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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114 Comments

  1. Lillian
    Posted September 17, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    This is a hard situation. in essence your step children, unless you helped raise them since they were infants, likely see us as competition for their parents affections. And yes it is also about loyalty to the other biological parent. Unless you raised them from babies your step kids are a representation of the other man/woman that your spouse was married to. We are territorial creatures and we can see step kids as stealing our spouses time, as financial drains, and especially if they are difficult with you, as them trying to sabotage your relationship with your mate. The fact is there is TRUTH to all of this. The step children are half of the EX parent, and that is sometimes all we can see. Truth be told I am waiting on one to move out of my home, it is his senior year in High School. He makes me feel totally uncomfortable in my own home and I am counting the days until he flees the coop! My husbands other son is more like my husband, so I see his EX in him much less then his older brother (keep in mind his EX is a lunatic.) (She Is!!), and it is much easier to live with the one that takes after my husband. Fact is they are not our kids, and we did not raise them so they are not ours. I am not Jesus. I want to live my own life and do not want to take my time, resources, and energy on kids that give NOTHING back but headache.9 times out of 10, I think people find that being a step parent to be the least rewarding of things, in retrospect to all that you sacrifice. People this is a lesson to NOT HAVE KIDS UNLESS YOU KNOW IT IS FOREVER!! Stay with your mate until the kids have grown up then leave your spouse. If I had it to do over again I would probably marry a man with pet fish only…….or even a dog. Luckily I have 4 more years and thousands more for college. (Their mom will not give a dime for college.) Watch out before you marry a person with kids unless they are FULLY GROWN!

  2. Brennan
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I dislike my step kids with every ounce of my being and feel horrible about it. We have full custody of them and I avoid coming home as much as possible because when I get here, I am just angry. My biological kids are both in college and doing well, social and get along with others. The steps are both odd, overweight, not motivated to move, look decent, take a shower, nothing. Today I said we all needed to get healthier and asked them to weigh in….something I will be doing weekly at WW. They refused, said they wanted to do their own thing, and I wasn’t their mother so couldn’t make them. I leave chores for them (dishes, dusting, vacuum) on a board and they blatently refuse. My husband says they feel like I hate them so he is way too easy on them and I am, pardon my language, the bitch. Wanna check out.

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  6. Cassandra
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I have been in a relationship for now 3.5 years. I have two children a 10y old boy and a 13y old girl. He has a 12y old girl. My kids have always lived with me. His kid has lived with him and then a few years with his mother due to him having been in the military. This child has now lived with me for 2.5 years. She has been caught steeling from a store, broken into houses, broken windows at school, has had to be tutored for the past 3 years and is still barely passing and in two classes is not passing at all, she tells lies to her teachers and probably worst of all to her grandmother – my bf mother. This child never says thank you, she does not take care of her belongings because she just figures she’ll get a new one from her grandmother and to top it off she is a bully to my children – publicly booing them during talent shows and calling them names. She does not respect me and shows no love or care for anyone other then her grandmother. She does not do anything unless she thinks she can get something she wants out of it. She has had no disciplinary actions or chores by her grandmother and has been brought up as a spoiled child. I am at my whits end and am no longer feeling like i can handle even being around her… HELP!

    • Anonymous
      Posted July 26, 2014 at 12:29 am | Permalink

      Do not marry him. It will only get worse. If he isn’t disciplining his child for these actions, it wont get any better.

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