Parenting Stepchildren/step children


Sigh !!! I have been with my fiance for going in 5 years and we are about to get married this August 17th. We both have children me an 8 yo girl and him a 15 y.o boy and 11 y.o girl. As far as their real mother goes she does not really care for me its one of those smile in my face but behind my back tell her kids I'm not their real mom so they don't really have to listen to me. Thus far I believe i do ok I was not raised by my mother from age 7 to 18 and did not have very nice aunts taking care of me. So I know what its like growing up without both my parents. I have put up with doors being slammed in my face by the 11 year old to her straight up lying to my face. Not to mention my eight year old sometimes being picked on by the 11 year old girl. My fiance does do all the disciplining when it comes to her on again off again attitude. My daughter adores the 15 year old and they seemed to get along very well. I have on many occasions spoke with both my step children to let them know that I do love them and I don't want to see them go down the wrong path. When I asked  the 11 girl to tell me what makes me mad at them she always reply 'when I'm being sassy"  I take them out buy clothes for them all and treat them all equally. This past Friday we left both the girls with the 15 y.o boy and pay him for baby sitting which he does a good job. He recently started being intimate with a girl from his class and now has spiraled out of control. While we both were at work he took the truck ( he does not have a drives permit because of his grade D's and E'S his mother has been letting him drive illegally and although his dad has spoke to her about it when she has the kids she does whatever she wants anyway.) So he left the girls at home took the truck picked up his girlfriend brought her back to the house locked themselves in his room and when they were ready to come out he drove her back to he home.  The 11 year old girl covers for him while my daughter the 8 year old told but I had to pry it out of her. She said he threatened to beat her up if she told. This boy has hit his mother , his girl cousin and called his sister a B****. Now that my daughter started summer school I found out he is a councilor at the program. I called and asked the school not to have him near my daughter. Am I wrong for doing that. Also what can I do to help the situation. His dad is very upset and is planning on having a police friend taking him down to the jail for a couple of hours to scare him.

Hi Jamie - In general, I urge you co-parents to get educated on managing a complex, stressful stepfamily. Start by reading and discussing these:

It's likely your stepson is acting out because of several things: early-childhood trauma + teen hormones + incomplete grief over his family's breakup + anger at one or both parents + resentment at being forced to live in a confusing, alien 2-home stepfamily. Scaring him will; not reduce these stressors!

If I'm right, the best you four co-parents [including your ex, if living] can do for ALL your kids is [1] study and discuss this free online stepfamily course;

and (2) get family [vs. individual] pre-marital counseling from a veteran therapist with training and experience in stepfamily dynamics.

If you have questions about any of these, please ask!

Compassionately, Pete

Parenting Stepchildren

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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about remarriage preparation, stepparenting, stepchild discipline, child visitation, grieving, stepfamily norms and myths, mission statements, stepparent job (role)descriptions, communication skills, loyalty and values conflicts, stepfamily identity problems, common pitfalls, ex mate and relative problems, stepfamily merger and adjustment tasks, name confusions, choosing an effective counselor, resolving money disputes, co-parenting support groups, and the family effects of court (legal) battles. I can`t answer questions about medicine, family law, legal stepchild adoption, or financial planning.


I have studied and worked with stepfamilies clinically since 1979, and I have been a "step everything" personally. I was invited to be on the board of the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA) by it's founders, Drs. John and Emily Visher; and later was re-invited by president Margory Engle, PhD. For more detail, see this.

Former Board member, Stepfamily Association of America (SAA)
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC)Experts Council

Hundreds of Web articles on ; I've uploaded over 150 self-improvement videos on YouTube; and have self-published 6 books. My ad-free Web site offers a unique, practical 7-lesson self-improvement course.

Stanford University BSME (1958) George Williams College MSW (1981) Hundreds of post-graduate seminars on a wide variety of "mental health" subjects

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of appreciative emails and comments on my Web site and videos from people all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked clinically with over 1,000 midwestern divorced and remarried family members, and have had over 800 stepfamily students in various seminars and courses since 1981

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