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Is step daughter beyond help?

(14 Posts)
berkshirefem Wed 20-Jul-11 09:46:16

My step daughter is approaching 13. She spends exactly half of her time with my partner and I, and half with her Mum.

I don't know where to begin really, but without listing all of her faults I could just say she is spoilt and money grabbing, lazy and selfish... with tiny glimmers of kindness (which i have recently accepted arise when she wants something)

I have tried (for months at a time not just short periods) lavishing her with love and attention, I've tried treating her exactly as I would treat my own child, I've tried detaching from her... I've tried (alongside DP of course) setting defined rules and boundaries with rewards... EVERYTHING. yet I have come to the conclusion that she is inherently not a nice person. Which I find really sad for me, my DP and my DD who is much younger and loves her step sister. Plus, it seems a bit mean to right someone off at such an age!!

I don't want to give up but at the moment I'm just dreading every time she's there. My DP is miserable with it. He accepts that he is as much to blame as her Mum as they are both parents. Yet from what I know of her Mum, (we were quite close for a year before she decided she hated me so I do know her) all of these traits are exactly the same as her.

I've never believed in nature, more in nuture. But really, I don't know if DSD is just beyond helping. And if so, I may as well just accept it now and stop spending my life nagging her!! I started a thread about pocket money a little while ago and getting her to do things around the house. I am happy to continue to make her do things around the house and not worry about asking her to do it with a smile on her face. But it's the downright selfishness and manipulation that i'm struggling with.

My family are generally 'nice' people. As a rule we all think of others first and put manners and politness is high regard. All my friends are similar, including my DP. Yet this one person in my life is just so alien to me I don't really know what to do...

Sorry LOOOOONG!!!! I can't really talk to anyone in RL about it because she's just a child and it's hard to say these things without sounding like a bitch step mum. DP and I talk about each thing that she does but I couldn't outright tell him I think his DD is a horrible person.. although I'm sure he feels the same.

Georgimama Wed 20-Jul-11 09:48:44

How long has she been like this?
How long have you known her?
Has she started her periods already and if so how long ago?

13 year old girls are generally pretty vile. Has she always been like this or has it arisen in the last couple of years or so? She's probably just being a teenager.

berkshirefem Wed 20-Jul-11 09:52:59

I met her 4 years ago and she's always been like this. Although it's got worse over the past year. Well, not exactly worse actually, it's just displayed in a different way. In fact, when I first met her (she was 8) it was almost impossible to take her to visit friends or family because she would be so rude and bad mannered. However, because she was so young it was kind of more acceptable. After about a year she did get a lot better and would only really be worst when she has been at her mum's for a day or more. But now she's gone back to doing the same things and now, because she's older, it just seems ruder.

She started her periods the month of her 11th birthday.

titchy Wed 20-Jul-11 10:15:46

Your first sentence explains a lot - she is approaching 13!

Your own dd will be exactly the same.

And 'nice' as your family may be, I'll bet at least some of you were buggers when you were teens.

Pretend she's a toddler, use the 'naughty step (aka her room) when she's bahaving badly, and lavish tons of rewards (pocket money and attention seems towork for teens) when she's nice.

And grit your teeth. She'll have grown out of it in a few years. By which time your other dd will probably be about to go through the same grin.

titchy Wed 20-Jul-11 10:16:58

And she isn't horrible - her behaviour is. Please don't assume your dp thinks this - he loves her with all his heart.

berkshirefem Wed 20-Jul-11 10:52:24

See, titch I don't know. We have 5 teenage girls and 1 teenage boy in our family and sure there is the avoidence of homework, sudden disapperences when washing up is mentioned and occassional eye rolling. But nothing like what we experience from DSD. An example would be a few weeks back when i took her and a friend out for dinner because she had got a certain number of merits at school for good work. She didn't say thank you at all, clicked her fingers at waitresses to get their attention (something I have witnessed her mum do) and when I commented that she should maybe try to clear around her plate a bit because there wa sa huge mess, she just sneared and pointed at the waitress saying "it's her job"

I just don't beleive that all of this is simply teenage behaviour. I appreciate that some of it is but not to that level.

DP is terribly embarrassed by her (although he does have unconditional love for her to see him through which i don't have the luxury of) he hasn't used the word "horrible" but he has gone further than i dare to when we've discussed it using the words "selfish" and "appauling" I used to tell him it was just a faze but as time goes on I'm losing the conviction to convince him of that!

We've tried sending her to her room. She just laughs and goes up and either plays on her laptop or phone, or if we have confiscated them, just sleeps until she's allowed out. Even for a whole day once! She'll then tell her mum that we kept her prisoner and we'll get a lot of hassle from her mum for it.

As for lavishing her with money and rewards. nothing is ever enough. what ever she gets, 2 seconds later she wants something else. She willl never be satisfied with anything sad

titchy Wed 20-Jul-11 11:17:23

I assume you and her mother have very different values etc then? I suspect this is a cause ofconflict - e.g. the restaurant incident.

If she sees one of the adults responsible for her behaving like this, it's not unreasonable she behaves the same way - she thinks it's normal!

Oakmaiden Wed 20-Jul-11 11:22:59

You sent her to her room for the whole day???

I can't help feeling that what you have here is a fairly selfish and self centred nearly teenager, who is getting very mixed messages from those around her and who sometimes doesn't KNOW how to behave properly.

With patience and persistence she may still grow into a reasonable human being.

GoodDaysBadDays Wed 20-Jul-11 11:36:19

Being a step parent is a bloody hard job.

I have 2 step ds's, one lives ft with us and the other is now grown up but always lived ft with her mum. Dh is step dad to my ds and we also have 2 dc's together.

It's hard when the parents have different values and parenting styles, but I would say to explain the rules at your house and tell her you understand she has different rules at her mum's but that different people have different rules and she needs to learn to live with what us expected of her in different environments.

I always explained to my ds's that different things are expected if people all through life; school, work, with family, with friends etc and it's normal to have to adapt to your surroundings.

Let her see you behaving differently in different places and explain what's going on.

Be firm and consistent with your house rules but don't criticise what she is allowed to do when with her mum. Just tell her that's not how you do things and you expect x,y,z when she is with you.

It won't be easy and won't always work but is a long term plan and as the step parent of an adult dsd, I can tell you that our consistency did pay off in the long run.

Dsd was similar as you describe at that age but she did grasp the concept of adapting her behaviour a lot if the time and did realise there are benefits to different parenting styles too.

Good luck!

theredhen Wed 20-Jul-11 11:44:56

I do sympathis with you on this.

You say there are occassional glimmers of kindness? I think you have to hang onto these and try to detach a bit from the rest.

Whilst I think some of this behaviour is because of her age, I think so much of it is learnt. Perhaps the other children have a knack of knowing how to behave in each house, whereas your DSD simply has one way of behaving, and that is her Mother's way?

I think you just need to be consistent but find some acceptance that she is always going to be the one who is going to push against the boundaries in your family.

berkshirefem Wed 20-Jul-11 11:45:06

titchy I guess that's it. I suppose I worry if continuing to give her opposing messages is a waste of time at best, and confusing and mean at worse... I grew up with both parents and they only divorced when i was 15 so I haven't expereinced it but i imagine it's very confusing.

oakmaiden i know, it's mad idn't it. she kept being allowed out and then being rude again and going back in. In the end she fell asleep so i guessed she must need it. I know to pick my battles over the sleep thing with her as i have bigger fish to fry. If she's asleep at least there is peace in the house grin

gooddays i am reassured to know that it has worked out for you. I get the impression that she sees the rules in our house as a direct insult to her mum, just by the fact that they are different. But we have never said this to her so I suppose we can't be blamed and the only alternative would be to lower our expectations to those of her mum's which just wouldn't work here.

So the opinion is that she isn't beyond help and we should continue to maintain our expectations?

berkshirefem Wed 20-Jul-11 11:47:13

redhen when I first met her I understood more that she only knew one way to behave. but she's been living here half of the week for 4 years now.. I guess that's why i expect her to have got the hang of it. Mind you, my DD is probably good at it because sher dad and i seperated when she was a year old so she has always known two haouse, and a child minder, and her grandparents house. where as for her first 8 years, DSd was in her mum's pocket and never stayed anywhere else. I should cut her some slack for that.

piprabbit Wed 20-Jul-11 11:57:35

Sounds like you have a very difficult situation - but it would be awful to write off your DSD as being beyond help at only 13 years old.

Teens are going through so many new experiences, hormonal, physical, school-related, peer-related, that at this time in their lives they need their parents as much as a toddler does.

Try watching this clip about not liking a child, or this one about understanding early teens as well as loads of clips on other specific issues.

Good luck - it sounds like you've run out of steam and need some ideas on how to move forward.

berkshirefem Wed 20-Jul-11 12:04:08

Thanks so much! I don't have speakers in the office but will watch these with DP at home tonight grin

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