Online Parent Support Chat

I am a new step-mom...


My name is Joni. I am a new step-mom (2 months) who has never had children (46 years of age). My step-child is 13 years old, and has a heart of gold (knows right from wrong), yet has not had dicipline in her life until her dad & I got married (not trying to put myself on a pedestal - promise!). Her mom is bed-ridden (has been for 4 years) and has had a difficult time controlling the daughter. Her dad travels a good deal, and she is not close to him. I have been lovingly disciplining her, and she is steadily pushing the limit -- the problem is... neither her father or mother backs me up because they feel guilt over past/current situations, and I'm left being the bad cop... all while her mom & dad are counter-acting any discipline I'm trying to give her (through spoiling her -- both with money & giving her her way on everything). The daughter controls every situation, and I am stuck trying to figure out the best way to handle a potential disaster. Help!


Anonymous said...


Did you read the recent OPS newsletter? It was on 'Step-family Problems'. Go to the home page and look under newsletter archive for that article. I think it will be a big help.


Anonymous said...

Honey, you need to remember that you are not a parental figure. You are a step-parent. Somewhere down the line, the children may accept you as a big sister/aunt type relationship. Sometime after that they may accept you in a role as mother, but they may never do so. Bio mom is filling the role of mother and you can't. The kids won't let you and it's not right.

Now, you are going to be a wife and manager of the home. But as far as the kids go, you really will have more of a teacher-like relationship with them. You can enforce rules to a point, but beyond that point you have to send them to the principal's office (dad). Dad is the dad. Bio mom is the mom. And you're in limbo land.

If you step back from your efforts to try and be the mom, you'll find the kids react to you more warmly. They will appreciate the fact that you get it. They'll be happy to relate to you the same way the relate to their teachers - loving but distant. And if you do alright in that role, they'll be happy to relate to you as they do with their favorite teachers - loving but distant, yet closer. If you do well respecting those boundaries, treating the children like people, and providing a loving home environment, they may well move on to treating you like a beloved aunt - a fun confidant and source of outside wisdom.

I know that it's hard to accept that you can't move into the mother role. But accepting it and moving on will actually bring you into a much better relationship with your step-children.

Anonymous said...

Being a StepMom is one of the hardest, eventually rewarding and the most thankless person to be. You care, alot; want the most for your child (and make no mistake, while my relationship with my Bio Children is a lot easier, my steps are my children).

Truth in point, there are no easy answers as every situation/person is different but you do have resources ... not to mention you are not alone. I understand you have never been a parent before; with that, I am assuming you may be here looking for tools that can be utilized as well as strategies to make this new carnival ride much smoother.

While it is not age appropriate (its more geared for the toddler/young school child set), I would recommend reading 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan. The reason is that it will make you laugh at yourself, if not anything else, and that in itself can be a great stress reliever. And believe it or not, those techniques have a basis as some of the the other advise I have seen on this website (but more age approprate of course). And guess what, it works (for immediate situations anyway), Step Mom or not; regardless if Bio Mom and Dad are on board...the kids do respond and if you are consistent, they will learn to know what to expect. And guess what, they really do want structure and predictability. Will they test you...Of course, it is what they have been experiencing normal child behavior (and I believe someone said it was a sign of intelligence..especially if they keep trying different strategies)

I also want to say: you define who you are to your step children. No, you will never be "Mom" and you will never be "Dad". But being "Joni" will become very multifaceted, with you and your new daughter defining a new role that will be very special as well.