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Ask Rene: My Stepdaughter Is Out Of Control

Hi Rene:

I need some advice and I hope you can help! I’ve been married eight years and have a 26-year-old stepson, a 17-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old stepdaughter. A bit of background: My husband and I met when my stepdaughter was five and he raised her until her mother (who lived out of town at the time) wanted him to do something for her (there was a dispute over money I believe). She would come visit, take the daughter and would not let him have her back until he gave her what she wanted. When I came into the picture I told him she couldn’t do that anymore. Needless to say the mother cannot stand me (nor I her, cause she’s not a good mother).

Anyway years pass (and we are from a small town so the legal system sucks!) and we’ve jumped through hoops, social studies, money we did not have to spend on court trying for full custody, only to end up with a judgment of joint custody! To sum it up you can’t talk to the mother, ask her for anything; she is very mean and a real bi/&*! The stepdaughter is now 13 and I love her very much as if she were mine!!

I started hearing rumors last year (when she was 12) that she was sexually active with three or four guys! I confronted her mother about this and of course nothing was done! I checked text messages, computer just trying to find out what was going on. But I’m hearing some awful things about her promiscuity!

You can’t do or say anything to her mother and on her weeks she lets my stepdaughter go to guys’ houses, etc. She just doesn’t care or listen! My husband doesn’t want to do anything because it’s a waste since we have our own rules here but over there she is a trashy slut! The more I hear rumors and see her text messages, the more I don’t want her around me! She is a lying, sneaky kid that does everything and anything with guys? Can you give me some advice? She is so much better than that. She is a good kid but I am tired of fighting a losing battle.


Signed: Worried Stepmom

Dear Worried Stepmom,

This is situation critical and something needs to be done RIGHT NOW! I’m going to be really frank here; everyone needs to stop using this child as a pawn in the fight for their own fiefdoms and see her for what she is, someone who’s in desperate need of some guidance and tough love. So here’s what I think you need to do.

TEASE OUT YOUR FEELINGS FOR THE MOM FROM THOSE OF THE DAUGHTER: There’s a lot of anger there, I can hear it in your writing. I can’t say that I blame you; the mother did some pretty despicable stuff. But that’s in the past and you guys need to figure out a way to move forward. Sometimes it’s hard being the only adult (figuratively) in the room and it sucks that you may have to take on a disproportionate amount of the work and responsibility. But I have little faith that it will be done by the girl’s mother. So the options are, you (and your husband!) do it or it doesn’t get done. If it doesn’t get done, I can assure you there’s some bad stuff on the horizon.  You cannot save the mother nor does she want that. But your actions will not be wasted on your stepdaughter. Put your focus there.

GET HER TO A DOCTOR, ASAP! And follow that up with a therapist. I am not saying that to be funny, this is of paramount importance. If you think or suspect she is having sex, she not only needs to be on birth control, she also needs to have a frank discussion about sexually transmitted diseases. This kid’s been through a lot (being used as a hostage for her mother’s demands among other things) and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see this is acting out at it’s finest. She needs to talk to someone who will listen and then empower her with coping skills.

YOUR HUSBAND MUST GET INVOVLED: If he doesn’t make some decisions, decisions will be made for him and that is never fun. I’m not a psychologist or a father but this early promiscuity seems like a cry for attention from her dad; I suspect our Good Enough Guy will agree. Fathers are revered by their children. Where mom can be persuaded, what dad says typically goes. It is THAT power that your husband needs to wield with your stepdaughter. This is no time for a hands-off, it-will-work-itself-out approach. He needs to get in there and be an active part of the solution.

A few things before I go. As I said, for your stepdaughter’s sake and your own mental health you need to stop seeing your stepdaughter as an extension of her mother. Work on ways to communicate with her that involve less yelling and more listening. That does not mean being a pushover and she still has to toe the line but it does mean showing her that you love and respect her enough to listen.

The one other thing I would suggest, as hard as this may be to do, is to have a meeting with the girl’s mother. I think she loves her daughter, though she may show it in ways different than you or I would. But you need to appeal to her, to that part of her heart and come up with ways that you all can keep this kid swerving off into the danger zone. It’s not too late but you must act now.

 Good luck!

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  1. Irene

    August 5, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Worried Stepmom….from one stepmom to another 1st let me send you a virtual hug!!!!

    Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around being a stepmom brings your life into a whole other stratosphere. It is one tough job but someone has to step up to the plate. Please listen to what Rene is trying to say. I agree with her 125% and here is why.

    I am a mom to 8 kids. I always say I have 4 families of kids. Meaning…there are 2 dads and 3 moms who love and care for these 8 kids. Today as we speak we only have 2 dads and one mom because 2 of the moms died while we were raising all 8 kids. My husband and I have made a ton of mistakes with our kids. We did only one thing that I feel is a bragger our kids never had to choose anything involving their parents. They always knew all 5 of us were commited, cared and loved each one of them.

    What are some of the ways we made that happen? COUNSELING, READING BOOKS, ASKING THE PROS I.E. FIND A MOM THAT IS A HEALTHY BALANCED MOM LIKE YOU DID HER AT GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER WITH GEM.SEEK OUT SCHOOL COUNSELORS, PRINCIPLES… (I am not trying to tell you what to do…but telling you a few things that WE did as a stepmom that have paid off in the long run)

    Accept her mom for who she is and who she isn’t- ways to do that….take her out to lunch, have a mom-to-mom talk with her about the child without judging her insufficiences as a mom. Invite her to do something with the 3 of you. Many moms are very very guilt ridden and intimidated by step moms…many didn’t have good role models as moms while growing up…many have guilt about their failed marriage, substance abuse problems,etc.

    allow and encourage communication between the mom and the dad I am not saying give your husband a license to cheat! I am saying encourage him to find a compromise and common ground with mom about the child. There is a difference.

    find ways to let go of your angerYour child will pick up on that and it can come out in your child as depression, angers, sexual promoscuity, etc…you cannot change the mom but if your attitude changes so will this situation.

    I really could go on and on…but you are in a 911 situation. I know for us we never regretted co parenting our kids and it wasn’t something that happened overnight. And, believe me, we were snickered at by our colleagues, made fun of by our families, given all kinds of advice like take them to court, blah blah blah….what worked was we concentrated on the kids, accepted each parent for who they were and who they weren’t, and supported one another that got us through and helped our kids the most.

    Take care and hang in there. I know some may agree and disagree and one size doesn’t fit all with parenting complex family dynamics but you can come here anytime and this gang will support you!!! That is what I like the most about GEM is dealing with the real issues that happen not the yahoo trend of the week. Good luck…

  2. Irene

    August 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

    p.s. I purposely didn’t talk about your daughter’s issues on purpose. Many times if the parents get on the right track the children overcome a myriad of difficulties.

  3. DawnKA

    August 5, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I agree with Rene. As a step mother, I would suggest that you and your husband must work as a team. This is not the time for anyone to give up or give in to the mother’s lack of guidance and control. Clearly, she wants to be the cool parent who allows her daughter to run free and wild. However, I believe that there may still be a chance to help her. Dad needs to shower her with the love and guidance that she needs. She’s obviously looking for attention and seeking it through guys where she feels wanted (she’s not mature enough to understand that she is being used) she just feels like she’s the center of the attention she receives even if it’s for the moment. As the stepmother, monitor your communication so that it does not translate to the frustrations you have with her mother. It will only make matters worse as she will feel the need to defend her mother. Set your standards and be sure that they are equally enforced across the board with your daughter as well as your stepdaughter. The family may need to go to therapy together to work through the goals for the family’s future success.

  4. Gloria

    August 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I think the step mother needs to confront the situation head on because by the sounds of it what ever the outcome of this girl’s promiscuous behavior it will be the step mom that will bare most of the burden. The father also needs to step up and separate the feelings he has towards the mother and his daughter and vis versa. I know first hand the outcomes of behaving like an adult at a young age and I know that if someone showed me they cared my life would be different then it is today, different NOT better. (I love my life with my daughter)
    There are three people in this girls life and they need to band together and help her and focus on her and not the other stuff. The mother is never going to change but the possible relationship between the stepmom and daughter can. Get her some help and make her father be a FATHER.
    At my young age of 21 I was a stepmom for five years and had to cut both my step daughter’s mother and fathers head’s when it came to certain things that neither one of them wanted to take on/explain. I.E puberty, periods, boys and all the other stuff young ladies face.
    Good Luck! Get her to a doctor and send passive messages her way thats what teens listen to the most not sit downs.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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