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Nine months ago I married a woman with a 16-year-old daughter. Neither of us had been married before. Though her daughter is a good kid, recently she has become extremely fresh and ill mannered to me lately and defying her mother's rules. The problem is that my wife lets her get away with it. I'm getting fed up and don't want to live this way.


Debra Brooks Replied: At this age children can begin to test the boundaries of their parents. Although very common, it does not mean that it is acceptable behavior. Parenting a teenager can have its challenges, being a step-parent to a teenager has its own set of unique challenges. It is important that you and your wife present a "united front" when dealing with your step-daughter. Sit with your wife (out of earshot of your step-daughter) and discuss acceptable behavior and discipline. When the two of you have agreed upon rules for the household, you should BOTH sit down with your step-daughter to discuss appropriate behavior/disciplinary actions. The main thing is to be consistent and stick together.
Posted On 2010-05-19 11:08:27
Elinor Robin, PhD Replied: Relationships in step-families are extremely complex. In your step-family, the normal developmental phases were bypassed. You missed the important steps that help prepare a family to deal with the teen age years - which are marked with the stress that results from a child testing her independence. You have not had the advantage of learning about yourselves and each other over a period of time. You have not had a chance to learn to trust each other, come to an understanding of familial rules, or create reasonable expectations for discipline. However, if you are very committed to working through the issues that you are experiencing you can get to a place where you can be a friend to your step-daughter and she can be a blessing to you. IT IS POSSIBLE. But, it will take time, patience, and an emotional investment. My suggestion is that you start out by learning all you can about the dynamics of step-families, especially in relation to the teenage years. And, that you seek professional counseling to help you with this transition.
Posted On 2009-08-30 18:30:54
James Crist Replied: I suspect that her daughter is having trouble adjusting to having someone new in her life and may be taking her anger out on her mother. Teens are in the process of separating from their parents, which makes the process of developing a relationship with you that much harder. She may also be transferring any unresolved issues she has regarding her biological father to you. At the same time, your wife is the primary parent and should be the disciplinarian. I would suggest you both sit down with her, let her know that you have both noticed how angry she seems, validate how hard it is to have a new parent enter the picture, and ask her how she feels about it. She may need more one-on-one time with her mom to balance the loss she feels now that you are in the picture. You will need to be patient, supportive of her feelings, and recognize that she will need time to adjust. If problems continue, family therapy would be a wise choice to consider.
Posted On 2009-08-02 22:07:03
Janet Price Replied: First, congratulations on your marriage! What you are experiencing are the very real challenges of creating family with, and joining, a unit (mom and daughter) who have already been doing this for the past 16 years! A daunting task for all three of you! It sounds like the first few months of your marriage were "the honeymoon phase" of this new family constellation. Now she is letting you both know that she is struggling to accept this new arrangement and figure out where she fits into it. It also may help to remember that she is 16, a potentially difficult age even in the best of circumstances! So, what to do? I suggest that you all take a step back, breathe deeply and often, and find ways to celebrate your new family. This needs to include you and your wife getting on the same page about how you, as a unit, are going to respond to her daughter's behaviors that feel challenging. Together with your wife, prioritze the challenging behaviors in order of unacceptibility and strife caused- which will help you etermine which behavior you need to address first to begin to restore civility into your household. You notice that I didn't say "love". That brings us to the next step: have realistic expectations for this 16-year-old. She may not express love, or even "like", to you for awhile. As long as she is respectful to you both that is OK, and maybe even fabulous, considering her current behavior! Lastly, consider participating in family, and/or couples therapy, with the goal of creating positive communication patterns between and among the three of you. Good luck! You have the desire to make this work, which is more than half the battle. And you describe your wife's daughter as a good kid, which sounds quite hopeful for reaching your goals of having a positive home and family experience.
Posted On 2009-07-29 12:35:50
Amy Sherman Replied: This is a tough age and to her, you are an intruder, in what was her normal life. Give it time. Find things that you and she could have in common. Try to get her to engage in conversation with you about things that interest her. (You may want to brush up on some of the teenage trends). Understand that your wife is trying not to alienate her daughter by being too strict with her. However, the daughter still needs to know what is and isn't acceptable behavior. I would suggest you set up a family meeting where you can all discuss the new dynamics of the household, how you feel as someone new in the family and hopefully how she feels with the new set up. Be honest and sincere about trying to make the situation better. Good luck!
Posted On 2009-07-28 18:14:37
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