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Parenting Stepchildren/Boyfriend's Daughter Is Disrespectful


I've been with my boyfriend for over a year. We live a couple of hours apart so our visitation is limited. I have 50/50 custody of my 6yo son and he has 100% custody of his 8yo daughter. As a standard, I typically visit their house on weekends, sometimes with my son and sometimes without.

My relationship with his daughter has been up and down. Some weeks, I'm the greatest thing that has ever happened to their family, but often she treats me as someone she doesn't want around.

Often times, she gags on any food that I make and refuses to eat it. She will go to bed hungry rather than eat food that I make. She only eats one meal that I make and will often be rude about anything else that I cook. I get picky eaters, my son is notorious for not eating his dinner, but every single meal?? Really?

Often times she will go to bed in tears for various reasons. She'll often tell me one thing and then tell her dad something else. She does it because then her dad will run into her room and then they get more one on one time.

I only see him 2-3 nights/week, but depending on her mood, she will ensure that while I am there all of his attention is focused on her. She interrupts me while I'm speaking, she drags out her bedtime, and she always writes private notes to him for him to read only while I am there. She doesn't help around the house, at all. When asked to do something she will drag it out until there isn't any time left.

At the core of it, I am bothered by her manners. She never says thank you, she interrupts, and she never greets me or says hello. Sometimes she will straight up ignore me. I struggle with this, because then I bring my son around and then he thinks it's okay to treat me like that.

We recently started doing a "goodnight" call at bedtime so that we could reconnect every night before bed. She listens to her dad through the walls and sometimes interrupts our phone calls.

When I discuss this with my boyfriend, he insists that she's going through a lot (her bio-"mom" disappeared into a life of drug abuse and vagrancy before I met my boyfriend) and that some days she just "doesn't feel like it". In my mind, it's been a year and things have to get better and soon. I know that there are ups and downs, but I'm not even going to visit this weekend because I am so sick of being this ugly home invader that takes away her Dad and makes inedible food (I'm a great cook, btw).

I don't want this to end our relationship, but I don't know how much longer I can be treated this way. It's exhausting...

Hi there,

I can sense your frustration in the situation! One thing to remember is that your boyfriend's daughter is going through an adjustment. It can be a huge loss for children to have a disconnection from the biological parent. From your report, the biological mother is not involved, and not having such relationships can be detrimental to children. Coupled with a new "mother figure" coming into her life, the child may not know how to respond. Her actions may be out of fear that you too will "go away", confusion about her changing family, or doubt about her place in her dad's life now that you and your son are involved.

Please also be advised, that the limited amount of time you have to spend and interact with her minimally serves to build a relationship with her. You have been with your boyfriend only one year, and I would guess you did not meet his daughter immediately, so you have only been around her very part time. Research has shown it takes up to seven years for stepfamilies to gain "normalcy" and that is even after marriage! So patience is a must in the situation.

I would advise that you and your boyfriend get on the same page about your feelings. It is not helpful to identify everything "wrong" with his daughter, as that will only drive a wedge between you and your boyfriend. Instead, try some different approaches. When you are upset about your boyfriend's daughter's behaviors, you can say something to your boyfriend like, "It really hurts my feelings when _________ does not say thank you. Perhaps, together we can start to model manners and require them of both children."

There are some positives that you may be missing. One, you stated that she likes the one meal you cook. In an effort to give her an "olive branch" prepare that specific meal for her, and what you would like to prepare for the rest of the family in addition. Or, you can make her favorite meal more often for everyone. She also has a keen ear and listens to her father. Perhaps, with improved communication with your boyfriend (focusing on you and not his daughter's faults) he will be moved to work together with his daughter to assist in the transition of you and your son into their lives.

I acknowledge that it can be hurtful for step children to behave in the manner you are describing. It helps greatly to not take everything so personally, and to have some grace for the transition that is happening, for your boyfriend, his daughter, your son, and most importantly for yourself.  

Parenting Stepchildren

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KaRae' Carey, PhD


I can answer questions that pertain to challenges stepparents face, as well as challenges with adjustment and integration of the stepfamily. I can answer questions about psychological, emotional, and social changes that affect adults and children in stepfamilies. I can answer questions that have to do with the emotional and psychological impact of stepfamilies pertaining to child support, visitation, or divorce.


I am a stepmother to one boy and one girl. I have been in their lives since they were about 8 years old. I have first-hand "real life" experience with 'baby mama drama' and strains in marriage due to the complications and challenge that being a new stepmother presented. Bio: Inspired and motivated by her experiences as both a stepdaughter and stepmother of two children, Dr. Carey founded the Triangle Stepfamily Institute and is committed to empowering stepfamilies. She has first-hand experience both personally and professionally, with the difficulties people may experience when adjusting to stepfamily life. Dr. Carey believes that with the right support, and armed with knowledge, living harmoniously within a stepfamily is possible. She has dedicated countless hours to understanding the delicate functioning of the stepfamily and has produced several articles related to stepfamily relationships and functioning. Dr. Carey has studied with research pioneers and clinical leaders in the field of stepfamily life. She has also conducted independent research about stepfamilies with a focus on the concerns of the stepmother. She has also earned certification as a stepfamily counselor. Dr. Carey has also earned seven specialty certifications. Dr. Carey’s specialty certifications include being a nationally certified professional counselor, an accredited clinical supervisor, a credentialed distance counselor, board certified health services professional, school guidance counselor, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and a certified stepfamily counselor. For more information on services, or to request Dr. Carey for counseling, interviews, or speaking opportunities, please contact her through her web site, or by calling 919-454-7857.

National Association of Professional Women American Counseling Association Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina

Publications, expert author

Oakland University, Rochester, MI Ph.D. in Counselor Education 2009 Dissertation: “The Experience of the African American Stepmother: An Exploratory Investigation ” Honors: Dissertation nominated for 2010 Outstanding Humanistic Dissertation Award Cognate Concentrations: Child and Adolescent Mental Health & School Guidance Counseling Major Advisor: Robert Fink, PhD Madonna University, Livonia, MI M.S. in Clinical Psychology 2002 Madonna University, Livonia, MI B.S. Psychology 2000 Cartified Stepfamily Counselor, Stepfamily Foundation, 2011 • Licensed Professional Counselor, State of North Carolina, (6893) • National Certified Counselor, NBCC, (234907) • Credentialed Distance Counselor, CCE, (966) • Approved Clinical Supervisor, CCE, (ACS01058) • Board Certified Health Services Professional, CCE, (1472) • Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist- Provisional- State of North Carolina • Licensed Bachelor of Social Work, State of Michigan, (6802084095) • Limited Licensed Psychologist, State of Michigan, (6301012018) • Social Worker Registration, State of Michigan, (6803075415) • School Counselor license (K-12), State of Michigan, (SC000554) • School Counselor license (K-12), State of North Carolina, (XXXXX2200)

Awards and Honors
•Kappa Gamma Pi, National Catholic College Honor Society, inducted 2000 •Chi Sigma Iota, Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International, inducted 2005 •Robert Brown Memorial Fund Scholarship, 2005

Past/Present Clients
Step family members, children, adults, teens

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