I Can Not Stand My Stepchildren!

Dear Dr. Coleman,

What do you do when you don’t like the kids of the man you married? I married a great guy 3 years ago, love of my life, but his kids drive me up the wall. They’re disrespectful to him (not to me yet, but I’m sure that’s coming), demanding, and spoiled. Worse, I just don’t like them as people. They’ll all be out of the home in about 5 years but that’s 5 years too long. How do I survive?

Dear Reader,

This is a common complaint that I get from stepparents. There is a lot to tease apart here:

  • Many stepmothers feel guilty that they don’t like their stepchildren. Most women are raised to feel like they’re going to love being a mother and therefore feel confused and self-critical when those feelings don’t spring eternal for their husband’s kids. Guilt and self-criticism are hard on oneself and hard on a marriage. Work to accept that you feel the way that you feel and that that doesn’t make you a bad person.
  • Sometimes stepchildren are difficult or unlikable as an expression of loyalty to the parent who isn’t in the home. Their guilt about being close to you may make them feel more conflicted about having you like them and of them liking you. Assume it will take some time for a relationship to develop. Maybe years. Don’t assume that it will go quickly.
  • While you don’t have to love them, you should try to find some common ground with them. Not only is this important for them, it is key to your having a life in a blended family.  So, see if you can find something, ANYTHING, that you might have in common. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy: a TV show, a musical artist, a love of a certain kind of food, an author–just some toehold of similarity and compatibility to build a relationship from.
  • Let your husband know what bothers you the most about their behavior. If they hog the television, talk on the cell phone during dinner, talk over each other all of the time, ask him to step in more. But don’t assume that he can change all of their behavior to accommodate you. If he can change even some of their behavior, that’s a good thing. However, if they behave in ways that are directly disrespectful to you, it’s better for you to set limits with them yourself in the same way that you would set limits with anyone else.
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57 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    OMG thank you thank you thank you!! I have felt so evil for not liking one of my stepdaughters for sooo long!! She is rude and lazy even when I ask her to do simple things like clean off the table I get a ton of attitude from her. She never does anything unless it involves her sitting on her ass a movie, TV, video game a book if I won’t let her do anything else. This girl is 12 and when her Dad and I got together about 3 years ago she couldn’t even tie her own shoes and until then someone else bathed her ugh its soooo ridiculous.

  2. Mary T
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I am engaged to a wonderful man who I love with all my heart. We have been together for 9 years. He has 3 kids who are all adults and I have 1 nine year old son. My fiancé’s kids are something else. His oldest one is in prison and we really don’t know for how long. He has been abusive and in and out of jail for the past 9 years. His middle son is 24 years old and is a drug addict and won’t do anything to help himself. His youngest is 19 and graduated from high school and we not have him in trade school. I guess the problem I am having is it doesn’t matter what his kids do he will shower them with gifts (even if they are shooting up drugs and stealing from everyone to get their next fix) and he doesn’t care that I am not comfortable around them. I’m really not comfortable with my nine year old son being around them at all! His middle son has been in and out of rehab centers and is now on probation for stealing from the store. He lives with his grandparents and doesn’t do anything. He won’t get his GED or get a job. He has only had one job in his life, however that only lasted for two days before he was fired. If he doesn’t get what he wants he tells everyone that he will kill himself and then go to the mental hospital to get the drugs he wants to abuse. He told us that he wasn’t made to work and he’s only 24! I don’t know what to do. My fiancé and I are purchasing a house and he insists on having his kids there and I’m not comfortable being around the older two. I love his kids dearly but I can’t get over what they have done to their father or themselves. His older two were even involved with loosening the tire on his car so it fell off when he was driving. They told the local police that he is on drugs and is an alcoholic! My biggest fear is protecting my son. This is the only father figure my son has ever known and he doesn’t know the things that my fiancé’s kids have done or do. When I try to talk with my fiancé about how I don’t want my son or myself to be a part of any of the drama he gets upset with me and very angry. He tells me that these are his boys, his kids and what is he supposed to do. The only time the older two have anything to do with their father is when they want something like money. Other then that they go by their mother’s maiden name, tell their father that they hate him and want him to die. They tell him that he is bad father and all kinds of things. And of course my fiancé gets upset at the time but all they have to do is call and say, “I’m sorry dad you’re right my mother is crazy and screwed all of us kids up.” Then everything is like nothing ever happened! My fiancé also wants to adopt my son after we get married and I’m not so sure about that since I have a feeling that we will have a very hard way to go with that since he stays involved with his two convicted felon sons. No one stayed with my fiancé until I came along because of his kids terrible behavior. His own family wants nothing to do with his kids. The grandmother stated that she doesn’t ever want to see them after everything that they have done to their father. Please anyone advise me on what to do! I have tried everything! Counseling with the kids, talking to them taking them to individual counseling and everything. I’m scared that this may not end well. Please if anyone has any suggestions on what I should do please tell me!

  3. mom of 2 too many
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Reading everyones stuff makes me feel validated and sad all at the same time. I’ve been married for a very short time to someone I’ve been with for almost 5 years. his kids are with us half time, and are truly a challenge. one of his children are aggressive and hyperactive, and the other is a snotty little princess who whines to get whatever she wants. It’s making me resent him, and flip flop between loving him and hating him on a regular basis. I’m so sick of watching him and his ex wife be shitty parents and having me and my kids suffering because of it. I don’t know what i was thinking going through with the wedding, except I guess I thought I could make it through. Then i keep thinking, these kids are just kids, what happens when they are teenagers, what happens when they are adults and still a part of our life. i just wish my husband would grow a set of balls, and discipline his kids like hes willing to discipline mine. Thats the part thats frustrating, he disciplines my kids, and our child together while his walk all over him. its kindof pathetic and makes me think less of him.

    • Mary
      Posted May 8, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Hi! I was thrilled to read your post!

      I am going through the EXACT same thing. My husband and I got married last June and I wonder sometimes if I have made a mistake. My husband disciplines my children and is sometimes very harsh. I know everybody is biased about their kids but mine truly are good kids. They are polite, easy to please, pleasant, and very engaging of other people. Thank God his three grown kids live out of state. But when they come (and one is coming on Mothers Day:( ) they are so unpleasant to be around. They ignore my kids and never engage them. When my kids try to engage them there is no eye contact and curt one word replies. I find them very rude and unpleasant to be around. The daughter is no help, never lifts a finger (she’s too busy on her laptop and texting) and is a slob when she visits. My husband is always referring to her “poor thing” (she is a student and the University of Hawaii and is on her way to Spain to spend 6 weeks) and makes my kids clean up after her. My husband thinks she is an inspiration to my 16-year-old daughter…gag!

      He thinks his kids walk on water but he’s very hard on mine. He is mean sometimes to my 14-year-old son and has even called him an asshole.

      Like you, I am thinking lesser of my husband and don’t want to. I have been too uncomfortable to him about any of this. You don’t say anything negative about his kids. His then 3-year-old stopped wearing pullups and when she fell asleep early one night I suggested putting a pullup on since she hadn’t poddied before falling asleep. He got very angry and said that I was trying to humiliate her!

      I had the means to pay for our plane tickets to take his daughter to school in Hawaii. I had a conflict of time and he wasn’t wanting to change the flight time he had in mind. He suggeseted just he and his daughter fly to Honolulu. Without me! I have provided many other things too for his kids. Sometimes I feel as if I am just a means for him to do things for hids kids.

      He has a 4-year-old daughter who stays with us a couple days a week. I love children but I cringe when I know she’s coming over. She’s very odd for a child her age….can’t put my finger on how but other people think so too. Her father dotes on her. She continually pouts and cries to get her way. I can’t feel the warm and fuzzies towards her and I feel badly because I love most kids.

      Good luck to you and thanks for givingme the opportunity to vent.

  4. Monsters
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    My husbands kids are 8&9… Oldest is a control freak having to know everything and telling everyone what to do. Youngest is disrespectful and never does what he’s told. Kids are suppose to be with us every other week but bio mom is ” stressed out” she has older kids and these two were the product of her second marriage to my husband. Bio mom screams yells and demands we take them whenever she can’t handle her time with them. Husband travels for work so oftentimes she is calling me. Both kids are spoiled disrespectful to me and their dad. I stopped listening to them and now demand please and thank you’s. if I don’t get one they get ignored. I have a daughter in college and she was raised so differently. Oldest control freak is so bad our lives seem ran by. 9 year old- if we go out she calls constantly if she doesn’t get her way she throws herself on the floor in a tantrum. Youngest one will shit and smear it all over when he’s angry…. I love my husband but I’m contemplating leaving- I’m just too old to raise ungrateful and disrespectful kids- even their own grandparents stopped visiting us.

  5. Anon
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I separated from my husband this month. He has five kids from a previous marriage. The mother is never around – she is crazy. She doesnt pay child support – she is good for nothing. I left because I’m pregnant and want my pregnancy to be stress fee, and also bring a newborn into this world without worrying if something bad will happen. My husband needs to get his kids help – major help, and in the mean time, I’m okay with moving out and making myself and my unborn baby #1. My husband cant do it right now – he’s a single parent raising 5 ungrateful, messed up kids. I am going to work on myself – I know my feelings of hate toward the children are not right. They just arent. I know that I will never love them as if they were my own, but to hate them is not right. They didnt ask for their mother and father to split. I need to work on myself and he needs to work on him and on the kids. Ladies, if you have to step away for a while, step away for a little while. Dont divorce.

    • Naomi
      Posted April 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      You need to take care of yourself. I’m in a similar situation – partner has three kids and youngest two are a nightmare. Youngest has ADHD and dh refuses to discipline him or set any boundaries. Bm has borderline personality disorder. I’m pregnant with my first and just don’t want to live with his kids so considering moving out like you. Good luck with it.

  6. sam
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    I met my husband 10 years ago. We fell in love. We dated long distance for 2 years, each living in another country. I was divorce with two beautiful older children and had a high paying career.
    I wanted to break up with him after the two years but through time he convienced me to move to his country.
    I got here with all of my savings, my belongings (5 bedrooms, living room, dining, family room) and me. My older children did not want to move, so we made an arrangement that I would return every three months. My husband agreed. He also agreed to come with me at least once every two years. He has never visited them.
    My husband had been married before me and has four children. They would come and visit during holidays- about 120 days a year- up to nine weeks at a time. His ex-wife has a substance abuse issue. Most often she would just be out of it, problem is she is also a surgeon so many people brushed it aside. Once she passed out while operating.
    Once I moved to his country I had to find a job. My career turned out not to be an option in this country. I tried other avenues. I did not make much money and helped my husband pay bills for our home and for his children. My savings dwindled and was gone over the years. I did visit my children every three months for the first four years, but my husband did not go. Due to my career options and my dwindling savings I decided I better go back to college and reeducate myself so that I could earn a living. Also, along the way my husband’s ex would just drop the kids off and leave the country. Because my career had not taken off and I worked prn or consulting I “helped” him so that he did not have to stop working. I did go back to school and was doing well. Then the ex wife was found with needles in her arms and feet and passed out, so the children came overnight to live with us. I stopped school to help get them settled into their new city, schools and helped promote whatever I could for friendships and sporting activities. What a nightmare! The oldest is a girl, then a boy and the last two are girls. They all ignored me, were majorly disrespectful to me and my husband. My husband did nothing. He allowed them to do whatever they wanted, including breaking my grandmothers dining set (which is about 150 years old, and was in great condition prior). My husband laughed when they did this. The oldest girl stole my belongings, she went through my personal papers (tax returns, my divorce papers) and she was very manipulative. The boy was disrespectful, completely rude and broke many of my belongings, but did not steal my personal items nor go through my personal papers. The third child was disrepectful, at age 10 told me ” I find it very strange that you would smile at me”.

    Anyways, my husband was working 7 days a week and I was here with the children to take care of them. I did all the work in the house. The children had no responsibilities because my husband would not enforce any sort of arrangement, and would undermine me at the slightest opportunity-giving the power of the house to the children. My husband enrolled them in 3 and four activities after school a week. He sent them to very expensive schools and then had to work extra to pay for it. My husband complained he never had time to do anything for himself, but of course he did not count the three nights a week of karate with his son or the times on sunday sailing with the other children or the dinners I arran
    ged for him with the oldest child so she could have one on one time with her dad.

    We were in court with the ex for 3.5 years, because she wanted the children back— she was still using but we still had to go every month, spending about 6K a month. We had no money for anything other than the children= his children. I could not go anywhere, especially to see my children/family. I could not work, because I had to be here for his kids. One of the kids was tested positively for major learning disabilities when first arriving here, so I was doing an hour of homework a night, and cooking dinner-sometimes starting at noon to get it all done. My husband would not spend time with me alone, except sex at night. At the time I felt it was a crisis situation and did what I felt was necessary to integrate the children into the best childhood life I could help it be. The problem came when my husband failed to do his part. Allowing his children to be the head of our home. He catered to them and gave into their desires. I have told my husband many times that the household he was creating was not one I wanted to be a part of in any way, and that over time I was very unhappy. I also pointed to exact behaviors from him that put his children in the power position over me in our home and marriage and explained that this was ruining our marriage. I wanted to leave. He said he would change…….I told him he HAD to go to counseling. He went once and said he was all better.
    Turns out now I can’t resume the studies I was involved in and have to take second best or a lower paying role. My license for what I do in my country has expired, being in my new country, I had to give all or nothing. Therefore, I have no means of supporting myself right now. I can’t visit my children related to money, I can’t work because he can’t afford for someone to take care of his children. I am actually quite worried that if I did work he would slow down his work and want the money I make for the home instead of for me to see my children.
    I started noticing feeling resentful toward him a few months ago and then all of the sudden I think I hate him. Just like that. I am shocked how fast this happened.
    This has been going on for 5 years.
    How does one plan an exit strategy when they have nothing left to exit with. Shame, but I think I will find a way.

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 14, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      Good for you! You need to get away from that asshole.He is using you and has no respect for you or he wouldnt be so stupid. When
      You finally leave his sorry ass he will miss you but not for the right reasons. Now hell need to get a nanny and pay for that service. Good luck and God speed!

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