19 answers

9 Year Old Step Daughter

I have a 9 year old step daughter. I have had a bit of a challenge with the discipline. She lives with her grandparents the other half of the time. They have no other children there, so she gets anything and everythign she wants when she wants it. I have tried over the past few years to teach her the value of things. She gets it sometimes, but really doesn't seem to care. My parents bought her a really expensive sweat shirt from the UT campus when they went there a couple months ago. All four kids got one. My three children take really good care of it, and make sure that it is put up after being worn. She wore it to school three days after she got it and now can't find it. She doesn't seem to care much about loosing it or where it could be. This irritates me beyond belief. There has been several times that something like this has happened. Her father bought her some really nice dolphin earings for Christmas two years ago. They were about $40, but thats not the point. She wore them for a few hours, and took them off and set them somewhere.... at Chuck E Cheese. In the past I have had talks with her about responcibility and keeping up with things. I told her this time that since she doesnt seem to care about things that we give her, we will just stop getting her new things. She has enough already and doesnt need anything new. And until she can learn to appriciate things, she will just have to deal with it.

Any advice on what else I can do to handle this situation? It is getting to the point where my husband and I don't know what to do sometimes. She just has this snobby attitude like she is better and should demand new things all the time. And they always end up lost or on the floor broken.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

In responce, yes, all of the children are treated the same. All are told and shown from a very early age that the need to be responcible for their things. My two year old knows that she must put up her toys before bedtime. My husband and I do not show or give any extra love or attention to any of the children. I have a daughter from a previous relationship, and she has two older brothers from her Father. I saw what treating children differently can do to their emotional state. I am aware of how sensative a young child can be. But bottom line is, we are raising them not to take anything for granted. We are living day to day like everyone else, and when we do get the kids nice things, they need to appriciate them. NOt think that they can destroy or loose things and it magically appears again. My 7 year old knows this, and takes responcibility if she looses something. She knows that if she didnt keep up with it, she will not get it again. We understand accidents happen, but in my 9 year olds case, she just doesnt care. That is how her Grandmother is. She buys things all the time. And for some reason feels that she has to buy her love. The Mother is not in the picture often. She is an alcoholic. The entire family is dealig with the situation, but the court has put her on a restricted visit twice a month. We are trying to get custody of her full time, but the Grandparents are fighting saying since we have three children already, they should keep her because they could give her more. We go to trial in March. It has been a difficult time. Even longer story

IN RESPONCE:

We have stopped with the expensive things. For a while she would be upset, and there still are times, like any child, she gets upset because she wants it. I dont expect her to mature and understand everything now. It is our job to parent her and help her grow. We have tried to talk to the grandparents, but they do not want to hear that they may be doing something wrong, or encouraging bad behavior. The grandmothers motto is play hard, make lots of money and spend like a queen. that is why our daughter was pulled out of soccer. the practice and games interrupted her nail and hair appointments. she was forced to join drill team, when she is a tomboy and loves sports. we have her in martial arts now, because she was gaining so much weight. she went from a size 8 to a size 12/14 in a matter of 4 months. i know kids grow, but it was becoming unhealthy. she would get upset if she didnt get a brownie or some kind of chocolate before bed here. i would tell her that she did not need a snack before bed, but if she needed something to calm the craving or hunger she could have a bannana, grapes or a glass of milk. now that we are going throgh a custody battle, we have had her see a counselor. we wanted her to have an outlet, someone to vent to that she didnt have to please. all children want the people that they love to be happy with them. so i know that she would do things here and there to try and make sure that daddy was happy. as well as grandma too. i cant imagine what she must be feeling. no mother in her life because of alcohol, been told that father abandended her when he divorced her mother, being told that he loves his new babies more than her because they live with him, having to live in two different homes, and deal with the grandparents coaching her on what to say and do. it is a hard thing to deal with. all i can do is be a mother to her like i am to my other kids. my husband, no matter how many hours he has worked or how late it is when he finally makes it home some days, still finds the energy to love on, play with and talk to all of the kids.

one good thing is, when her councelor was asked by the attorney on record, "tell me how maddy describes her time with her father- 'she says that she does a lot of fun family things, sees the family and has campouts' and with the grandparents? 'she goes out to eat with them a lot, and says they go shopping all the time for new things'" it made me and my husband smile. atleast we are on the right path of making memories.

Featured Answers

Maybe try giving her only one or two things to be responsible for and add back additional items as her sense of responsibility improves. And also, realize this is not about you, unless you make it about you. Focus on helping her modify her behavior and you'll both be happier!

More Answers

I suppose you and your husband have had a talk with the grandparents (paternal or maternal?) about this. Maybe they are on a roller coaster they don't know how to stop. Maybe they would appreciate your offer to show the young miss a solid front. Probably pretty optimistic I guess, but you don't know unless you have tried.

You said you had quit buying her expensive things. How does she react to that? Personaly, I would quit buying her anything she doesn't need ( earrings) until she gets the message. Inexpensive things should be taken care of also. Some children would be most grateful.

Good luck and God bless

I agree with the other responders. I would not just stop treating her like the other children because she will feel singled out and uncared for. Just let her experience natural consequences. If she loses something, she will no longer have it - end of story.

If you don't want to wear something, you can usually put it up in your office at work, your car, your purse etc. It makes it easier to keep up with your things. Children don't have that. In addition, they are children.
Jen

R.,
I have a couple suggestions...

#1 - instead of buying her everything or really nice things- make her start to earn them, she is old enough to do "extra" chores to earn money toward purchasing items she might want. This way she can see it takes work to earn money.

#2 - until she gets to a place where she is more responsible, do not purchase her expensive items. You can find nice gifts that are very reasonable and will not be a great loss. At 9 she is still a child and some just need time to learn things like this.

#3 - do exercises with her to help her learn how to keep up with things. I painted a quarter for my sons once, and the one that knew where their quarter was whenever I asked or at the end of a month got a treat. Do you know that even a year or so later, one of my sons still had his quarter.

#4 - if possible sit down with the grandparents and explain the situation and how if they do not hold her responsible, they are not doing her any good, and actually will cause her to grow up irresponsible and immature.

#5 - be patient and consistent and remind her about putting her things away, and how important it is to take care of what you have. Make sure you write her name inside sweatshirts and jackets, so you can contact the school and find out if it has been turned into lost and found. I see so many jackets on the playground this time of year.

#6 - give her boundaries - if you leave your jacket or bike or toys where they should not be, then they will be taken away for 2 weeks. Then take it away.

My friend does a chore chart with her son. If he does all his chores, he can get an allowance and buy whatever he wants. If she lost something and wants a new one, tell her to save up by doing her chores and she can buy a replacement.
My sister in law is the same exact way as your step daughter. She really never had any discipline growing up, and no value for material things. She is still living at home, never had a job, thinks she is too good to work at most places, sits in front of the t.v. all day, and still expects her parents to buy her whatever she wants.
Don't make yourself blue in the face trying to reinforce things with her. If she loses something, oh well, she can figure a way out to earn a replacement. Dealing with the loss of something teaches you to be careful with them. Good luck!

R.,
I guess I have to ask why is she with her Grandparents and not your husband? Is her Mom out of the picture? The girl is 9 and 9 year olds are not really that responsible for "Things". Your role is a consultant not the diciplianarian. That is your husband's role. Believe me I know all about step-children. My husband and I blended a family of 7 19 years ago. We're still blending.
So just relax when you have her. There are probably lots of emotions going on in her little head. She needs love not just discipline. By the way who in their right mind would buy $40 earings for an 8 year old?
N. Cox

I'd try a multi-system approach for sure.

She could be A.D.D. which makes it easy for them to forget things and lose things even if they are important to her. You could have her tested. There are good coaches for helping them focus, remember, plan, take responsibility, and if it affects her school work, medications.

She could be spoilled by her grandparents so they need to be brought in the loop to help. Help them understand how she could lose respect and friends and mentors if she doesn't act more responsibily with the things she is given or put in charge of. Help them understand some of your policies, see if they think they are reasonable enough to where they would use them too.

Your husband needs to impress on her that love includes guidance and discipline so that they can succeed in life and that's why there are boundaries and policies that you'll develop for things.

Use rewards more than punishment for the little babysteps she makes. Notice every good thing. Instead of catching every mistake, try catching every successful attempt to improve. Use gold stars, charts on the fridge, and so many stars gets a token reward and so many tokens get an additional priveledge, and so many of those gets _______ which means a lot to her. Don't make every reward a material thing or food treats or that will cause new problems.

My stepdaughter was like that. She was later found to have mild bipolar and have A.D.D. but she was also very spoiled by her mom and pop in many ways. In other ways, her mom would rant too much on other topics and ground her to her room (with TV on) for grades, etc. Hard to know what was the worst influence, but she lied about nearly everything to avoid responsibility. We paid thousands of dollars for college tuition and she would attend a few weeks then stay at home and sleep in. Each semester she would swear to do better and her dad bought it without even checking up on her. It is no surprise that now that my husband passed away, she and I are estranged. She has terrible credit, a terrible work record, has used up a lot of money she was given in a lawsuit that could have made her a millionaire by retirement time, etc. etc. Find out what will take care of it now before the problem grows.

I hate to tell you this, but some kids never outgrow this. I reared 5 children, one adopted, two bio, and two grands by the adopted daughter. Not only was she ALWAYS like you described your step-daughter, but her two offspring are very similar. She's in her 40s now, but nothing has changed much. In her 5-yr.old home, her cabinet doors are off the hinges, toilets don't work, furniture is broken, etc. She's neat as a pin, great cook, funny and fun to be with, but just can't seem to take care of anything. It certainly wasn't from her upbringing. The two bio children are the opposite. So don't give your step-daughter anything valuable.

First of all by virtue of you NOT being her mother you should not be disciplining her. It would be to your advantage not to be in that role for many reasons. Buying kids things does not equal love. Spending time with and understanding them equals love. Being loving equals love and so does forgiveness. What is the big deal about a sweatshirt? "A really expensive sweatshirt"? Seriously? It's a darn cotton shirt no matter what is printed on it. So she doesn't value "things" SHE's 9 YEARS OLD!!! Kids lose things all the time. I cannot tell you how many coats, jackets, purses, and even shoes my girls (including my stepdaughter)have pretty much given away over the years because they "can't find them". She's 9 years old for goodness sake! Where is the childs mother? What a heartbreak for a little girl to not have her mom in her life, and then to add a stepmother who seems to resent her? Be nice, if you're the only mother she knows you have tremendous power to make her feel loved. If she has her Mom in her life then you could be a very good friend to her, a 2nd Mom - who couldn't use an extra mom? Who the heck gives a 7 year old $40.00 earrings? Seriously? What about age appropriate gifts? At 7 a $10.00 Barbie doll would have been more suitable, and probably not lost either! I imagine that she might feel a little jealous, wouldn't you? Her Daddy has you and YOUR kids to take care of, spend time with and money on?!! You called your husbands little girl "snobby" what does that say about you?If you love this man, how can you not love his baby girl?
Think about it.

There seems to be a lot of consistency with step-mothers who submit questions on this site. They seem to often have problems with "discipline" of their step-children. The real issue seems to bleed through fairly clearly.....the child is not yours and it is clear that you would rather discipline her than love her.

Do you have a set of standards for all of your children? Do you treat them all the same? Perhaps your step-daughters' way of getting back at you for not loving her is to do the things that irritate you most. My bet is that once you start loving her (that is your choice, you know), your "discipline" problems will dwindle.

Hi R.-As I read your challenge I ready your statements of "my children" doesn't do this, "my children doesn't do that. Being raised as a step-child is not an easy task. (Being I was raised as one around your daughters age)Adults fail to realize that at the end of the day "they are children". Yes we have to train them to be responsibile but instead of announcing that "she lost some thing" or "did not take care of somthing" give her praise when she does keep up with something large or small. Children are just that children. We have to get on their level in a positive way. As for the grand parents.. you said it in the first sentence "She lives with her grandparents the other half of the time. They have no other children there, so she gets anything and everythign she wants when she wants it." This child is in some what of a confusing situation. She has rules at her grand parents, rules at her father's house. Three other siblings and she is being referred to as the "step child". Step back and look at the entire picture and give her praise, find out WHY she has issues with keeping up with her things. Just always remind your self she is still a 9 year old child. As she grows up trust me IT DOES get better. My daughter is now 17 and Senior in high school, doing quite well now. She once was the same way, but now understands that other children are not as fortuante as she is. And I did not even I have to tell her. Your daughter (not step-daughter) will get it and it will be sooner than later. May God Bless You.

I agree with the other lady who suggested having your stepdaughter do some chores to earn her allowance. Then she can buy herself what she wants when she's saved up enough money. Just don't replace the things your stepdaughter loses, and eventually she'll either make more of an effort to take better care of her things now, or she'll grow and mature and take care of her things when she's older. She is only 9, and she may need a few years to figure out how to do a better job keeping track of her possessions.

Hi R.:

I know exactly how frustrating this can be. I have been through it with my nieces and nephews. It seems that they and your step-daughter have something in common...

It seems your step-daughter's mom is missing. She's being raised by her grandparents, who I'm guessing are much older than all her friends "parents". At her dad's house, she has to try to fit in with another family that she isn't really, truly a part of. She is a part-time kid with her own dad. While her dad is raising 3 other kids, he isn't raising her. Her real parents have basically left her to be raised by someone else.

Please - I am making no judgements here. Like I said, I've been through this type of behavior.

Please try and remember that for every action, there is a reaction. Your step-daughter is just 9 years old. Part of her irresponsibilty is her age. I'm also guessing that she has a LOT that goes on in her young little head.

It would not be fair to her if you and your husband just stopped buying her things. Remember, she deserves the same unconditional love as the other 3 children. How about just buying her cheap clothing as gifts? Don't spend a lot of money on her gifts until she can learn to be more responsible. Also try to keep in mind that it would be just awful for her if, say, you were to give the other children an X-box for Christmas, while she gets a t-shirt.

Are the other children in your home your biological children? Somehow it seems through your statments that those children are 'better'. "They" take care of their sweatshirts and make sure that it is put up. Your seven year old is more responsible... These are two different people. Just because your seven year old is more responsible doesn't make her a better child.

I'm sorry, but, why would your husband buy an 8 year old $40 earrings? Maybe she took them off because they were hurting her ears! She is a 'little' girl! Save the expensive gifts for later. Stop trying to find reasons to complain about her. You sound just like a step-mother!

R. - I am not trying to be hateful here. But, please, give this little girl a break. She's still learning. Her mom isn't in the picture like she should be. She's a little girl without a mom.

Of course her grandparents spoil her. They are all she has! They have obviously already raised their children. They are probably tired. I'm sure there are lots of logistics to the little girl not being with her own parents, so nobody should judge.

Try not to judger HER so harshly. Remember when you were 9? Give her a break. She really deserves one.

I really wish you and your family a lot of love, luck and patience! She may be difficult right now, but, I pray that you take her under your wing and give her much more love and support than what she is used to getting. She needs unconditional love and approval from you most of all. You are the only decent mom she's got.

I have a 8yr old and I can tell you this is the age of irresponsibility. So dont be to upset with her for loosing things. Your the parent and have to help her keep up with things. Yes they should be able to but this age gets so distracted and its just hard.

When my daughter is going somewhere without me, I just dont let her wear or take certain things, this way I cant get mad at her if she looses anything.

As for the attitude, that is unaceptable and I honestly dont know what to tell you. If you had her full time it wold be a lot easier to have rules, but at this age when she goes back and forth and has different rules at both places then that gets confussing.

I have a 14yr old stepdaughter, shes been in my life since she was 4 and luckly her mom and us live by the same rules.

Good luck and I know its hard, but keep in mind shes probably a little confused and trying to figure where she fits in. I'm seing my daughter struggle with this a little. Stay strong, focused and pray alot, the teenage years are headed our way and we remember what we were like, it will get better.

I have 5 children. 2 his, 2 mine and a surprise together. They are 13, 13, 12,9 and 17 months. We have been married for 6 years. I say all that just to give you some background on me. My step children also live off and on with their grandparents who are very wealthy and shower them with gifts. Their mother also thinks they are intitled to everything. We do well, however with this many kids I fell the need to be extremely frugal. I love thrift stores! Good quality second hand clothes that look brand new and rock bottom prices. They refused to wear them. We had to get to the point that we said if you choose not to get anything then you can just wear what your grandparents/mother get you(we buy all their clothes). My younger step son received a very expensive ($65) christmas gift a few years ago broke it and crumpled it up and shoved it in a box. When I got angry and said something about it he responed that his grandparents would just get him another one-they did. All this to say that after years of fighting this battle I have 4 teenage/pre teen boys that really know the value of a dollar, now. We started letting them earn money buy doing chores and other things and they were able to spend that money however they chose with a little guidence from us. This really helped them learn how to stretch their money. They would still receive money from the grandparents/mother however they had to leave that money there. It just takes time and patience. It will eventually sink in. I would not continue and haven't continued to purchase expensive items for them and when we do purchase something that is special they have to leave it at our house. Hope this helps a little.

Maybe try giving her only one or two things to be responsible for and add back additional items as her sense of responsibility improves. And also, realize this is not about you, unless you make it about you. Focus on helping her modify her behavior and you'll both be happier!

Hi R., I can see you have received a lot of comments on the "step" child part. I do not have nor was I a step child so no advice on that, however, is your step daugher dyslexic? I have 3 sons, 2 dyslexic and 1 not. Your descriptions sound VERY familiar. I don't believe my boys didn't want the items or didn't care about them, they just weren't able to keep up with a lot of things at once. Consequently, places like Chuck E Cheese or school functions when a lot of people were around were prime times for problems. We worked together on potential problem areas ("if you get hot bring me your sweater" etc.) and it helped. Eventually they got better. The main thing is that the lack of organization skills is part of dyslexia and something they had to learn to deal with. Hope this helps and good luck with your journey.

I think you have already arrived at the best solution. Don't buy her expensive things. Some children (and some adults for that matter) don't take care of things. It's OK that she doesn't appreciate expensive things (as long as she doesn't expect other people to provide them to her) and no one needs to feel bad about it. She is only 9, she may feel differently when she gets older. Or, she might not. I have two (grown) girls, one step - one natural, although sometimes I forget which is which. One likes expensive things, spends her money on them and takes excellent care of them (this is the child that could not keep up with her own underwear when she was 9); and the other could care less about things, she spends her money traveling (this is the child that dusted every one of her possessions every Saturday morning). Both marvelous people, well loved by everyone fortunate enough to have met them. This too shall pass.

Here's how we handle irresponsibility with my daughter and nephew. At home, if you leave your things out (like dinner dishes just left on the table) that means you volunteer to clean the area. I had been talking , reminding , yelling, pleading depending on the frequency of the offense and it wasn't sinking in. No big deal with this way. I just say "hey , thanks for volunteering". While you clean the table I'll be in the kitchen doing dishes. My dd decided to push all crumbs to the floor first time and had to sweep, too.

DD leaves shoes and clothes everywhere so just patiently (now) waiting to have this sink in.

On being entitled, do your kids get an allowance? Anything non-essential,candy, junk toys are purchased with her own money. She gets $6 a week as allowance. If she takes on extra chores, she can earn commissions to have more to spend. Commissions can only be earned if chores are taken care of.

Because she's a step-kid I'd not single her out. She may need attention on not care what kind she gets. My other nephew is attention hungry so when I kept him I made sure to start with cuddling, storytime, help Aunt Tabby, etc. And he behaved much better. My DD is only 7 so I'm not quit sure how you would give her positive attention. Paint your nails together, bake something (it's really fun to beat bread dough), have her help during family 15-minute pick up time, etc. Stuff that says you belong.

You can't stop the grandparents from buying her things-especially in the current custody situation. They may be worried they won't get to see her if she's living with dad and you full-time...but you shouldn't touch that one. Husband would have to lead the talk with grandparents about what's best for his girl. I hope you win soon. Dad's rights should supercede grandparents becuase it's not about who can buy her more. Geez!

How horrible for her to have an alcoholic parent! She's dealt with someone who loves a bottle more than her. Talk about a primal rejection.

First of all, it's sounds like from the situation that this child needs a lot of love. It sounds like you are trying to give her that but keep it up. It is the most important thing to do if you want her to respond to you.
I grew up with my dad and my step-mom (my mother past away when I was five) and I can tell you that my step-mom and I had the exact same difficulties. Please try to understand that your step-daughter does care about these items and is not intending to be disrespectful by misplacing them. She may act like she doesn't care around you, but she probably beats herself up more than you ever could when no one is around. Children with this type of personality are usually harder on themselves than any one else is.
I have always had this problem. No matter how much something means to me or how hard I have worked for it I lose almost everything. (It drives my husband crazy that I never seem to know where my wallet is.) I do not make excuses for this forgetfullness, but it didn't get better until I accepted that this is the way I am. I now have developed habits and have worked hard to make these things better. My name is in all articles of clothing that may be removed while I am out. I do not carry a purse b/c I will leave it behind. I do not wear expensive jewelry except my wedding ring. The expensive stuff only comes out on special occasions.
I tell you all of this to hopefully help you see that this is simply a difference in personality, not disobedience. You need to take the time to patiently teach her to overcome these things, just like you would teach her to say please and thank you.
My step-mom and I never had a good relationship and still don't b/c she always made me feel like I wasn't as good of a person as everyone else b/c I was the only one who had this problem. Please don't do this to your step-daughter. You both deserve better than that. Remember to patiently guide her through this with love and she will be able to get better at it.

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