How do I help her understand that chores and rules don't mean that I don’t love her?
I’m glad you found me and the site. I’m going to copy and paste your letter below and comment on a few things. Sometimes it makes more sense to reply that way. My comments will be in all caps but I am definitely NOT yelling-just wanting to make it easier for you to see my comments and differentiate them from yours. OK? OK!
AT THE TOP OF THE FORM YOU WROTE:
How do I help her understand that chores and rules don't mean that I don’t love her? THIS WAS YOUR QUESTION AT THE TOP OF THE FORM. LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT FOR A MOMENT. IT IS VERY VERY HARD TO GET A CHILD TO APPRECIATE THAT WHEN THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT SETS OF RULES AT MOM AND DAD’S HOUSES. WE LEARNED THIS WHEN MY SS WAS ONLY 7. SO...WHAT CAN YOU DO? IT’S MY THEORY THAT THEY ARE VERY CAPABLE OF BEHAVING UNDER DIFFERENT SETS OF RULES (LIKE THEY HAVE IN SCHOOL) BUT THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS THEIR UNDERSTANDING THAT THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES TO MOTIVATE THEM (IN GOOD WAYS AND PUNITIVE WAYS) TO ADHER TO THE RULES- JUST LIKE IN SCHOOL. IF YOU AND YOUR HUBBY COULD AGREE ON JUST A FEW RULES THAT HE IS WILLING TO SUPPORT AND STICK TO, IT IS A GOOD PLACE TO START. IF YOU ARE HOLDING YOUR OWN DAUGHTER TO THE SAME RULES, IT SHOULD BE HARDER FOR HER TO ARGUE-ALTHOUGH THAT NEVER STOPPED A PRE-TEEN OR TEEN FROM DOING SO.
PLEASE GET A COPY OF THE BOOK, “GET OUT OF MY LIFE BUT FIRST COULD YOU TAKE ME AND CHERYL TO THE MALL” BY ANTHONY WOLF. I KNOW YOU SAID YOUR SD WAS ONLY 12 BUT I REALLY BELIEVE YOUA RE GOING TO GET A LOT OF GOOD INSIGHTS AND IDEAS FROM HIS PRACTICAL AND OFTEN FUNNY CHAPTERS. I WILL HOPE THAT YOUR HUBBY WILL READ AND FOLLOW THIS BOOK AS WELL. IT IS A GREAT WAY TO WORK TOGETHER.
WITH HIS MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, IT GIVES YOU AN OBJECTIVE THIRD PARTY EXPERT, THIS AUTHOR HAD TEENAGERS WHEN HE WROTE THIS AND SOMETIMES WHILE READING THE BOOK, I FELT LIKE HE’D BEEN SPYING ON US HIS DESCRIPTIONS WERE SO ACCURATE. PLEASE CHECK THIS OUT FOR WAYS TO START A NEW PLANS FOR HER THAT WILL TAKE YOU OUT OF THE ROLE OF PARENTING POLICE. TIME FOR YOU TO GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK FROM THAT STRESS-FOR SURE.
Your letter and my added comments:
Hi Cathryn, My name is Shannon. I am 34 and I have a step daughter who is 12. I have been in her life since she was 14 mo. old. I also have a 9 yr old with my husband. I guess I should start with background info.
YOUR LETTER CONTINUES: I’ve always loved both girls and I do try not to play favorites but it isn't easy. We only have my step daughter every other weekend, unless she has something going on. For all of our marriage I took care of her. I was the Easter Bunny and Santa along with the one who did all birthday planning and gifts.
My husband needed counseling and medication to balance his moods and until about 3 months ago, chose not to do anything except go outside the marriage, and argue about everything, because he just couldn’t balance out his moods. So, I was the caretaker and always the one who had to be the authority. When he wasn’t either watching tv or sleeping, he was either arguing with me or taking out on theroom (Shannon, I don’t understand this part?) and girls.
I HOPE YOU WILL FIND A WAY TO GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF COUNSELING FOR HANDLING ALL OF THIS HAD TO HAVE BEEN VERY STRESSFUL, EVEN IF THE GIRLS HAD BEEN ANGELS. YOU HAVE BEEN AMAZINGLY SUPPORTIVE AND SOUND VERY UNDERSTANDING AND YOU DESERVE SOME TIME AND SPACE TO PROCESS THE IMPACT OF ALL THESE EXPERIENCES. I HOPE YOU CAN MAKE THAT HAPPEN FOR YOU.
I always would have them come watch tv and play to just be out of his way. I think going through all of this I started to resent my step daughter and her still giving me a hard time after all I would do and would portray me to others as the wicked step mother, THIS IS TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE. FROM WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM OTHER SMOMS WHO ARE ALSO BIO-MOMS, LIKE YOURSELF, MUCH OF THIS BEHAVIOR HAPPENS WITH BIO-KIDS NOT JUST STEPKIDS. THAT MAY NOT MAKE IT EASIER FOR YOU TO DEAL WITH BUT THERE ARE LOTS OF SMOMS WHO WILL BE ABLE TO GIVE YOU SPECIFIC COMPASSION AND IDEAS FOR HOW TO SURVIVE THIS PHASE OF MOTHERING AND STEPMOTHERING. PLEASE CHECK OUT THE FORUM FOR SMOMS WITH BIO-KIDS AS A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN GET EXTRA TLC.
I think because I would put her in time out or tell them that they had to clean up and also help do things, such as folding the small towels, putting socks together, you know, normal things. I admit I have definitely lost my cool when she would give me a hard time. WHENEVER WE FEEL RESENTMENT IT IS A VALUABLE CLUE THAT THE ENERGY EXCHANGE IN THE RELATIONSHIP IS OUT OF BALANCE. IT IS GOOD THAT YOU ARE AWARE OF THIS AND NOW IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO LOOK FOR WAYS TO GET THE RELATIONSHIP BACK INTO BALANCE. THIS CAN BE A BIT OF A CHALLENGE WHEN KIDS ARE INVOLVED BECAUSE THEY NEED MORE FROM US, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE LITTLE. NOW THAT YOU ARE BEGINNING TO FEEL RESENTFUL, THIS IS A CHANCE FOR YOU TO START PAYING ATTENTION TO THE THINGS YOU DO FOR HER. BECOME AS CONSCIOUS AS YOU CAN ABOUT WHAT YOU DO FOR HER. IS SHE ASKING YOU TO DO IT? DO YOU HAVE OPTIONS? COULD YOU STOP DOING IT? COULD YOU ASK HER INSTEAD?
THE BOOK I SUGGESTED HAD LOTS OF GOOD IDEAS ABOUT HANDLING THIS. I THINK IT IS ALSO A CHANCE TO TRY THINGS THAT GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO “CATCH THEM DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.”
WHEN WE ARE TIRED, HAVE BEEN TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF AND HURT OR FELT LEFT OUT, IT’S NOT LIKELY THAT THIS OPTION COMES TO MIND BUT GIVE IT A CONSIDERATION WHEN YOU WANT TO.
THIS MEANS THAT PERHAPS YOU COULD CREATE SOME IND OF CHORES LIST THAT BOTH YOUR SD AND DAUGHTER COULD DO EVERY OTHER WEEKEND AND IN EXCHANGE FOR THEIR CHEERFUL COMPLETION OF THE TASKS, THEY EARN AN ACTIVITY, A PRIZE, A PRIVILEDGE. WHEN MY STEPSON WAS 5-6 HE THOUGHT GETTING UP WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK AND WATCHING A MOVIE AND EATING POPCORN WAS A TOTALLY COOL FUN THING TO DO. SO, WE GAVE HIM WAYS TO EARN 5 STARS AND WHEN HE DID, THE NEXT SATURDAY MORNING HE WAS WITH US, WE SET THE ALARM AND I GOT UP WITH HIM AT 5 AM, MADE POPCORN AND WE WATCHED A MOVIE SO HIS DAD COULD SLEEP IN. IT WAS VERY EFFECTIVE AT THAT AGE. I BET, IF YOU ASKED THEM FOR SOME COOL IDEAS OF THINGS THEY’D LIKE TO BE ABLE TO DO, TRY, ETC, YOU COULD MAKE A LIST AND TRY GIVING THEM A CHANCE TO EARN A FUN THING, INSTEAD OF HAVING TO AVOID A BAD THING. DOES THIS MAKE SENSE? PLEASE CHECK OUT MY SMOMMENTARY ABOUT “CONNECTING WITH OUR SKIDS” FOR A BUNCH IF IDEAS THAT MIGHT WORK FOR YOUR SD. I BET THE OTHER SMOMS BIO-MOMS WOULD HAVE EVEN BETTER IDEAS FOR YOU.
I have raised my voice some, never really loud, calling names or cussing, but I am human. HONORING YOUR ANGER IS A GOOD THING. BEING CONSCIOUS OF HOW YOU EXPRESS IT IS TERRIFIC. IVE FOUND SMASHING A FEW OLD DISHES INTO THE TRASH CAN CAN ALSO BE VERY FREEING. JUST A THOUGHT. IT IS GOOD TO EXPRESS THE ANGER YOU ARE FEELING, THE KEY IS RECOGNIZING THAT WE CAN RELEASE THE ANGER IN WAYS THAT ARE PRIVATE AND APART FROM THE SKIDS AND STILL COME BACK TO THEM TO TELL THEM HOW WE FEEL ABOUT WHATEVER THEY’VE DONE. SIMPLE AS THAT SEEMS, SOME PEOPLE JUST DONT SEEM TO REALIZE THAT AND IT CAN BE IMPORTANT.
My understanding is that her mom has treated her as much older for a while. My step daughter wears makeup to school, has been shaving since 10 but is not in puberty and so I am also very concerned but I don’t see her enough to be able to do much. YOU ARE WISE TO RECOGNIZE THAT YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME WITH HER TO CONTROL SO MANY OF HER ACTIONS HOWEVER, YOU CAN LOOK AT THE THINGS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU AND TALK TO YOU HUBBY ABOUT IT. MANY THINGS WE THINK ARE IMPORTANT DON’T REALLY MATTER IT’S JUST THAT THEY WERE IMPOSED ON US AS KIDS AND WHEN WE BECOME PARENTS OR STEPPARENTS ITS NATURAL TO WANT T BE THE ONE IN CHARGE. HOWEVER, IF YOU MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE RULES YOU WANT TO IMPOSE, THEN GO THRU THE AND PICK OUT ONLY THE MOST IMPACTFUL AND IMPORTANT ONES, YOU’LL SEE IT’S A MUCH SMALLER AND HOPEFULLY DOABLE LIST.
On top of all of this, my husband’s family judges me and they never do anything with my daughter unless my step daughter is there, but from what I am told when they are with his family my step daughter is treated better than my daughter. THIS IS VERY SAD. SEEMS YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO CHANGE THEM BUT I HOPE YOU WILL BE SURE TO TALK WITH YOUR DAGHTER TO SEE IF SHE IS IMPACTED BY THIS (OR EVEN NOTICES.) IF SHE DOES THIS IS A GOOD TIME TO BEGIN TO TEACH HER ABOUT NOT TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY. IF YOUR HUSBAND IS NOT WILLING TO SAY ANYTHING TO HIS FAMILY ABOUT HOW HIS DAUGHTERS ARE BEING TREATED, I WOULD DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO SUPPORT YOUR DAUGHTER’S FEELINGS.
Then my husband's mom tries to parent her, without permission, and has also gone to my step daughter, when we have planned a trip, as a family, and asked her if she would rather go with her than us, and this is only one example. THIS IS NOT VERY FAIR, BUT COULD IT BE AN ANSWER TO YOUR WISHES ABOUT NOT HAVING TO SEE HER AS MUCH? I UNDERSTAND ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER WANTING TO SEE HER SISTER SO MAYBE WHENEVER THIS HAPPENS YOU AND YOUR DAUGHTER DO SOMETHING VERY, VERY SPECIAL TOGETHER. SOMETHING THAT SHE WILL END UP BEING HAPPY ABOUT. CAN YOU THING OF SOMETHING SHE ENJOYS DOING THAT COULD BE HER SPECIAL TREAT WHENEVER YOUR SD AND IN-AWS PULL THE SD AWAY?
Having all this on a plate I had surgery and need more help and my step daughter fights me all the way and talks back. I love her but I really haven’t been liking her THIS MAKES TOTAL SENSE. IF YOU WERE ALREADY FEELING RESENTFUL AND YOU HAVE ALREADY DOEN SO MUCH FOR HER AND SHE WON’T CHEERFULLY HELP YOU WHEN YOU REALLY NEED IT. HOWEVER, IF YOU BEGIN TO FIND WAYS TO BALANCE THE RELATIONSHIP BY DOING LESS FOR HER AND YOU TALK WITH YOUR HUBBY ABOUT NEW RULES, MAYBE NEW INCENTIVES FOR HER TO BEHAVE, MAYBE A FEW OF THE THINGS THAT ARE BOTHERING YOU (UNDERSTANDBABLY SO) WILL DIMINISH OR EVEN GO AWAY. WOLDN’T THAT BE GRAND? and I feel bad because I feel that it’s just easier when she’s not here (WE CAN ALL UNDERSTAND HOW YOU WOULD FEE THAT WAY. PLEASE BE COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF ABOUT THOSE VERY HUMAN FEELINGS.) but my daughter gets hurt because when she is here she is nice to my daughter when it is something she wants to do but throws a fit when she doesn’t want to compromise. HAVE YOU HEARD OR THE BOOK, “THE FOUR AGREEMENTS”? I BET THIS WOULD BE A GOOD TIME TO BEGIN TO TEACH YOUR DAUGHTER ABOUT THEM. PAGES 47-61 IS THE PLACE TO START WITH KIDS. YOU CAN PULL OUT THE 4 AGREEMENTS FROM THE BOOK AND EXPLAIN THEM TO HER. EVEN IF THEY WERE FULL BLOODED SISTERS THIS COULD BE HAPPENING WITH THESE AGES. AGAIN, I BELIEVE THE SMOM-BIO-MOMS WILL BE A BIG HELP WITH WORDS OF WISDOM ON THIS.
Often she comes over I begin to feel anger and resentment without her saying anything. The pattern is that she uses tantrums as a way to manipulate situations but it doesn't work with me. THIS ALL MAKES COMPLETE SENSE. AS YOU MAKE SOME CHANGES IN WHAT YOU DO SOME OF THIS WILL CHANGE. WHENEVER WE DISAGREE WITH THE PARENTING TACTICS OF OUR SKID’S DAD, THERE IS GOING TO BE TENSION. OFTEN (MAYBE USUALLY) STEPPING BACK AND NOT GETTING INVOLVED IS THE BEST THING. CLEARLY I’M NOT SUGGESTING HAVING HER MISTREAT YOU IN ANY WAY. I’M JUST SUGGESTING THAT SOME OF THIS WILL CHANGE ON YOU CHANGE HOW YOU ARE INTERACTING WITH HER AND WHAT YOU ARE DOING FOR AND EXPECTING FROM HER.
When her mom talks to my husband, she makes it sound like she is so easy to deal with, only because she is not dealing with anything because she lets her do mainly whatever she wants. THIS CAN DRIVE A PERSON CRAZY. PLEASE KNOW THAT THIS IS NO COMMENTARY ABOUT ANYTHING YOU ARE DOING AND IT IS PROBABLY JUST BIO-MOM TRYING TO GET TO YOU BOTH. PLEASE DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO IGNORE THIS.
I am worried about her future (THAT’S UNDERSTANDABLE AND MAKES IT HARD TO STAND BY AND WATCH YET YOU CAN ONLY DO WHAT YOU CAN DO AND WHATEVER YOUR HUSBAND WILL SUPPORT YOU AND BACK YOU IN DOING. THIS IS GOING TO BE A KEY TO THINGS CHANGING. and already have to explain to my daughter that she won't be doing many of these things. At only 12 she is already starting to come over only when we are doing something, or there are gifts. I hate to say it but if that is what will go on, I would rather she not come but then my daughter wouldn't see her. WHAT IF YOU JUST FOCUS ON A FEW OF THE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE THINGS BETTER WHENEVER SHE IS WITH YOU ALL, HAVE A PLAN FOR WHAT TO DO WHEN SHE DISAPPOINTS YOUR DAUGHTER AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE FOR THE TIME BEING. CAN YOU GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR SD FUTURE? THIS IS HARD BUT IT WILL FREE UP A BUNCH OF ENERGY FOR YOU.
Just like this weekend we asked if she was wanting to come over (which there should just be a schedule for when she comes) and we planned on not mentioning whether we had plans, and she told my husband she had to see what was going on. We then find out that without talking to my husband, his mother is getting her to spend the night and told her the plans for the next day, so of course she is going.THIS KIND OF SHENANIGANS IS CRAZY MAKING. I hope I don’t sound like I am rambling or just complaining but enough is enough! YOU DO NOT SOUND LIKE YOU ARE RAMBLING. YOU SOUND LIKE YOU ARE IN NEED OF SOME CHANGES THAT WILL HELP YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT HOW YOU ARE USING YOUR ENERGY AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. IN THE MEANTIME THERE ARE GOING TO BE LOTS OF IDEAS THAT START COMING TO YOU ABOUT HOW YOU CAN DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY WITH YOUR SD.
I’M GLAD YOU FOUND SMOMS.ORG.
THERE ARE MANY WOMEN HERE WHO WILL BE ABLE TO OFFER YOU THE COMPASSION AND SUGGESTIONS AND IDEAS THAT WILL GIVE YOU MORE STRENGTH AND ENERGY AND HOPE FOR THINGS BEING DIFFERENT GOING FORWARD.
Please help!! I am looking for some sound advice.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, horribly stressed out Shannon.
YOU ARE VERY WELCOME.
I HOPE THERE IS SOMETHING HERE THAT WILL HELP YOU FEEL BETTER.
HANG IN THERE.
PLEASE TAKE SOME TIME TO FIND WAYS TO SUPPORT YOURSELF WHILE YOU ARE BUSY HELPING OTHERS.
WARM REGARDS, CATHRYN