You dearly love your mate. The transition to living together has been smooth. But you and he are just one part of the equation. It’s his child who’s causing you fits. What do you do when you can’t stand your mate’s kid?
What’s causing you to feel this way? What’s causing the kid to feel this way? Maybe they’ll grow out of it. It could be just a matter of time when the dust settles, that you and the kid will bond, become best buds even. But then, could your mate be adding to the conflict?
There must be something you can do to change your attitude, your mate’s, the kid’s. What’s a step-mother/step-father to do to when certain behaviors make you want to tear your hair out and scream (out of earshot, of course)? It’s his kid, whom he adores, of course, and he doesn’t understand why there’s friction between you and his wonderful child nor that he may be causing or contributing to it.
Whew. Now that you’ve got that off your chest, take a deep breath, release it, and tell yourself you are doing everything you can to keep the peace and be a responsible step-parent. You have a vested interest in making that happen. After all, you don’t want the relationship to crumble. At the same time, you have a right to your feelings and are justified in having those feelings because it’s not your fault – or at least not totally your fault. You have the right and the responsibility to get to the bottom of it.
Discovering the Source
Now let’s take a microscope to this family issue. What is it exactly that causes such friction between you and your step-child?
· Is it their overall bad attitude? Do they disrespect you?
· Are you having trouble enforcing discipline?
· Is your mate’s parenting style different from yours and his kid’s behavior reflects that style?
· Do you distrust your mate’s parenting style?
· Are you hesitant to assume a parental role because you don’t know exactly where you stand?
· Are you being seen as trying to take the place of the absent biological parent?
· Are you and your mate not operating as a parenting team?
· Use this space here to list other ways you think may be creating discord.
Actively search for what you think the problem might be. Decide if you are contributing in any way to the friction … and for heaven’s sake, talk about it with your mate. You should be having frequent discussions. He needs to be aware there’s a problem and you need to come to some agreement about how to work at turning the situation around. If you detect an urgency in that statement, you’re right; there is. Parenting issues need to be resolved early so that behaviors don’t become ingrained, automatic, difficult to resolve due to avoidance and habit.
Do any of these thoughts run through your mind?
· It's been a year and he hasn't made me feel like I’m a part of his child’s life.
· She favors his kids over my kids from my first marriage.
· He lets his child get away with bad behavior and disrespect.
· She comes on strong with my kid.
· He oversteps his bounds in over-disciplining.
· She overindulges her kid.
Have you approached your mate with these or other thoughts?
You’re Not Living in a Vacuum
Realize that you and your mate’s relationship does not take place in a vacuum. How you relate to one another is going to spill over onto anyone else in the family, especially those who live with you. The children are part of your relationship. It’s a package deal.
· Involve your children in your new relationship. Do things together as a family.
· Keep the rules the same for the kids in your house and the house with their biological parent (if your mate is sharing custody). Kids need consistency and a stable home life.
· Accept that you're not going to approach everything the same way. Take each situation as a separate issue and deal with it.
· Give some wiggle room. If she’s used to a different style of parenting, be understanding, come to an agreement, give it time.
· Have a parenting meeting to discuss problems face-to-face. Don’t engage in arguments over the phone or in text messages.
· Let your mate know soon after an encounter that you object to his behavior regarding the kids. Don’t ignore it and hope it doesn’t pop up later; that’s when you’ll tend to grow hotter under the collar.
· Remind your mate that his kids are dealing with their own feelings about the dissolution of their biological parents' marriage. Show them compassion, love, and ways they can release some pent-up feelings (therapy can help with the latter).
· Have regular meetings with the whole family where everyone gets to talk.
· Learning never ends. Parents need educating too. Read, listen, get training and/or therapy, question your actions and reactions.
· Don’t nit-pick.