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.
This entry was posted in Articles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. laney
    Posted August 19, 2014 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    I really need advice. My fiance has a 7 year old son that until recently we have been getting along great. Lately I’ve been noticing behaviors that I’ve overlooked but are really starting to bother me. He is really bratty and likes to throw temper tantrums to get his way with his dad and my fiance falls victim to it every time. He makes him feel guilty when he can’t get his way and even does a countdown until he goes back to his mom’s to make him feel even worse if we don’t let him stay up late or eat junk food and etc. My fiance and his ex have split custody in the summer and he gets him on the weekends during the school year. It is now summer so we get him 2 weeks out of every month but recently when he leaves and comes back his mother has been telling him bad things about me that he relays to our household. It’s happened before but now it’s getting worse. My fiances son and I use to get along better but because of this I’ve withdrawn to myself more instead of trying to build a more solid and trusting relationship. I feel like it wouldn’t matter due to the things his mother puts in his head. I was okay with I guess “biting the bullet” when it comes to things of discipline like cleaning, the temper tantrums, and behaving like he should but it’s really starting to take a toll on me. I was more active with those things until his mom started to paint me as a “bad guy” so I’ve tried to take more of a back seat. This whole “biting my tongue” is really just prolonging stress but i dont know how to properly address it. I don’t know how to be a step mom and I never wanted to be one. I try to be on the up and up when my fiance and his son are around me but it’s now reaching a level I dont care to hide my irritants and it’s starting to cause problems in my relationship. He doesnt think i shouldn’t treat his child any different than how i would treat my own, but hes not mine and as much as i try to go back to when we got along better i just cant. My fiance and I are currently having a baby and I fear my distance will only get worse once my child is born. I also fear that because I will be more accepting of my child’s flaws and annoyances my than husband will start to show favoritism towards his son to accommodate what I can’t or wont give him. I also fell like his son is just a distraction from the family his starting to build. I know it’s wierd and i feel so horrible but I never had or acknowledged these feelings before until I realized that his son would be apart of my life permanently once I have my child and I just don’t like him. And once we break the news hes not going to be the only child any more i feel it’s just going to get worse. Please help.

  2. Posted August 15, 2014 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your weblog and check again here
    frequently. I am quite sure I will learn a lot of new stuff right here!

    Good luck for the next!

    Feel free to visit my blog post; The simpsons Tapped Out cheats

  3. 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.

  4. selena
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 11:06 pm | Permalink


Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


    FREE cutting edge advice and commentary on marriage, parenting, relationships, and society. Delivered by email every 2 weeks.
  • Featured Appearances

    AARP The Stranger in Your Family Dr. Coleman was interviewed in a recent AARP article by Meredith Maran on parental estrangement. To read the whole article go here: The Stranger in Your Family  

    Dual-Career Couples: Dr. Coleman Seminar at Harvard

    Dr. Coleman was invited to speak to the faculty and students on Dual-Career Couples at Harvard

    When Mom Earns More than Dad

    NPR Talk of the Nation: How women’s increased economic and educational power are changing marriage.

  • Past Appearances include

  • Recent Forum Posts