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Parenting Stepchildren/Step children not getting along

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Question
Hi

I am a 38 year old mother of two, boy 15 and girl 6. I have been married for 3 years and within the last year my husband two children, boy 8 and girl 10 had to live with us permanently. My step children gets along well with me, however the kids fight a lot, the 6, 8 and 10 fight a lot. Recently my 6 year old has become out of control, she throws tantrums, she yells, she screams and all the others including my 15 year old has come to the conclusion that she is out of control. She gives my husband 'hell' when I'm not around, she seems to only behave (sort of) when I'm around. When she 'acts' up my husband calls me and tell me come and take MY child, he always tries to say my children and your children, he thinks I spoil my son, so every time we argue he tells me 'why don't you tell your son that' or 'go control your son, not me'. I cannot take all the fighting between the kids anymore, every minute of the day is he did this or she did that. My husband picks up for his children especially his son who can do no wrong.

I am at the end of my rope! I feel if we don't get help soon our family won't last. I am tired and frustrated all the time.

Answer
Lois

There are so many dynamics that happen when you blend two separate families together.

When you just had your two children your 6 year old daughter was the baby, the only girl.  With the age gap she also was essentially an only child. She was special and was probably treated somewhat differently than she is being treated now.  Then along come your husband's two children.  Now she has to share.  Not only her mother's love but also the developing relationship with the new step-dad.  Two new children that draw the attention of their dad, and that need your attention as well.

Think how this very young little girl who has been through so many traumatic changes: the loss of her biological father, (you did not mention whether he is still in the picture with her), your marriage (a happy event for you but perhaps somewhat traumatic for her)and now two step children coming into her home moving her out of the special position, and the balance that she had developed in thefamily.

My best guess, based on what you have said, is that she is out of control because she feels like she has no control over her life. Each change in her life produces a confusion that upsets the balance in her life leaving her feeling helpless.  There is so much happening around her that the only way she can control things is to act out of control.

That way she get the attention she so much wants, even if it is negative attention.  I would recommend that you find something special that you can do together with her.  Just the two of you.  A mommy/daughter date, a picnic or something that she really loves to do.  Constantly tell her that you love her, and that you will always love her, no mater what.  That you may not like her behaviour but that you always love her.  Give her a special role, something that gives her some meaning in this new family setting.  Like passing out the dessert, or helping make the cookies by being the one that measures.  Something that does not take away form the other children but gives her a special role.

Children use home as a place to try out different behaviours.  This is how children learn to control their behaviour... test it out and see what the consequences are.  If you look for the lesson, or the positive thing in each incident then you gradually change the way you react to her behaviour.

For example when she is throwing a tantrum you can, as calmly as you can, say something like "I can see that you are upset right now" then describe what is is doing.  "You are so angry that you are jumping up and down and screaming. That sounds like a lot of anger.  Do you want to tell me about it.  Do you want to talk about it? "

This gives her a chance to identify what her feeling are and to know that you will listen to her.  Make sure that she knows that you really love her even though you do not like her behaviour.

Over time she will gradually learn how to express her feelings in a more positive way.  Your role is to help her learn positively from each experience - looking for the positives and the lessons that not only she can learn but that you can learn as well,  i.e. patience, understanding, unconditional love. Children can teach us so much if we are open to learning.

Rick

Parenting Stepchildren

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Rick Olson

Expertise

As a stepparent of 4 children and a family coach, I can answer questions about the issues that arise in step-parenting including discipline,blended families, boundaries and guidelines.

Experience

I have 18 years as a stepfather, and over three years as a family coach focusing on unifying, strengthening and empowering families.

Publications
My wife and I have written 2 books on Family FUSE Your Family - Family: Unify Strengthen Empower! and Raising Families

Education/Credentials
BA(Recreation Administration) Grad Studies in Urban and Regional Planning and Design Certified as a LifeSuccess Consultant/Coach

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