Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms wrote in, Cathryn replied​.
Cathryn's Mailbox
2 Youngsters I can't control.

3 yr old SS crying all the time!

A bio-mom worried about new stepmom in her daughter's life- can we help?

About ready to throw in the towel!

About to become a step parent and am terrified!

Bio mom badmouthing me to my stepson & he repeats to me & my kids.

Bio-mom back & I'm hurt by her impact-what can I do?

Bio-mom doesn't want me present at any of my skids school events.

Bio-mom is online stalking & has issues w/ pictures of skids.

Bio-mom physically assaulted me & telling skids it was the other way around?

Bio-mom used me, I drew a line, she’s angry--now what?

BM doesn't want her kids, then does-what's going on?

Clarifying Mission Statement for SMOMS-revised

Dealing w/ bio-mom who doesn't want to get along with me?

Dealing w/ Deceased Bio Mom's Extended Family

Dealing with SD at my young age

DH finds out he has a daughter-I feel terrible

DH sets no Boundaries for SD20-what to do?

DH w/3 bio-kids not trying to bond w/ my 2 bio kids.

Do I love my ss? I don't know.

Does the BB help or hurt with issues?

Don't know where I went wrong

Ever Feel Like Leaving?

FDH feels guilty about leaving BM & allows her to excessively call/text/email him.

Feeling like invisible parent to stepson- help!

Feeling like the enemy in my own house: Teen SD

Feeling resentment towards my SS & can't connect

From BB- A Ritual for you & your beloved

From BB: Self-awareness can hurt...why is that?

Help w/situation that dad, biomom & skid all agree on but I don’t feel is best

Holiday traditions? Some ideas from sister SMOMS

How can I find the right balance & Boundaries?

How can I handle my SD8 who loves negative attention?

How do I cope w/DH's need for perfect family when I'm more realistic about it?

How do I deal with a lying SD, her bio-mom & the ex-step mom?

How do I deal with all the hurt and anger?

How do I help her understand that chores and rules don't mean that I don’t love her?

How do I stop SD from lying to me, DH, BM, and BM's boyfriend?

How to accept bio-mom's "bad" choices?

How to deal w/ unkind skids, ex-wife, MIL costing me my relationship?

how to deal w/SD choosing bio-mom for school play?

How to handle bio-mom who keeps asking for more $$$?

How to handle it when skids away Christmas Day?

How to help ss, when BM encourages him to lie?

How to help when bio-mom returns

How to let go of the single life I thought I saw going to live versus being SMOM?

How to make transition easier for skids?

how to step back in after stepping out?

Husband still feels guilty, his kids in their 30’s

I am frustrated with my skids 99% of the time...help!

I feel jealous of DH's ex & unheard by DH-Help!

I feel left out & sort of invisible w/ grown SD’s

I really love my FDH, but really wish his daughter didn't exist?

I want a better relationship w/ teen stepson

I want a Closer relationship w/ stepdaughter

I want my bed back

I would like to know how to change my attitude towards my new inherited family

I'm at the end of my tether... Stepchildren don't seem to like me.

If you're in the mood for SMOMS Pep Talk-read this!

Invested so much love, time, energy & $$...seems it's never enough

It's too much work- I need help from DH & Family!

Jealous of sister-in-law & Skids-what can I do?

Just jealous or maybe time to leave?

Local support stepmom groups???

My DH doesn't understand why my feelings are hurt

My husband stays at his mothers when he has his daughter for the night.

Need better coping skills but..how to do so…

Not a step mom yet but need some guidance

Open for your Questions in March 2015

Right now, I HATE being a Stepmom!!!

Self-Pity-it's an emotional numbing,energy draining tactic

Someone to talk to when things come up or whenever?

SS5 keeps throwing his BM in my face! Help!

Struggling w/ a jealous stepdaughter

Stubborn DH and sexually active teenage SS

teenage step daughter & car...Ugh!

the problem is my partner...why is he fighting my efforts?

Transitions and Coparenting Struggles

Trouble coping w/BF's newborn & ex.

Venting Guidelines- A Requested approach

What are reasonable expectations?

What are these letters?

What boundaries do I need to set with husband and sd?

What can we do about the rage! I "Lost it" last night. Help!

What to do about disrespectful 20 yr/old SS

What to do when Bio mom starts turning step daughter against me?

what to do when step child stops saying I love you?

When bio-mom sends stuff from life w/your DH?

When BM causes drama, how to prevent that impacting my relationship w/ the skids?

When to call it quits? What to do?

When winning more important to bio-mom than getting along

Why do things Skid's say bother me so & what to do?-Updated!

Why does it bother me that my skids don't recognize how much their father does for th

Why does my ss's rudeness bother me so?

Why does my stepson Idolize his bio-mom????

Why don't I matter in the family?

Why so jealous? What about irrational fears?

How can I handle my SD8 who loves negative attention?

Hi Cathryn,

I have 3 step children. My eldest is already off to college & i have a 16 & 8 year old at home with us full time. The youngest loves negative attention. So she constantly fights with me & yells at me & refuses to do her homework & my husband being a lay back kinda guy doesn't do much to change things. He says he wants us to teach the children about bettering themselves BUT he does nothing to help. My little one acts up throws tantrums & refuses to behave & he in return doesn't punish her no, he takes her out for ice cream & buys her toys because she promises to behave better. I don't know what to do. I talk to him about what he's doing & in return he gets mad at me for telling him the truth. I'm to the point that just seeing her makes me upset because she knows that anything i say doesn't mean anything. Please advise me on how to handle this situation.

Regards,
Louise

CATHRYN’S REPLY:

Hi Louise,

I certainly can understand why you would feel frustrated and upset. This pattern is sadly fairly common with divorced dads. It may be common with any dad I just don’t hear about them. Having differently parenting styles, beliefs, tolerances and expectations is a huge source of relationship stress between stepmoms and the men they love.

First thing I would do is recommend a book I just remembered when I was rereading your letter. It is called, “1,2,3, Magic” it is by Dr. Tom Phelan. It is a no yelling approach to child rearing and it was very effective for us until the bio-mom told her son that he didn’t have to abide by anything we/I said. So, if your hubby is willing to try this approach, I believe you will have success.

If he is NOT willing, then you can still adopt it when interacting with her but you will also have to step back a bit from the parenting because kids can suss out weak links in the parenting boundaries so fast and you will want to be ready.

With that said, kids looking for negative often do so because they’ve been taught that it is the only way/best way to get attention. Given an alternative (postivie attention) they will often resist at first because they may feel like they are giving in but find that it is so nourishing they ca’t resist for long.

What I found was that sometimes I was so frustrated, hurt or angry, that I didn’t want to give my ss any positive attention. This feeling was a clue that I needed to step back, regain my own sense of well-being, power and goodness first so I could go back into the relationship feeling like the adult woman I was, not the frustrated, powerless, rejected nanny who I’d begun to feel like. Could it be that you need to step back a bit to give yourself some rejuvenation? Could it be that it would serve you to give your hubby the responsibility for his daughter’s upbringing (much easier said than done but worth the effort) and to put your attention on yourself and what you need?

Sometimes I used to get so angry because my husband wouldn’t enforce a rule or a consequence. He was too tired or often he felt we were going to have to pay for the consequences because his son has so many tantrums it was often seemingly easier to overlook things than to stand up for the consequences. This used to drive me nuts. Seemed wrong, unfair, short sighted, etc. etc.

Then one day, after hundreds of hours of stress and arguments between me and my husband, I just sort of ran out of emotional, mental gas for being the “Manners and good child rearing police” of the family. I was at the end of my rope (See my article by that title for some ways to support yourself if this is the case for you) and I decided that I was going to stop evaluating my husbnad’s every child rearing rule, chioce and move and focus on loving him and connecting with him. I decided to surrender what I thought was needed to help his son become a good person and trust his decisions (even when I didn’t understand or agree with him.) He was the father, I was his wife. I was tired of giving this child the power to come between us. It was a turning point in our marriage.

After I did this I learned that my attitudes and judgments of my husband’s choices were very very hurtful to my husband. I realized that he was feeling judged (which he was being judged) and that that hurt and shamed him and set off many unconscious emotional chain reactions and defensive strategies which all were triggered to help him less better...none of which had anything to do with what was really best for his son. My criticisms, advice and pressure had distracted him from the painful feelings his son’s bad behavior brought up and for some reason, it was easier for him to be angry with me, then to stand up to his son (or his ex) Go figure!!!!

Surrendering the Manners & child rearing police duties was one of the best things I did for me and for us. It gave me a chance to focus on what I needed and being lovingly connected to my husband and not arguing over his son was a huge need which I was able to meet once I let go of the bigger picture of his son’s upbringing.

I also realized that I got so involved with trying to help him raise his son, 
The right way” because I wanted to be included, feel involved, help make up for all his ex-wife didn’t do for/with him and be super-partner. Not sure if any of this makes sense to you but just sift and sort for whatever does fit for you and your situation.

It can become overwhelming. The skids behavior can become a disproportionately huge part of a relationship to the point where it is almost all we talk to our beloveds about. This is a clue that things need to shift and you do have the ability to make that shift, if you are willing to give it a try and it feels right for you.

There is a smommentary about ways to connect with your skids. Have you read it? There are lots of ways to connect, create rituals and positive traditions that may just appeal to her 8 year old (going on 18) psyche. You may want to check that one out, when you are feeling in the mood to be compassionate for her situation.

Over the years, I’ve learned that bad behavior is a call for love, only it is often to buried and touches so many of our wounds that we can’t see it because of the reactions it causes us. You are willing to learn. You have done so much to try to help her. Perhaps modeling a new way of being with her, as the adult, wise, strong, loving woman who no longer allows anyone to treat her badly self will give her a new role model. Before she realizes this, she will employ all her old tactics. It’s human nature to go back to survival strategies before trying something new.

Check out the reading stuff and see what you think.
I hope it will give you all kinds of new ideas for your situation.
Thanks for the question.

Sincerely, Cathryn
Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms on a Mission®
PO Box 7, Medford NJ 08055
609.206.2009
Cathryn@smoms.org