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!”

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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.

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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.

Comments (91)
  • davejhiltaylor
    Great advice, thank you
  • Tim

    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.

  • Exhausted!

    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....

    Any advice...

  • judy
    I am needing advice on a step son who is 15 years old.. his dad babies him like he is 4 years old.. I have 3 grown daughters who were raised to be responsible and able to take care of themselves in life.. his son lays on his bed allMore day playing on his phone. he doesn't even watch tv... just lays on his bed playing on his phone. he doesn't help with laundry, dishes or even help his dad with yard work, cutting firewood,nothing.it drives me crazy. I work 40 + hours a week and it really angers me he doesn't make his son help with nothing. I come home to a sink full of dishes. me and his father both wash clothes but he doesn't want his son to cut grass, he may get stung by a bee, he wont let him help with fire wood, he may get a splinter.. really???? I am at my wits end. I told him he is only hurting his son in the long run by not teaching him to be able to take care of himself in the future. he is not a bad kid, I hardly notice he is home.. I just cant believe he doesn't teach any kind of responsibility to his son. and to top off all that he chews with his mouth open, sorry but " nails on a chalk board to me," he says its because he has braces and cant close his mouth grrrr I have talked to his dad but he just makes excuses... please.. any advice?
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I hear you. It can be so frustrating when you can’t seem to get on the same page as your partner. The truth is, parenting differences are pretty common in most families, and can be even more prominent in blended families such as yours. That doesn’t meanMore that you cannot take steps to come together with your partner. It’s great that you have talked with your partner about this, although it didn’t have the result you were seeking. You might try talking with him privately during a calm time and try to find some common ground when it comes to how your stepson can contribute to the household. You might also check out When Parents Disagree: 10 Ways to Parent as a Team for additional tips on how you and your partner 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.
  • blended family with adult children

    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 ?

    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I hear you. It can be so difficult when you are doing everything you can to have a relationship with your stepchildren, yet they appear to reject your attempts. As outlined in the article above, building a relationship takes time, and so I encourage you to be patientMore as you all adjust to your new family. Ultimately, the decision of whether you keep trying to have a relationship with his kids is up to you, and you can only control your own actions; you cannot make them have a relationship with you. Regardless of your decision, I encourage you to continue to be cordial and respectful toward his kids, so even if they are not ready to have a relationship with you right now, the door remains open to having one in the future. I recognize how challenging this must be for you, and I wish you all the best as you continue to move forward. Take care.
  • Patricia R

    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.

    Some examples:

    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.

    Thank you,


    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I hear you. Many blended families struggle with issues of fairness, especially when some kids live in the house full-time, and other kids split their time between houses. You’re not alone in dealing with this issue. Regardless of what you choose with how the bedrooms should beMore assigned to each of your daughters, it’s going to be important for you and your boyfriend to be united in this decision. If you are having a hard time getting on the same page, you might find some helpful tips in When Parents Disagree: 10 Ways to Parent as a Team. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • It's Not About Me

    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.


  • Kim
    I love my husband but he is not a good dad to his 11 yr old son and daughter. They have terrible table manners (even in public), they lie constantly (whether it's because they don't want to do their homework or they are trying to impress with a tall tale,More they will lie to cover up for previous lies), they sneak their electronics and then lie when 1 of my 2 kids catches them and get my kids in trouble because of it! What do I do?!
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      blended families. You’re not alone in experiencing this with your husband. It could be useful to talk with him privately during a calm time, and try to find some common ground between you. This could be as simple as “We both love our kids and wantMore them to grow into responsible adults.” From there, you can expand upon that and develop standard house rules which apply to everyone in the household. If you are having difficulty finding common ground, it could be useful to work with a neutral third party, such as a marriage/family counselor with experience in blended families, to help you develop rules and a plan to move forward. For assistance locating support in your community, try contacting the 211 Helpline at 1-800-836-3238. I recognize what a tough situation this must be for you, and I wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.
  • Gary H
    Very good information and helpful. I just got on here today. Can someone please contact me by email so i can get help. My step children disrespect me so much and my wife does not let me do anything about it and she doesn't do anything to make itMore right. This is my last chance before i divorce. Thank you
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about the disrespectful behavior you are currently experiencing with your stepchildren, and the lack of support you are receiving from your wife. Parenting in a blended family can be challenging, even under the best of circumstances, and I’m glad that you are here reachingMore out for support. Something that could be useful is to talk with your wife during a calm time, and try to get on the same page when it comes to your stepchildren and their disrespectful behavior. You might find some additional helpful tips in “My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help!” Part I: How You and Your Spouse Can Get on the Same Page and When Parents Disagree: 10 Ways to Parent as a Team. Please be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.
  • LeAnn
    I have been divorce for 13 years and have raised my children alone. My son had asperger and is now first year of college and my daughter is 16. My new husband has a daughter who is 14 and lives with us half the time where my two childrenMore are with me all the time. He does not understand why it's hard for me to let go and just be present for him alone. He is afraid of us being distant and never finding each other again. We have been married for 2 years and we are still fighting over how much alone time we have or don't have. He wants more time with me alone with no cell phones or contact with my kids while we are away or out for dinner. If I get a text message from one of them he wants me to ignore it. I understand he wants me all to himself but it is hard for me. I am taking baby steps to do this but I feel it is not fast enough for him. He gets mad at me if I forget and answer the phone or text while it is supposed to be "our" time. I am starting to resent him. He tells me I need to do more for myself and do things I enjoy. I tell him I really enjoy my children and talking to them and hearing about their day. He thinks I need to break away from them. We were like the three musketeers. Now my son is off to college my daughter and I want to do more together. I feel as though I should have never gotten married until my children were out of the house and on their own. My husband is trying to make me do things I feel very uncomfortable about. I feel we should treasure the time we do have alone even though it is not much because our children will be gone before we know it. Then we will have all the time in the world I am crushed and feel very discouraged.
  • Keyshabw
    Hi. My husband and I have been married for 4 yrs and together for 6(1st marriage for both of us). When we met I was a single mother with my 5 children(2girls,3boys) and he had none. We welcomed a baby girl in 2013 but unfortunately Aniyah passed away at theMore tender age of 2 months&5 days old. Losing our princess was really devasting and definitely the most painful thing that our family had to endure. As a result of that we went to bereavement counseling and we stuck together and learned how to cope. Since then my 2nd daughter(18 now)and my husband has been on a very rocky rocky road. She was 12 when he came in to the picture and they were getting along just fine, she even made up nicknames for them to call each other. Ever since the passing of our daughter, everything between them has taken a very ugly turn. She just shuts down when it comes to him and they barely even speak to each other anymore. Let me also add that the relationship between her&her; bio father, has always been very poor and inconsistent. She feels as though we(myself and her siblings)always take my husbands side, no matter the situation. She constantly says that he's not her father and she doesn't care about having a relationship with her stepfather because she doesn't have one with her real father. It's to the point now where the dismissive behavior from both her and my husband is beginning to drive a wedge between our family. My husband feels defeated and no longer wants to try to have a relationship with her so he avoids her at all costs. He'll always include her in anything that he's doing with the other kids but after that its back to both of them going to their corners. My back is always against the wall because I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't. I'm always in the middle of what turns out to be a very heated argument usually with her and I because of the blatant disrespect that she is conveying towards him and at at this point, I really don't know what to do. Hopefully, you can steer me in the right direction here
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Keyshabw I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your young daughter, and I appreciate your writing in for support.  I hear how much it’s affecting you to witness your 18 year old and your husband have such a difficult relationship.  Being the “referee” of their arguments is aMore tough role to play, especially when you care about both of them so much.  The truth is, you, your husband and your daughter are all adults here, and it’s really going to be up to your daughter and your husband to figure out for themselves what their relationship will look like moving forward.  I hear how much it’s affecting you to see two people you love have so much conflict between them, and I hope that you have some support for yourself at this time.  Your self-care plan can be anything you wish, from calling a supportive friend or family member when you are feeling stressed, to using a therapist or support group.  If you would like more information on more structured supports available in your community, try contacting the http://www.211.org at 1-800-273-6222.  211 is a service which connects people with local supports available in their community.  I can only imagine what a difficult situation this must be for you, and I wish you and your family all the best moving forward.  Take care.
  • mypartyoffour

    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!

    Renee Pearson

  • Mindbodysoul

    Hi there,

    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.

    Thank you!


    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Mindbodysoul We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your story.  I hear how much you are struggling with how to structure your relationship with your stepfather while still supporting your mom, and I’m glad that you are reaching out for support.  Because we are a website aimedMore at helping people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role. It may be helpful to look into local resources to help you develop a plan for addressing your particular issues. The http://www.211.ca 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 counselors, support groups as well as various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-836-3238 or by logging onto their website. We wish you the best going forward. Take care.
  • Ineedhelp18
    My husband and I recently got married. We dated for two-year. I have a 4yr old bio son and he has a 5yr old son. We have a month old daughter together. His son is very outspoken, bossy and spoiled. Where as my 4yr old boy can be distantMore towards you if he doesn't care for u and he is a crybaby. My relationship with my husband is great but I fear our kids will tear us apart. I allow my husband to be the disciplinary when it comes to our kids. He complains about my son being to soft more than he acknowledges his son bossy, rude ways. When ever I Voice my concerns he tends to get defensive and complains about my son. It breaks my heart to watch my son not have a voice when he's crying when my step son is being mean and being pushy. Instead of looking at the problem why he's crying he rather focus on why he crying too much. I feel like this may cause self esteem issues in the future. I count down the days when he returns to his bio mom and I feel guilty feeling like this. It's bad enough that my family lives in a different city so my stepchild gets all the spotlight while my son gets the shadow. Please help me!!!!
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Ineedhelp18 Parenting differences can be quite common in most families, and can be even more pronounced in blended families.  I hear how much it is affecting you to see your son being treated differently from your stepson, and I’m glad that you are reaching out for support.  At this point,More it could be useful to talk with your husband privately during a calm time about your concerns.  During this conversation, try to https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/my-blended-family-wont-blend-help-part-i-how-you-and-your-spouse-can-get-on-the-same-page/ so you can develop standard house rules that apply to everyone in the home.  As outlined in the article above, it tends to be most effective when the bio parent takes the lead on disciplining their child, and takes on more of a supportive role when it comes to enforcing the rules with their stepchild.  If you are having trouble coming to an agreement with your husband about rules and discipline, it could be useful to work with a neutral third-party, such as a marriage/family counselor, who can work with both of you to develop a plan moving forward.  For assistance finding this, and other resources, in your local area, try contacting the http://www.211.org at 1-800-273-6222.  211 is a service which provides information on resources available in your community.  I recognize how challenging this must be for you right now, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.
  • Amber1970
    I'm a stepmom to a three year old. My husband doesn't correct or discipline, centers his world around her, buys her everything she wants. When I try to parent or even get her to bed on time or eat properly my husband tells her she can do what she wantsMore and dismisses me. I feel dishonored, angry, left out, and our marriage is not his priority. I seek Gods counsel and have tried to find therapist for the pain. Any advice appreciated
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Amber1970 Parenting differences are quite common in most families, and can be even more pronounced in a blended family.  It can be useful to talk with your husband during a calm time about these issues, and try to 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 terms of rules and discipline.  I’m glad to see thatMore you are also reaching out for local support, such as a therapist, as well.  It could be useful to seek out a marriage and family therapist with experience working with blended families.  Even if your husband refuses to engage with the counselor, it’s sometimes helpful to work with a neutral third-party who can help you to look at your options and make a plan moving forward.  If you need help finding a therapist, try contacting the http://www.211.org at 1-800-273-6222.  211 is a service which provides information regarding resources in your local community.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.
  • frustratedwife
    I was a divorced woman with 11years boy and married a widower man, with 2 children of age 10 and 8 respectively, 4 years ago. Still we are unable to make the environment good at home. My stepchildren are outspoken and they mingled with me very fast whereas my sonMore is still finding it difficult to talk to my husband. I asked my husband to step forward and talk to my son as he is very shy but my husband refuses to do so. Instead of making my son feel comfortable, he sometimes passes comments on his behavior and criticizes him because of which my son doesn't talk much while we all sit together. My relation with my husband is Ok but when these things happen I get irritated immediately and we start arguing with each other. Nowadays we are spending more time in fighting than talking which makes me feel sick. I can't end this relation as my son is grown up and it will impact him negatively. I want to know whether there are any solutions to avoid these quarrels and live a happy life together?
    • Frustratedmomma

      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.

  • Stepmomof10

    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?

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Stepmomof10 I hear you.  The transition to young adulthood can be a rocky one for both kids and parents, so you are not alone there.  Something I encourage you to keep in mind is that all of you are adults at this point, and with this, it will be moreMore effective to determine what your and your boyfriend’s boundaries are when it comes to his daughter’s behavior rather than trying to make her act a certain way.  The truth is, she doesn’t have to like your rules or agree with them.  If she wants to continue to have the privileges that come along with staying in your home, she simply needs to find a way to follow them.  You might find it helpful to https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/ground-rules-for-living-with-an-adult-child-plus-free-living-agreement/ with her, which outlines the rules and expectations for her behavior while she is living in your home.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going.  Take care.
  • rlowery
    What do you do when you don't really wanna give your all to your step kids sometimes I wanna give up I don't wanna raise no more kids my kids bids are grown
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      rlowery I hear you.  Being a stepparent can be very challenging at times, and can feel very overwhelming, especially if you thought that you would be done actively parenting kids by this point in your life.  As Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner point out in their article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/stepchildren-making-you-crazy-5-ways-to-manage-conflict-in-blended-families/, part ofMore being an effective stepparent is recognizing and communicating your own boundaries and expectations around your role as stepparent.  Sometimes, it can be useful to involve a neutral third party, such as a therapist or counselor, to help you clarify your role and effectively communicate with your partner.  If you are not currently working with anyone, try contacting the http://www.211.orgat 1-800-273-6222.  211 is a service which connects people with resources in their community.  I recognize how challenging this must be for you right now, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.


    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.

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport



      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

      questions.Take care.

  • Blendedquestion
    We are a blended family with a unique situation. We married three years ago and have been together 10 years total. Our children were teenagers when we married so we made the decision to maintain two homes to let them finish school where they started. My husband has hisMore kids 40% of the time so some weeknights we are apart because he stays at his home . Weekends we have tried to all be together, but over the past year it has gotten to 1-2 nights max a month. The teenagers agendas ( work, dances, events)have seemed to take over. I am fine for the most part on the decisions we made, but starting to feel like we may never be together as a family because of kids schedules. We don't want to alter their lives to fit what we want, we made the conscious decision to make them feel like a priority and to have one on one time with their bio parent. Everyone gets along but I feel we are losing any bond as s family because of no time together, which makes me sad. Any suggestions?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • Tw
    So how long do you implement these steps .... we have been doing this going on almost 2 years ... we're not married but trying to blend the families slowly which I feel we have done a good job of taking our time ... but at what point do youMore truly become one family unit ... where your not having to constantly split up the family ... bio kids with bio parent ... I just feel at some point you have to say here we are no one gets special treatment were all spending time together etc... am I wrong for feeling this way ?
  • what to do
    My ex and I, after several years of hard work, have learned to be 'friendly'. We are able to sit together at our boys (one 15 and the other 13) school and sporting events. We even got to the point to where we were able to be under the sameMore roof to celebrate our sons birthdays. My ex has a child with another lady and I am remarried with three stepchildren. I got remarried this summer and now just starting to attend school and sporting events. My issue is with my new husband and his unwillingness to be anywhere near my ex. He has asked that I tell my ex to find someplace else to sit at events and he will avoid coming home until after my ex comes to pick up the boys for his scheduled time. My husband explained to all the children that he is not comfortable 'blending' our blended family with my ex/their dad and will keep his distance when their dad is around. He explained that he can't just sit back and sit with the man who abused his wife and now step kids (their dad was very abusive, especially to me and my oldest).  My husband said he would not get in the way of them having a relationship with their dad and will support them any way he can as long as he does not have to personally interact with their dad. The boys speak rather openly about the abuse which helped them understand and respect his explanation, but nonetheless, this man is still their dad and I want them to learn that bad people can change with help and hopefully have some relationship with their dad (he only gets them 8 days a month). I am in a very tough spot! I know it is best for the kids for them to see their dad and I get along (sitting together and talking about what is going on in the kids lives); yet, I am being asked by my husband to choose between sitting next to him or my ex. I am in a lose - lose situation.  I just don't know what the 'right' thing to do is in this situation!! Of course, my kids wellbeing comes first!!!
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      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.

      Take care.

  • kyxxoo

    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?

    • Curs
      Im having the same issues. His daughter can do no wrong. Im told I "pick " on her because I expect her to have the same rules as my daughters. I dont treat any of them different. I do not ask any thing of her that I dont expect ofMore my kids but Im told Im wrong and intentionally upset her all the time.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • Good heart
    My husband has equal custody of his five year old. I have known the child from when he was three, and have been loving and kind to him. But his mother is very malicious and acrimonious with my husband, which is now beginning to affect the way I feel towardsMore my stepson. I seem to blame him for the unwelcome presence of his mom in our lives. At times, I feel very resentful. What can I do so that the bio mom's evil ways do not affect my feelings and relationship with my stepson?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @Good heart 

      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.

  • cdlcbc123
    Is it possible to heal step family using these techniques after mistakes have pulled family apart
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • Tired mom

    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!

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @Tired mom 

      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.

  • chepiux
    I am having a problem with my 7yr old Step Daughter and it's making me feel heartbroken I had Twin boys which they are 2 they love their Sister but she can careless about them... We try to spend time one on one with her when we can or I'llMore send my husband to go play with her During the Boys Nap time so she can have one on one time with her Dad!! I mean I try everything for her to like me I really do try my best to play with her and stuff she likes to do. I can never tell her NO at all or else my husband gets mad! I sometimes see her hitting my twins and I don't say anything for not wanting to have problems.. I let it slide well this weekend we had her over and I saw her hitting one of my boys and I told her Gentle and I guess she did not like that she Went of to her MOM and told her all this LIES that weren't true!! And her Mom send a text to my husband talking bad about me and the twins and I broke down because I don't understand how she can do this to us.. We love her!! But why would a 7yr old lie??? My husband called her Mom and they talked but my stepdaughter forgot to mention the fun and quality time we spend with her... I am confused I don't know what to do!!! Help..
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • Sashakelly
    My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 4 years he has two daughters age 7 and 13, I have 3 children age 17,15,and 13, and we are expecting one together soon, my problem is the kids mother only has them two weekends out of the month and ifMore that, he works from 6am to 7pm I am a stay at home mom, here the issue I am having huge issues with the 7 year old and him. I read the above and it will be hard to step away from the parent roll to them. But he babies her, for example her room is thrashed all the other kids help and clean but her she wines and Cry's until her dad gets home from work and then he will come in like the hero after I'm fighting with her for days to clean it and he will clean it for her and then award her. How do I stand back when I am the parent all day, I deal with school,doctors,meals,all that a mother does, I understand I am not her mother but how come he can't back me up? Instead she sees he underminding in front of her so she gets away with it, if I let it go my house gets thrashed if I say something he says I'm picking on her. Help please I'm scared to have this baby with him when our parenting skills are so different.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport



      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.

  • Joanne
    Your post is very emplowereing to me as a person who is new to having to deal with a blended family.. My issue is a little different than just discipline...I have moved out of state with my significant other, along with my 7 year old son. Having no familyMore in the new state, I know I must do most things/outings that would include my son. My significant other has a 9 year old with whom he shares joint custody with his mother. Every other weekend his son visits, which is not a problem. What is a problem is that when I ask my significant other to do an outing on a weekend or if there is an event happening on the weekend his son is not present, his response is to wait till his son is present so we could do something as a family. My question? : is it fair to put my life and my sons life on hold and wait for his son to visit to go on family outings?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • Michele
    Thank you for such a good read. I am struggling with our blended family and my step children. We had a great relationship over the last 4 years but I recently had a baby and things changed. The 7 year old is acting out more (already had behavioral issues beforeMore I even came into the picture). The ex wife hated me before but now she tells her children her hate for me. I have become very frustrated and find myself needing space with my baby. I want to enjoy my time with my babe without the drama.That of course creates even more of a problem. I can see it all unfolding and the relationships breaking apart. Is it ever too late to fix these relationships? I feel like I will never get back to where we all functioned as a loving family.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • DidaLee
    I remarried 4 years ago. I have three boys and he has two (boy and girl). We dated for three years and our children get along great. His first wife died when his children were 1 and 4. I am the only mom that they remember. My three bio-children haveMore some behavior and mood issues, especially my two oldest. They have both been diagnosed and  medicated by psychologists. My oldest child has moved back in with his dad due to his behavior issues and not liking the rules that  my current husband has made. My next to oldest has ODD, ADHD, and severe anxiety disorder. I handle kid gloves with him. When he is disrespectful, I call him out on it but I didn't really give harsh consequences. My husband finally allowed me to deal with my kids after my oldest moved out. Now he has never laid a hand on my kids for punishment, he just takes things away for extremely long periods of time or makes them do extra chores. He just announced that he is taking back over for punishing my kids when they are disrespectful to me. He says that if they are disrespectful then they lose all privileges including their bedroom until they can show respect and helpfulness for a considerable amount of time. He did not set an amount of time for this. He states that he will not compromise on this and that if I do not like it then "there's the door". He states that he can't have his kids watch my kids be disrespectful and think this is ok. We left each other for the night and came back home but we have been arguing over this ever since. I finally had him agree to five days (but he says that in five days he will reevaluate the situation and then if my son gets any privileges back then it will be limited such has no door on his bedroom and very limited phone and internet access). Help please. I know that I have been a push over in the past for punishing my children and I realize that I need to step up and give consequences but I feel his consequences are too much. How do I hold this family together. I do not want to lose my husband nor do I want my step-kids to lose another mother, the only mother that they remember.
    • Marissa EP


      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.

  • Bstinger1000

    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!!

    • Darlene EP


      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.

  • Annie
    My husband and I have a blended family. His children live about 20 hours away from us. They visit during school breaks only. I have them all summer long. My husband works 6a-5:30p Monday-Friday. Our kids do not get along and most days, I have all of our kids. (6More total) this is our 3 year having them during school breaks. I am worn and dread each day during the summer. Should I feel obligated to watch his children or is it reasonable for me to ask him to figure out other arrangements. It's not fair to my kids, his kids, or myself to deal with what we do during school breaks. I'm at the end of the rope and can't take much more.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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


  • kkc2016
    Im married to my husband and we have a blended family he have three other babymamas and nothing never good enough. No matter how much money he give are time ge spend with them it's not good enough for none of these women. It bring alot of issues in ourMore marriage and I'm tire we have a child together so what should I do
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • Misstt

    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.

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • Claire
    I have two of my own children and he has 4... His oldest daughter is 15 and my oldest daughter is 10. My daughter is very tall and some may believe she is act as a 15 yo. His 15 yr old daughter hasn't been wanting to come over recentlyMore because complaints that my daughter plays roughy (horse playing) and gives her attitude. Which makes her feel uncomfortable. What can I do to not make my daughter feel single out.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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
    My husband has two kids from a previous relationship and we have two kids together. He does not want to blend his two families and that has caused me much stress and heartache. His adult children live out if town so when we go and visit he leaves me byMore myself in a hotel room because his children do not want me around. Also he does not drive so when he wants to go to see his grand children he is required to come and visit them over his ex's house. I am not invited to come in the house with him so I sit outside and wait for him. This makes me feel disrespected but I do it to keep peace in my house. When his mother died he walked in with me sat down and then when his ex and children came he got up and walked in again with them I felt like that was unnecessary and disrespectful. I felt like he should have let them come in with their mother and then ask for them to come and sit with him. I am not insecure about his other family. I just feel like he is not considerate of his actions. He makes me feel like I am an outsider when he gets around his children. HELP!
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @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.

  • vanessa1987dau

    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.

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • mla2011
    As a step-parent should I be required to have my step-child during the scheduled visitation weekend if my husband (the natural parent) will be out of town the entire time?
    • WifeBMSM
      The problem isn't if you're "required" to have the child, but instead how much of an issue it will cause if you tell your husband you don't want to keep the child while he's out of town. If the child is old enough that he/she doesn't want to come visitMore when Dad's not there, tell your husband that you don't want to force the child to visit when he will be gone. But it's still a slippery slope!
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


    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.

  • Strugglingstepmom
    I have a difficult situation, and I need some advice. My stepson is been in my life since he was 17 months old, when I married his dad. He is nine now. We have never formed a close emotional bond. And now that he is getting older, the situation isMore getting worse. My husband and I are always fighting about it. The biomom is still actively in his life. And sometimes no matter how hard I try, he still won't warm up to me after all these years. I have my own issues I'm trying to work through as well, but so does he. He is socially awkward and acts very selfish and doesn't think of others at all, and I know part of that is just being a kid, but I think in his situation, it's a little more so. My husband and I have a 4 year old also, and I'm a stay at home mom for both of them. It really hard for me all the time because my stepson is constantly making mistakes that he never learns from and I am always correcting him. He He doesn't act independent.at all and is constantly attached to my hip, I feel like I have two 4 year olds. Don't get me wrong, my 4 year old is no angel either , and he gets I trouble a lot too for his behavior. But this is becoming a big problem with my stepson. He makes situations uncomfortable and is always doing something wrong, I want him to grow up to be a good person , but my husband is at his wits end with how strained our relationship is.
    • Darlene EP


      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.

  • fatimam
    this is a great article - i wish I would have read it before the arguments! LOL! I know what to do now :-)
  • ChristinaRain
    Hi my name is Christina my little gril. Is 7 an she has a larening disabled she has a hard time learning alot of things like reading an spelling, math an ect rob trying to help for i myself have adhd an things dont come easy for me as wellMore but I. Feel like sometimes he is being to hard on her an on his own kids he has 4 an i have 1 so together we have 5 he trying to be the daddy she has naver had for her own daddy don't want her times i feel lost i love his kids as my own an so for. Pleace keeps us in your prayers.
  • kk
    Do these suggestions apply to adult kids as well?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • lost108

    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.

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • Understanding 101
    Husband believe it is okay to go to ex wife house to see his daughter. Is this okay?
  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


    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.

  • Jen

    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...

  • Monique
    My husband and I married 7 years ago and his children lost their bio-mom (she stepped away b/c of addiction) so they became 'mine' 24/7.  I never had time to be a true step-parent.  My husband and I hardly ever agree on parenting and feelings are often hurt.  When theMore bio-parent is out of the picture, and you become the 'adoptive parent' in a way, are the rules the same as a step-parent?
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      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


  • Christina89
    I have children with my husband but he also has children from a previous marriage sometimes I feel he cares more for his first kids than for Mine when I mention something that bothers me about his kids he gets mad and defensive . We have been together 9 yearsMore so it's not like I'm new to the family.. Am I crazy...
  • RC

    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?

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


      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.

  • mario7byrd
    Great article, thank you very much for this.
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