollen, and only a 3 day supply of his medication left with no appt scheduled either. I feel like I'm doing too much because his bio parents won't do anything and have no idea what it takes being responsible for him. I shouldn't have to parent them on being parents. Our argument tonight was about this and priorities.... I told him why he can't get the important stuff done but sure did spend two days shopping to buy him a new tv/stand for his bedroom for no reason at all but to compete with the iPad his mom just gave him. I mean, geeze!
I know I'm busy with my little ones (I wouldn't even say overwhelmed because I honestly do just fine) but I need help with my stepson. I feel like I've always given him 100% but now doing so is costing me not giving my younger ones the same. That's just not fair to them or really me either. I need help!
I hear you. It can be really difficult when you and
your husband https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/ when it comes to parenting and sharing those
responsibilities. Something that can be useful is to talk privately with
your husband during a calm time about your concerns. In addition, some
families find it helpful to use a neutral third-party, such as a
marriage/family counselor with experience working with blended families, to
help you come up with a plan you can use moving forward. For assistance
locating these and other supports available in your community, try contacting
the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222. I
recognize how tough this is for you right now, and I wish you and your family
all the best moving forward. Take care.
It can be very
difficult when you feel as though you are doing everything “right”, yet your
stepchild still does not respect you or the rules in your home. As James
Lehman points out in his article series on blended families, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/ and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-part-ii-what-to-do-when-your-stepkids-disrespect-you/, it’s going to be important for you and your husband to come together,
and develop standard house rules that apply to everyone. Based on what you have
described, I strongly encourage you to have a “No Hitting” rule. Even if
your stepdaughter doesn’t like you or your twins, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/stop-aggressive-behavior-in-kids-and-tweens-is-your-child-screaming-pushing-and-hitting/. I recognize how challenging this situation is for
you, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going
for you and your family. Take care.
differences are quite common, and occur in most families. These
differences can become greater when you are parenting a blended family, and I’m
glad that you are reaching out for support. Something that I often
recommend is to sit down with your boyfriend privately during a calm time, and
try to find common ground between you. From there, you can start to
develop standard house rules which apply to everyone living in your home.
James Lehman offers more advice in his article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/. Please be sure to write back and let us know how
things are going for you and your family. Take care.
Thank you for your question. It sounds like you want
to be able to do things with your son, even when your partner does not have his
son visiting, and your partner wants to do things as a family and not leave his
son out. It can be quite challenging when you are in this position.
As pointed out in the article above, we recommend that parents make sure to
spend time with just their biological child, in order to maintain your bond and
relationship. One possible solution to your issue might be to make plans
to go on outings with your son when your partner’s son isn’t visiting for the
weekend. Please let us know if you have any additional questions; take care.
I’m sorry to hear about the recent issues you are facing
with your blended family after the birth of your baby. Having a new child
can bring a lot of changes into a household, and it can also take some time for
everyone to adjust. While it probably will not go back to exactly the way
it was before your baby, it is not too late to address these issues.
Sometimes, it can be useful to work with a neutral third-party, such as a
marriage/family therapist with experience working with blended families, to
help everyone to adjust to their new roles within the family. For
assistance locating this type of support in your community, try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222. Take care.
I can hear how torn you feel between holding your children accountable
and working together with your husband, and I am so glad you are reaching out
for support. As the article above talks about, in blended family situations we
recommend that the biological parent take the lead in addressing their child
and holding them accountable for their behavior, while the stepparent acts as
the support. It will be important for you and your husband to find a calm time
to come together and discuss the rules of your home and find a compromise on
how to hold your children accountable. Lengthy consequences are ineffective in
helping children make changes in their behaviors and forbidding them in their
rooms during that time is also not helpful and may create more resentment and
acting out behaviors in the long run. Janet Lehman offers tools on how to give
effective consequences that help your child learn, in her article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-get-your-child-to-listen-9-secrets-to-giving-effective-consequences/. Wishing the best to your family as you work
through this difficult time.
My wife and I have a blended family. My step daughter was 3 years old when me and my wife started dating, and we consequently got married 2 years later. My step daughter moved to her dad's house when she was a freshman in high school, and went a way to college. My step daughter who is 25 years old now needed to move back home and try to get her life back on track. So my wife and I were new at having an adult kid live at home so we didn't have a bunch of rules that we felt we needed to go over at first. We were just glad to be able to try and help. This soon changed as we noticed bad language, staying out all night and coming in whenever they felt like it. It continued with lack of consideration for anyone else in the house. She was shopping with her whole check and never saving a dime, or helping out around the house.
So me and my spouse sat down and came up with a few house rules, we discussed them together to see how we felt about them. We sat down and went over the rules with my step daughter, and we did as you suggested, my wife took the lead and I chimed in here and there to be supportive and reinforce that we were both on the same page. It seemed like everything went well but gradually rules started being broken more and more and mt spouse knows this and says or does nothing about it. I find myself having to keep bringing it up to my wife who has fallen back into the shadows.. .. and yes I'm sure if she is not tired of hearing my mouth.. I certainly am. I don't like feeling like the bad guy. But we have two more kids one who is a few months away from turning 18, and had been wondering why she gets held accountable but her older sister does not.
I'm at my wits end with this. I'm not leaving my wife, I don't want to kick my step daughter out. But I have reach my breaking point as it relates to my spouse choosing to allow this behavior to go on.
HELP cause I'm tired of talking about it!!
I can understand your
frustration. It is very difficult to be in a situation where you have come to
an agreement with your spouse and then have him/her not follow through. It is a
common struggle parents face and it can be even trickier in blended family
situations. It may be time to reevaluate the house rules and work on coming to
a new agreement. I would take a look at the rules that your stepdaughter is
breaking and decide if they are battles you should be picking with an adult
child. You are not going to want to hold your 25 year old stepdaughter to the
same rules as her minor sibling. Things like staying out all night or coming
home whenever she feels like it, needs to be treated differently based on the
age of the child. That is something I would not tolerate from a 17 year old,
but a 25 year can make that choice for herself. If it is disruptive to the
family for her to come home in the middle of the night, set a time that she
needs to be home by and tell her she will need to find somewhere else to
stay for the night if she is not home by that time. If you and your wife find
you are still struggling to support each other in this area, it could be
helpful to involve a neutral third party, like a marriage counselor. It is
often helpful to have guidance and support in working through issues like
this and getting on the same page. We appreciate your writing in. We wish you
the best as you continue to work through this. Take care.
Thank you for your question. I can hear how
overwhelmed you are feeling right now, and I’m glad that you are reaching out
for support. As to whether you should be obligated to watch your
stepchildren during school breaks and vacations when your husband is not
around, that is a difficult question for me to answer. It could be
helpful to talk with your husband privately during a calm time about the
current custody and visitation arrangement, and try to reach an
agreement. I also encourage you to make sure that you are taking care of
yourself during this time. Self-care is an important, yet often overlooked
part of parenting, and if neglected, it can impact how effective you are able
to be in setting boundaries and enforcing limits. Your self-care plan can
be anything you wish, from engaging in an activity you enjoy to working with
more structured supports like a counselor or a support group. For more
information about available supports in your community, try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222. I
recognize how challenging this is for you, and I wish you all the best moving
We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and
sharing your story. Because we are a website aimed at helping people become
more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can
give regarding your marriage. It may be helpful to look into local resources to
help you develop a plan for addressing your particular issues. The 211 National
Helpline is a referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can
give you information on the types of support services available in your area
such as marriage/family counselors, support groups as well as various other
resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging
onto http://www.211.org/. We wish you the best going
forward. Take care.
I am not married but my boyfriend has a just recent 3 year old who is the only child and my daughter is 8. My daughter doesn't understand that the 3 year old is a baby and is still on the learning stage, Is really hyper and just wants to ask questions. She gives him and us a lot of attitude, she ignores, the baby, is rude and just acts annoyed at all times. How do I get her
To understand that he is s baby and she has to have patience with him. She was once just like that, she calls him bad, and the killer is that she wants me to have more kids so she can have siblings.
It’s quite normal for kids to become irritated by one
another, and to view developmentally appropriate behaviors as annoying.
Because your daughter is 8, she is only going to be able to see these behaviors
from that perspective, not from an adult view. Rather than trying to get
her to understand his behavior or see it as normal, it might be more effective
to https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior-i-cant-solve-problems/ with her about how she can respond to it in a more effective,
respectful way. Please be sure to let us know if you have any additional
questions. Take care.
One of the toughest issues to navigate in a blended family
is when the child of one parent doesn’t get along with the child of another
parent. You are not alone in this situation. Something that can be
useful is to talk with your husband about standard house rules for everyone to
follow regarding respect for others, and how you expect everyone to treat each
other. Then, as the bio-parent, each of you can talk privately with your
eldest daughters, as well as your other children, and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior-i-cant-solve-problems/ with them individually about how they can follow the rules. Please
let us know if you have any additional questions; take care.
@Outsider step mom
I hear how upset you are about your current situation with
your husband, and how he treats you when he is around his adult children and
ex-partner. Because we are a website aimed at helping people become more
effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can give in
regard to your marriage. It may be helpful to look into local resources to help
you develop a plan for addressing your particular issues. The 211 National
Helpline is a referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can
give you information on the types of support services available in your area
such as marriage/family counselors, therapists, support groups as well as
various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222
or by logging onto http://www.211.org/. We wish you the
best going forward. Take care.
need some advice...
i am a parent and i have a partner who i have been with for 3-4 years now. my daughter is now 6 she has lived with me since birth mostly and has known my partner for 3-4 years as well. I have had other family members telling me that my partner cannot tell my child off or tell her what to do...please help as my partner is trying to be a good role model and stepparent but others members of my childs family doesn't seem to think it right for him to tell her what to do or tell her off or have a say in the relationship between my child and him. what are the boundaries and rules for a step-parent or a partner.
You ask a great question which many parents and stepparents
wonder about; you are not alone. In general, we recommend that the
biological or birth parent take the lead in setting and enforcing the rules of
the house, while the stepparent takes more of a supportive role. In
addition to the article above, I encourage you to check out our other articles
and blogs about blended families which outline appropriate boundaries for both
parents and stepparents/partners. You can find those articles by clicking
Please let us know if you have any additional questions; take care.
Thank you for your question. Because the requirements
written into custody orders and visitation agreements can vary so much, it is
difficult to definitively answer your question. In order to get a clearer
picture of your responsibilities, you might consider consulting with a family
lawyer. For assistance locating legal resources in your community, try contacting
the 211 Helpline at 1-800-273-6222. Take care.
The decision about whether or not to have more children is a
very personal one that can have a large impact on a relationship. If you
and your boyfriend are having difficulty coming to an agreement on this point,
it could be useful to involve a neutral third-party, such as a marriage and
family counselor, who can help you. For assistance locating available
supports in your community, try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at 1-800-273-6222. Thank you for writing in; take care.
I am sorry to hear you are
struggling with your stepson’s behavior. If you are finding that your stepson
is constantly making mistakes and always doing something wrong, it is probably
time to step back and take a look at what behaviors are normal and you can let
go of, and what behaviors need attention right now. A great article that you
can take a look at to help with narrowing the focus and finding a place to
start is https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-childs-behavior-is-so-bad-where-do-i-begin-how-to-coach-your-child-forward/,
written by Carole Banks. In it, she talks about the importance of picking your
battles and working on 1 behavior at a time. When you are able to ignore some
of the annoying behaviors and set a goal for a more concerning and consistent
behavior, you will be able to make some progress in changing that behavior. I
know this is difficult to be dealing with. We appreciate you writing in. Check
back in with us if you have any further questions.
Thank you for your question. While the application of
some of these tips might look a bit different for adult children, many parents
have been able to use these strategies effectively regardless of the age of the
child. Take care.
I have 2 step kids that are in their late teens, the younger had a run in with the law late last year. His bio-mom and step-dad were of very little help in fact bio-mom told me "I could take her place". I supported my husband and his decision to try and get him on the straight and narrow but stepson continues to make bad decisions, feels he has this sense of entitlement..I am becoming more and more resentful as time passes, the older one rarely goes to see his bio-mom and continually takes advantage of his father. Walks around the house like I don't exist and comes and goes as he pleases. I have 2 of my own that stick to a schedule visiting their dad and for the most part spend less and less time at my place because of the issues with the other boys. I say very little, but am fearful that it is not healthy for me or my marriage.
Looking for some advice or suggested literature that might help me better cope with my feelings of resentment and sadness and provide a healthier environment for my children.
Thank you for writing in. It’s understandable that you
would be feeling sad and resentful as a result of your stepson’s
behavior. After all, his choices and attitude are impacting not only your
relationship with him, but also your relationships with your husband and your
children. Sometimes when one child’s behavior is affecting the family as
a whole, it can be useful to involve a neutral third-party, such as a marriage
and family counselor, to discuss how to effectively address these
choices. For more information about resources available in your area, try
contacting the http://www.211.ca/ at
1-800-836-3238. I recognize how difficult this situation must be for you,
and I hope you will write back and let us know how things are going. Take care.
Blended families do offer some unique challenges, not the
least of which is parents not being on the same page when it comes to managing
and addressing issues that may arise. It’s not uncommon for parents to have
different perspectives or different ideas about how things should be handled.
For the most part, it’s usually more effective for the birth parent to take the lead in terms of
addressing behaviors and holding their child accountable, as James Lehman
explains in his article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/. It may also be helpful to enlist the help of a marriage or
family counselor, specifically one who is familiar with blended families. Many
parents in your situation have found working with a neutral third party to be
an effective way of working through their differences. We appreciate you
sharing your story and wish you the best of luck moving forward. Take care.
My fiancee and I have 5 kids Between us. Two are grown that i had from a previous marriage. And 3 school aged children from his previous marriage. Ages 22,20,14,11, and7.
We discuss rules, boundaries, schedules, routines, consequences, etc...we agree on everything. My fiancee loves and respects me and teaches them to do the same..we do have issues with the ex wife and handle them as they come...its important to know that the adults run the home, not the children. We have embraced our children and we make it work...we will be together a year in july...
You ask a great question. Generally speaking, in situations
involving blended families, both parents can sit down together at a time when
the child is not present and talk about what house rules they would like to have as well
as possible consequences that could be implemented if those rules are broken.
However, we do advise the birth parent takes the lead when it comes to
discipline. In situations where bio parent and step parent don’t agree, the
birth parent would make the final decision. James Lehman explains this in his
article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/ I know it’s not always so cut and dry - each family must
decide for themselves what’s going to work best within their home. I hope this
answers your question. Best of luck to you and your family moving forward. Take
In Secret #1 you stated "You’re the good cop; let the bio-parent be the bad cop. If there’s a behavior for which your stepchild needs a consequence, let your spouse deal with it and support their decision."
My problem is the bio-parent isn't welling to be the "bad cop" and will not deal with the "acting out behavior".
What do you do in this case?
Parenting in a
blended family can be very challenging, especially if the bio-parent and the
step-parent are not on the same page when it comes to addressing behavior and
enforcing consequences. It can be helpful to talk privately about how you
each feel that inappropriate behavior should be addressed during a calm
time. You might find our article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/, helpful as you plan this conversation. We appreciate
you writing in. Take care.