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Getting straight to the point:

Just married 8 months ago - 2nd marriage for each of us; blended family. His ex-wife is still in the picture, but has a chaotic life and goes through periods where she can or can't have the kids. She's a loving parent and a nice person, but she's one of those people that never really learned how to manage herself, let alone having 3 kids. Currently, my husband's oldest (11 yr. old daughter) is having issues and is in weekly therapy. Essentially, the daughter is upset with her mom and is acting out at her house (running away, fighting, throwing 3 hr. temper tantrums, etc.). The daughter is now living with us. The therapist has told us that the daughter has coping and self-regulating issues. I'm sympathetic to the daughter's issues (I got her enrolled in therapy and am fine with her living with us); however; I feel that the lack of coping and self-regulating issues stem from 1) her unbalanced mother and 2) her father (my husband) over-compensating for the mother.

In fact, I think he compounds the issue. The "white knight" has become the enabler. EX: she throws a VERY disruptive crying/screaming fit for 1hr.+ over Thanksgiving at our cabin (sometimes she can throw a tantrum for 3 hrs.), rather than let her work it out on her own in her room or outside, he goes and scoops her up and takes her on a 90-minute Father/Daughter walk. I'm thinking he's rewarding negative behavior by giving her attention. Next day, she throws another tantrum because she doesn't want to wear hiking shoes, he wants to stay back in the cabin with her while everyone else goes hiking. EX #2: When she's not feeling well, she expects/demands that he lay down with her in her bed ALL DAY & NIGHT, whether it's sleeping or watching a movie. Part of what the daughter has told the therapist is that her mom doesn't give her the attention that she needs (i.e. lay down with her when she's sick "like daddy does"), but honestly I don't fault the mother. Who can give that sort of time/energy OR why would you?

I've tried talking to him, but he becomes very defensive and accusational like I'm leading some sort of anti-daughter campaign. I feel like they are playing a part in these two symbiotic roles that either of them acknowledge. My intent is not to break up their father-daughter bond (I was a daddy's girl, I get it!). My concern is that she continues on this path where she can't handle her emotions/cope with issues and that he keeps being her crutch. Why learn how to cope with issues when Daddy's always going to step in and sugar-coat. I'm at a loss. Please give me your CONSTRUCTIVE advice. Thank you!
 

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I wish I had some really good advice to give, but I was in a similar situation and am now long divorced from that nightmare. What I understand in hindsight is how hard blended families are. I believe the father acts as he does for a couple reasons, 1, he feels extreme guilt because of the divorce, and 2, he's just fixing the issue in the moment and not considering the long term consequences of the little monster he is creating. (IOW, he's lazy as a parent...)

Unfortunately that leaves you at the mercy of the moody whims of an 11 year old (God help you when she's 15...) and knowing in your heart that your husband is putting you last.

You might insist on family counseling with someone who specializes in step families. Also, check out Marriage Builders ® - Successful Marriage Advice - they have a forum where you can ask questions and I know that the Dr. whose site it is has written articles on step families. He has a tool for marriage they call the policy of joint agreement where you do nothing until both spouses agree enthusiastically. So your H would not be lying down for hours with his sick daughter (good grief!) if you are not enthusiastic about it. Of course you'd have to get your H on board with the idea.

Your stories remind me so much of my first marriage (but add to it that my Ex was alcoholic and, unbeknown to me at the time, a serial cheater.) But here are a couple of my stories since reading your post brought the memories rushing back:

I had 3 step daughters with him and we had custody our whole relationship. The oldest one was always acting out. He grounded her for something bad she did and because he grounded her she did not get to go clothes shopping with her sisters and me. So a few days later I get a tearful phone call from the other two -- they came home from school to a note that their dad had taken their older sister shopping just him and her and to get their homework done. He spent about 3x the money on just her that I spent on the two of them combined. So for getting grounded she got rewarded with a date and shopping spree with daddy and they got punished for being good by missing out on that.

We lived together before we married. He had a lot of debt but I did not. One day he impulsively gave away his oldest daughter's bed and then we went shopping and he asked to put a new bed for her on my credit card. I said yes because 1) I was an idiot and 2) If I didn't she wouldn't have a bed that night...

She probably learned from him -- we lived where it was very warm and she had a cousin from a cold state come visit. She just gave her cousin her nice winter coat that we'd spent about $100 in today's dollars on without asking. So then we went to the snow at Christmas and she didn't have a coat. I found a hand me down coat that was nice and warm for her to wear but it was out of style. She complained and so Daddy gave up his coat for her to wear and he went cold in the snow just so she wouldn't have to be embarrassed when there was no one around but us.

At home on the weekend sometimes he'd tell the girls to go hang out in their rooms so he and I could watch some TV in peace. (I didn't mind them being there - that was all him.) They would obey and then 10 minutes later the oldest one would wander out and sit down beside him and he'd let her stay - while her sisters obeyed and stayed in their room even though they wanted to be with us.

Also, he'd tell me to discipline them but then resented me for doing it as I was not really their mom.

Oh, I could go on... But you get the idea. I think this dynamic you are experiencing is repeating itself all over the world where step families are involved. And in my experience, it's POISON to a marriage. You are doing good to recognize it for what it is early on. Good luck getting your H to see it - it's very hard for the bio parent to recognize and they just want peace and will want you to just let it go... but trust me you are not imagining things or over reacting.
 

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Has this "enabling problem on the part of her father ever been duly discussed with the girls personal therapist?

Frankly, I cannot quite envision him as being anything more than a typical doting, caring father for his adolescent/preadolescent daughter!
 

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OP I feel for you. I had to set firm boundaries and issue ultimatums in order to preserve my marriage. My advice: stop worrying about how the dad and the step-daughter feel. How do YOU feel? What is best for YOU? Make some decisions, talk to your H and tell him that there are certain things you simply will not accept, and believe it when you say it. Also make it clear that he is NOT to get on the defensive when you express yourself. Stepmothers are not often given the benefit of the doubt. Do not fall into this trap. You have EVERY RIGHT to be in a normal husband wife relationship and decisions concerning his daughter should be agreed upon between both of you because she is living UNDER YOUR ROOF.

I'll try to find some links which helped me and post them. Stay strong.
 

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You must have know all of this before you married him.
Yeah this. I hate to be one of those who says "you shouldn't have done this" but this is one of those situations where there isn't any solution because your husband isn't willing to listen to you and he's got some messed up kids and a very unhealthy relationship dynamic which will persist indefinitely.

You married into this mess without really thinking about the consequences, and now you're like "what can I do?".

You can't do anything except cut your losses and this may be the furthest thing from your mind right now, but give it some time.
 

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I wish I had some really good advice to give, but I was in a similar situation and am now long divorced from that nightmare. What I understand in hindsight is how hard blended families are. I believe the father acts as he does for a couple reasons, 1, he feels extreme guilt because of the divorce, and 2, he's just fixing the issue in the moment and not considering the long term consequences of the little monster he is creating. (IOW, he's lazy as a parent...)

Unfortunately that leaves you at the mercy of the moody whims of an 11 year old (God help you when she's 15...) and knowing in your heart that your husband is putting you last.

You might insist on family counseling with someone who specializes in step families. Also, check out Marriage Builders ® - Successful Marriage Advice - they have a forum where you can ask questions and I know that the Dr. whose site it is has written articles on step families. He has a tool for marriage they call the policy of joint agreement where you do nothing until both spouses agree enthusiastically. So your H would not be lying down for hours with his sick daughter (good grief!) if you are not enthusiastic about it. Of course you'd have to get your H on board with the idea.

Your stories remind me so much of my first marriage (but add to it that my Ex was alcoholic and, unbeknown to me at the time, a serial cheater.) But here are a couple of my stories since reading your post brought the memories rushing back:

I had 3 step daughters with him and we had custody our whole relationship. The oldest one was always acting out. He grounded her for something bad she did and because he grounded her she did not get to go clothes shopping with her sisters and me. So a few days later I get a tearful phone call from the other two -- they came home from school to a note that their dad had taken their older sister shopping just him and her and to get their homework done. He spent about 3x the money on just her that I spent on the two of them combined. So for getting grounded she got rewarded with a date and shopping spree with daddy and they got punished for being good by missing out on that.

We lived together before we married. He had a lot of debt but I did not. One day he impulsively gave away his oldest daughter's bed and then we went shopping and he asked to put a new bed for her on my credit card. I said yes because 1) I was an idiot and 2) If I didn't she wouldn't have a bed that night...

She probably learned from him -- we lived where it was very warm and she had a cousin from a cold state come visit. She just gave her cousin her nice winter coat that we'd spent about $100 in today's dollars on without asking. So then we went to the snow at Christmas and she didn't have a coat. I found a hand me down coat that was nice and warm for her to wear but it was out of style. She complained and so Daddy gave up his coat for her to wear and he went cold in the snow just so she wouldn't have to be embarrassed when there was no one around but us.

At home on the weekend sometimes he'd tell the girls to go hang out in their rooms so he and I could watch some TV in peace. (I didn't mind them being there - that was all him.) They would obey and then 10 minutes later the oldest one would wander out and sit down beside him and he'd let her stay - while her sisters obeyed and stayed in their room even though they wanted to be with us.

Also, he'd tell me to discipline them but then resented me for doing it as I was not really their mom.

Oh, I could go on... But you get the idea. I think this dynamic you are experiencing is repeating itself all over the world where step families are involved. And in my experience, it's POISON to a marriage. You are doing good to recognize it for what it is early on. Good luck getting your H to see it - it's very hard for the bio parent to recognize and they just want peace and will want you to just let it go... but trust me you are not imagining things or over reacting.
Poison is a great term for this. I have been married for 2.5 years, but together for 6 in a similar situation. It has got to the point where all we do is fight regarding our bio children and the stepparenting dynamics. It is incredibly difficult, and it doesn't get any easier! I wish I could give you more uplifting advice - maybe family counselling for all of you in addition to her IC?
 

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You need to take your husband to therapy so the professional can explain to him how boundaries and consequences need to be set. Don't let him say no. In the meantime, read everything you can get your hands on about Authoritative Parenting, which is the preferred method. It sets expectations on the child without letting emotion rule. Just as you don't let a toddler control the family with its fits, you can't let a teenager do it.
 

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You need to take your husband to therapy so the professional can explain to him how boundaries and consequences need to be set. Don't let him say no. In the meantime, read everything you can get your hands on about Authoritative Parenting, which is the preferred method. It sets expectations on the child without letting emotion rule. Just as you don't let a toddler control the family with its fits, you can't let a teenager do it.
Preferred method for you, obviously everyone can make that call for themselves.

Also the worst thing a step parent can do in a non harmonious home is to "parent" the child at all. The bio parent is the one that has to parent and set boundaries, if the step parents does it the implosion will just happen sooner.

We have had this story here before but it is still a good discussion.
 

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Preferred method for you, obviously everyone can make that call for themselves.
The authoritative parenting style is about setting limits, reasoning with kids, and being responsive to their emotional needs.

This approach is common in middle class settings throughout the world, and it’s linked with the most successful child outcomes.

Kids raised by authoritative parents are more likely to become independent, self-reliant, socially accepted, academically successful, and well-behaved.

They are less likely to report depression and anxiety, and less likely to engage in antisocial behavior like delinquency and drug use.

Research suggests that having at least one authoritative parent can make a big difference (Fletcher et al 1999).

And despite minor controversies, studies consistently report that authoritative parenting is beneficial for kids from a variety of backgrounds and ethnic groups.

But being “authoritative" isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. By its very nature, authoritative parenting occupies a sort of middle ground between granting too much freedom and being too strict.

- See more at: The authoritative parenting style: A guide for the science-minded parent
Also the worst thing a step parent can do in a non harmonious home is to "parent" the child at all. The bio parent is the one that has to parent and set boundaries, if the step parents does it the implosion will just happen sooner.
Which is why the first thing I said to do was get him to see a professional who would spell out for him that he needs to step up and parent his child.
 

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Also the worst thing a step parent can do in a non harmonious home is to "parent" the child at all.
I have a question about this: at what point does it get to where it's just basic respect for adults, stepparent or no? I realize it's such a sticky wicket. If i had children, id want to know how my kids' stepparent was disciplining them. Id be totally ok with the "it takes a village" mentality, but only to a point. If my child wouldnt obey basic and common sense boundaries and rules of another person living in the same household, i would want that person to step in , in my absence to help the child obey.

I ask this bc my friend recently broke up with her long term bf (they lived together) because he would not make his 9 yo daughter obey rules and boundaries. He wouldnt let her discipline his daughter not even an nth.

My friend told him that she would not be a part of raising a "monster".
 

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I have a question about this: at what point does it get to where it's just basic respect for adults, stepparent or no? I realize it's such a sticky wicket. If i had children, id want to know how my kids' stepparent was disciplining them. Id be totally ok with the "it takes a village" mentality, but only to a point. If my child wouldnt obey basic and common sense boundaries and rules of another person living in the same household, i would want that person to step in , in my absence to help the child obey.

I ask this bc my friend recently broke up with her long term bf (they lived together) because he would not make his 9 yo daughter obey rules and boundaries. He wouldnt let her discipline his daughter not even an nth.

My friend told him that she would not be a part of raising a "monster".
Good post -

Your friend is a smart woman. I wish I'd had her foresight when I was younger!

I hear people say that the step parent should not be the disciplinarian, and I can see how, from the children's perspective that is unnatural to have a non bio parent come into their life and start telling them what's what. But like you suggest, there are common sense things where most adults would likely intervene if they saw any relative or even neighborhood child behaving a certain way. Heck, even a BABY SITTER has some authority over the children in the house.

And what if the step parent takes the kids somewhere when the bio parent is not around are they to run amuck? That makes no sense. There has to be a balance.

Regardless of that though - I think the most important thing be that the bio parent is aware of (and gives a crap about) how their interactions with the child, and the child's behavior, affect the step parent. If the couple decides it is best that the step parent not discipline, that may be wise. But the bio parent needs to step up and do it in agreement with the step parent. They need to be a united front and the bio parent needs to take the step parent's concerns and feelings seriously if they want to stay married. The originator of this thread summed it up in the title - OUTSIDER step-mom. Did the husband marry her to have a wife, or to have a live in nanny? (The true answer to that may hurt. It did in my case.)
 

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I have a question about this: at what point does it get to where it's just basic respect for adults, stepparent or no? I realize it's such a sticky wicket.

I ask this bc my friend recently broke up with her long term bf (they lived together) because he would not make his 9 yo daughter obey rules and boundaries. He wouldnt let her discipline his daughter not even an nth.

My friend told him that she would not be a part of raising a "monster".
There's no single answer to this. It all depends on the age of the child when the step parent comes into their life. In this case, the eldest girl is 11...so would have been maybe 9 or 10 when she met her stepmum so it's not ideal for the stepmum to discipline her in the way a parent would.

I came into my step daughters life when she was only 6, and at that stage we had 50/50 custody (we now have her full time which changes things again). By the time she came to live with us full time, her and I already had a close relationship - with the blessing of both of her parents, which helped our bond immensely. Had we only had her every other weekend, I probably wouldn't have taken on a parenting role, and just been another adult in the house, and left it to my husband.

I often wonder what parents are thinking when they don't allow a step parent to discipline a child at all, ever - as another poster said, even a babysitter has some authority for god sake. What about a teacher? Scout leader? Soccer coach?

One thing that stood out to me in your post OP was the 3 hour tantrums...are you sure they're not actually meltdowns? Is it possible the girl may have Aspergers or a mild form of ASD?
 

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Jeez, when I was 11, I didn't want either parent laying in my bed. Eww. And I certainly didn't throw baby tantrums like a 2 year old.

Way to freakin' parent.

Well OP, get ready for the 7th circle of hell.

Those fools who over-indulge their little princesses create MONSTERS.

Spoiled rotten, self-absorbed, self-entitled, selfish, demanding little monsters.

And that's what they grow up to be, too.

Even in their 30's when they're STILL demanding daddy clean up after them or co-sign their car loan or give them money for a down-payment on an apartment, etc. etc. etc. The hand is ALWAYS out. So are the demands.

I've seen it WAAAAAY too many times with WAAAAAAY too many people.

This is exactly why I avoided men with dependent children at ALL costs.

It's not too late to run.
 

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frusdil;17239153 One thing that stood out to me in your post OP was the 3 hour tantrums...are you sure they're not actually meltdowns? Is it possible the girl may have Aspergers or a mild form of ASD?[/QUOTE said:
That's a really good point. It takes a lot of energy to rage for three hours. They should probably have her evaluated.

I have a family friend whose wife passed away and he was left to raise 4 children. The oldest girl was in her mid teens. Apparently she had been at odds with her mom a fair amount (which is hard to imagine as he mom was the nicest person ever, but, teenage girls and mom's don't always mix...) Anyhow, I don't know if her dad over-humored her before her and after her mom passed or not, but after she passed he said she was very demanding of him, spoiled acting, angry, etc. And he just told her (paraphrasing) "You're going to have to sort some things out for yourself. I just don't have the time and energy to cater to your moods and tantrums, I simply can't do it." And he did his best but he just let her be upset and apparently she just blossomed and became this very happy, generous, kind, loving, well adjusted young adult now.

It's very hard for children to have their lives ripped apart by divorce, and it's hard to have someone else come into your life that you didn't ask for. And this girl very well may have some real issues. But sometimes also, the best thing you can do for a kid is to tell them to get over themselves.
 

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The only way to deal with this is with therapy and a psychiatric evaluation.

It sounds like the mother may suffer from a psychiatric disorder and her daughter could have it as well. Have you checked out the symptoms of children and bipolar disorder for comparison for her behaviour?

Therapy is amazing, but to receive effective therapy, it is necessary for her to be diagnosed properly.

To broach the subject, I personally research and compare her behaviours to narrow down what could be her issue and then would approach your spouse, with the evidence.

Say you are very concerned and say you think it is in her best interest to see a child psychiatrist.

Good luck. Rough road ahead.


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I have a question about this: at what point does it get to where it's just basic respect for adults, stepparent or no? I realize it's such a sticky wicket. If i had children, id want to know how my kids' stepparent was disciplining them. Id be totally ok with the "it takes a village" mentality, but only to a point. If my child wouldnt obey basic and common sense boundaries and rules of another person living in the same household, i would want that person to step in , in my absence to help the child obey.

I ask this bc my friend recently broke up with her long term bf (they lived together) because he would not make his 9 yo daughter obey rules and boundaries. He wouldnt let her discipline his daughter not even an nth.

My friend told him that she would not be a part of raising a "monster".
Your friend did the right thing by breaking up with him, it would have been a life of hell long term. Golden rule for second or subsequent marriages or marrying someone with kids from a previous marrige... "do not marry anyone that is not a good parent", simple. They won't change and the dynamic will increasing get more and more destructive for all involved.

We have 5 x teens, young adults in our blended family. Lots of boundaries and respect, a good solid relationship, excellent (with my ex) and not too bad now (with MrH's ex) type of post divorce relationships. We did 3 or 4 years of work/ seeking professional advice, making rules and boudaries etc before blending our families and it can still at times be a very challenging life. We do not discipline each others kids however we both bring our own kids into line if they have crossed the boundaries. Our home is based on equity not equality and everyone has to pitch in to help it run.

Blending families and being a step parent is taken so lightly by so many people, one of the biggest reasons for second divorces is issues around children yet many still go in blindly without consideration for the real consequences and and the hard work involved. Your friend made a wise move.
 
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