At my whits end!!!!!

drew867August 16, 2010

Hello to the forum: I am hoping for some helpful advice on dealing with my 11 yr old step-daughter and father. My wife's ex-husband has told their 11 yr old that she does not have to listen to anything I say and that she does not even have to be in our house while I am home, this is killing my wife because every time I am home her daughter is totally disrespectful to both of us and constantly trying to get her mother to let her leave to go back to her father. I am from the old school that refuses to allow a child to be disrespectful to an adult and believe in disciplining a child when they mis-behave so this has made me into the "mean" step-father in the daughters eyes- dad gives her anything she wants and has treated her as an equal when it comes to his dealings with her mother, she knows all the details concerning their divorce and custody so anything that goes on in our house(like her being disciplined-he doesnt want me to discipline her) that the father does not agree with is passed on to him by the daughter. I also have a daughter the same age so I cannot allow my step daughter to act one way when I expect my daughter to act another. My wife feels guilty about the divorce as far as her daughter is concerned so is very leery of pushing her away by being to hard on her and her father is making the situation worse by playing on that guilt. I am loosing control in my own home because of the discipline issue; the ex has threatened to have me arrested for domestic abuse for disciplining his child, what can I do? My lawyer says I have the right to discipline in my own house as long as it is not abusive but I cannot loose my career over silly allegations from the ex. I know I have rambled trying to relay my situation and I apologize but I am at a loss as to how to proceed.

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A step-parent has no business physically disciplining a child over the wishes of their biological parents, for an infraction of a rule that he decided upon. And you are not being "old school"; you are bullying an eleven year old girl. For whatever reason her father has told her she does not have to listen to you or be in the house when you are there (Why? Is there a restraining order or a past history?). At any rate, her father is telling her one thing, yet her step-father is telling her another and then punishing her if she does not defy her father by being respectful to you.

(May I ask what you have done to earn her respect? Or is this something that you are supposed to automatically have by virtue of a certain number of years lived on this earth?)

Who has custody? I get the impression that Dad may have primary/joint custody? How long have you been married? What do you mean "when you are home"? How often are you not home? Are you military? Are you coming home from deployments and walking into a houseful of stress and that's why you want order?

"the ex has threatened to have me arrested for domestic abuse for disciplining his child, what can I do?"

May I suggest that you stop disciplining your SD immediately and get yourself, and possibly your wife and SD, into counseling? You are behaving like a control freak at the expense of an eleven year old; she is the symptom of a problem, not the cause. This is something that needs to be worked out between the adults, not you and your SD. She may be behaving like a brat in your eyes, but she is a child who is stuck in the middle of an impossible situation.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 7:09PM
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Mattie, why are you assuming that by "discipline" the OP means physical discipline? It may be that he is calling a time out or withdrawing a privilege, or even simply saying "I don't want you behaving like that/talking to me in that tome of voice". Frankly if even some strange kid in the street is rude to me (or an adult, for that matter) I will call them on it, and I sure as heck wouldn't put up with it in my own home.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 7:16AM
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colleenoz, I was assuming physical discipline because OP said "the ex has threatened to have me arrested for domestic abuse for disciplining his child, what can I do? My lawyer says I have the right to discipline in my own house as long as it is not abusive". Maybe Dad is a complete whack-job who is threatening to file domestic abuse charges because OP is calling a time-out - but would you even consult a lawyer for that?

I actually agree that children (or adults) should not be disrespectful or rude for no reason. My point was that this little girl is squarely in the middle of this, and that's not fair. The adults should be deciding and agreeing upon appropriate behavior and punishments.

The other issue is that people's ideas of what is "disrespectful" in a kid vary wildly. I have relatives who feel that it is disrespectful for a child to speak to an adult if not spoken to first, and a child saying anything that remotely resembled No, or I Don't Want To, would be a serious offense. I'm not saying that that's wrong, but if most kids were suddenly put with someone who was that strict they'd have a really tough time with it.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 8:37AM
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I also got the impression that the OP is referring to physical discipline, given the statement that Mattie referenced.

I think a step-parent has NO PLACE using any kind of physical correction---assuming you are referring to spanking--and even LESS so when it is a male stepfather and an eleven year old girl.

I would not lay a HAND on this girl again, not only because of the *allegations* but also because it is just inappropriate. Let her mother handle discipline and consequences in the house. If she is not or doesn't, you can offer helpful suggestions, but YOU should not be the one doing anything or doling out any kind of consequence.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 9:47AM
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Yeah, Drew, before anyone could try to give 'helpful advice' you need to come back and clarify a few things.

Just what 'old school' discipline are you talking about? What gives you the idea that the male must hand out 'discipline' over the child instead of her mother?

You might want to toss in a few examples of your idea of what justifies you needing to discipline the child to the point child refuses to want to be in the same home when you are.

In the meantime, a cooling off period between homes might be best. Until bio mom and bio father can have a sit down discussion about expectations and mutual agreements, forcing the child to visit and then pulling the 'I'm the big man and you WILL listen to me or else' bit is asking for a world of trouble and years of resentment of the girl towards her mother if mom is allowing you to unfairly and/or in an unappropriate manner discipline HER child.

Most parents co-parent, the thought of the male being the be all to end all crap does not exist any longer.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 11:47AM
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mattie, I don't know OP's whole situation, but my SD's BM has threatened to call CPS because I gave her daughter oatmeal & peanut butter. That was abusive because her daughter says she doesn't like it? (but failed to tell me she didn't like it, & strangely likes it now) She called police because she was angry that I found out she was pregnant (after SHE posted it on the internet!) & she thought I told SD's teacher, which was for some reason.. a crime? and just last week, she threatened to call her attorney & take DH back to court because she wants that inappropriate outfit back that DH told her not to send, but she sent anyways. And discipline? BM claims my form of discipline is abusive. I've never spanked her. I have corrected her (I'm not supposed to tell her ANYTHING), I have questioned her (I'm not supposed to ask her ANYTHING), If I tell her to go play outside, I'm accused of making her stay out of the house as if I locked her out. If I tell her she needs to stay in the house, I am accused of keeping her from breathing fresh air. It's really a no win situation when the other parent looks for any & every reason to complain & keep their child from forming ANY relationship with the stepparent.

Some parents say & do CRAZY things... and I think a parent that tells the child about court issues and discusses custody stuff and gives the child permission to be disrespectful (sounds EXACTLY like my SD's BM!) just may be the controlling one. They are willing to place their child in the middle of adult issues... he is basically placing his child in a position to be disliked by the stepfather. How is that good for a child? My SD has been encouraged the same way & the end result is that she is basically miserable when in our home.. which is all the time.

I have to assume there hasn't been any sort of restraining orders or findings of abuse or inappropriate discipline. I believe it is a disservice to tell a child that they cannot be disciplined, whether it's at school, daycare, or the other parent's house~ by ANY adult. Children need rules, boundaries & the fear that if they break the rules or cross the boundaries, there will be consequences. When someone tells them they are protected from any consequences... you could end up with a brat that thinks they are untouchable. As for physical discipline... personally I don't think it works much, but it really is up to the parent. In mom's house, it is MOM that decides, not DAD. In dad's house, DAD decides. In my opinion, if mom allows her DH to perform a spanking that she would have given, then mom is responsible for the spanking just as much as the person doing the spanking. Her DH should not decide to spank without mom's knowledge & consent. What I find is that when one parent tries to dictate what happens in the other parent's house, they want to have a say in what happens in the other house but want privacy in their own house... what THEY do is none of your business. But, what you do is their business because that's THEIR child.... an unfair double standard.

Of course, my opinion is biased because my SD's BM sounds a lot like the ex husband in the OP.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 2:37AM
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if by disciplining you mean verbal comments such "you should not be leaving dirty dishes on the table but should put them in a sink, rinse and dry them" then this is perfectly fine, but if you physically touching a child than dad is absolutelly correct, you can get in big trouble. You have no business phsycially disciplining anyone, let alone children that aren't yours. If that's the case then I wonder if dad should have full custody and you shouldn't be allowed aorund her at all. If anyone physically dsciplined my child, they would never be allowed around my child unsupervised.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 8:43AM
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I think "Physical" can be a subjective term. Scolding or correcting the child verbally with "you should not be leaving dirty dishes on the table but should put them in a sink, rinse and dry them" does not seem to be discipline, in my opinion. Telling a child they need to clear the table & wash the dishes or they won't get to watch the movie might a form of physical discipline. They are told to do something physical by lifting dishes & washing them. But what if you have a child that refuses to do the dishes so you send them to bed early? Or they have to sit in a chair (time out?) for a period of time. That also is, in a way "physical" because they have to physically sit there & it may be unpleasant for them. Then there is a swat on the bottom or spanking, which is definitely "physical".

As I said before, my SD's mom (yes, she's crazy) tried to argue that feeding her daughter oatmeal for breakfast and putting peanut butter on her sandwich was abuse... that her daughter was physically harmed or mistreated because I made her eat those things. (when in fact, I gave those things to her & she could have said she didn't like them but didn't tell me... instead ate it & went to BM to complain that she had to eat it.) See, parents don't always get the whole story & if they rely on what kids say... that can sure lead to bigger problems. Kids can manipulate & even if they are not being manipulative, they may have a child perspective which isn't the way it really is.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 1:39AM
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Let your wife be the one who takes care of her child's issues. Don't get in the middle and got set up into a triangle between the child, mom and bio dad. That is a lose-lose situation.

Don't let other people dump their garbage onto your yard either. Your wife probably is frustrated w the xh so she is leaning on you to take over the battle. Be supportive of your wife but Refuse to get involved, esp when there is a child involved. Step parents have no rights over the step child, you are just a friend of the bio parent.

Deep inside any child would like to see their parents reunited as a unit, so they will try different tactics to get the new step parent to get upset.

Just stay cool, focus on your own child. Make it clear to your wife that your SD11 is already a young adult, and thus you cannot be involved in her life as much, esp in shaping her behaviors.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 8:34AM
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Ok; Let me clear up some issues. My wife and her XH have joint custody with my SD at our house 3 days a week and dads the remainder, XH does not agree with our marrige due to a personal grudge going back to high school. By being disrespectful I mean my SD has hit, thrown things, and constantly screems at her mother when not getting what she wants. (Which is completely unacceptable).As for the rules of my house as well as dicipline, the rules are the rules agreed to by myself as well as my wife in regards to how we wanted our three children to act, also in three years, I have swatted,(not whipped like my SM would have) my SD one time for hitting her mother in front of me,this was the reason for the atempted arrest. I dicipline both of my girls in my house by loss of privlages in most cases. I do not "bully" my SD, I just expect her to follow the rules of our home when she is in it. As far as me not being home, I am a firefighter and work a 24 hr shift every third day. As far as my right to dicipline my SD, according to state law I have every right as I am a parent to the child by law and she lives in my house, just as I can be held accountable for the childs actions until adulthood. The issue I was looking for some advice on was how to deal with a child that in order to please her fathers anger at her mother is tearing my home apart, it has gotten so bad that my daughter will stay in her own room when the SS is there because she treats her and everyone else so horribly.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 5:52PM
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One thing I forgot to add is that my SD is playing both sides against the middle, by this I mean that she has called my wife from her dads house on numerous occasions to ask her mom to come pick her up because dad is being mean, or to complain about dads girl friend. She has been caught in numerous lies to her father about me and her mother. She has told her mother she hates her or her father, depending on who she was talking to at the time on numerous occasions when her mother or father, would not let her have or do something she wanted.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 6:54PM
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So far imamommy, you are the only one that seems to understand my plight, I dont want to be "the mean SD", I want everyone to get along and be happy and just would like some peace and order in my own home.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 7:03PM
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sorry to hear what is going on in your home, tough..i certainly don't condone your SD's behavior. it is not appropriate behavior, she clearly manipulates everyone.

but you should not physically touch children that aren't yours (you shouldn't put your hand on your own children either but that's a different topic). if someone spanked, swatted or slapped my child, i would call the police as well. she is 11 and you are a grown man.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 7:13PM
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I still think a sit down between the adults would be best...if it can be done without a knock down free for all.

Kid is going between two different homes with two different rules and it sounds from what you said, she plays one household against the other. Can the adults all agree that this is not working? Can the adults all agree that the present situation is not in the best interest of the child or the adults? And what can the adults all agree to that will make both houses run smoother?

Kid needs to have a sit down discussion that she will not be allowed to call one house from the other and demand to be picked up. No whining to Momma when she gets pissed at Dad while at Dad's and no whining to Dad when she gets pissed at Momma while at Momma's. She can wait until she is due to return to opposite home to make her opinions known. In what she is currently doing is keeping both homes at once miserable and the adults are letting her do it.

Do not spank your SD. She's 11, way too old for you to be swatting her behind. I don't agree that swatting a child for hitting someone is a real great idea to begin with...hit a child because they hit someone has always seemed rather a backward lesson IMO.

Think of ways that are not physical. And I was serious when I said above that your wife needs to be disciplining over you. If mom wants to be taken seriously and expects the child to respect her as a parent and as someone the child needs to respect then mom has to show child that she is capable of parenting the child...and that means and includes disciplining the kid. Why should kid learn she needs to behave and listen to mom if it's you that is doing all the 'parenting'?

I don't think you realize that you did come across here as the controling...the old school bit, the you must demand respect for your wife, the part about 'losing control of your own home'. It's their home too and the days of the man ruling the roost with a iron fist are gone. Perhaps it's just the words you use that gives that imagine. Which is another area of concern all together. Are you talking to the child as an 11 yr old from a concerned 'parental' role model? And a good time to have discussions with the kid is not in the heat of the moment. It's usually best to send her/him off to 'think about it' and cool down. It might be best to have the child come out a while later and discuss what happened, how it won't be tolerated (and why).

So what's her mom do when the kid throws stuff? What did mom do when the kid hit her? What happens in the other household when the kid throws stuff?

Sounds like you have a manipulative brat on your hands, but so far whatever it is you/your wife is doing about it is not working. What do you, yourself, think needs to change and what do you think is a way that change can come about?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 7:46PM
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Why does your wife feel guilty about the divorce? Why is there so much tension between the ex, you and your wife?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 10:16PM
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