November 08, 2009,
R.W. asks from Mesquite, TX on November 05, 2009
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.
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
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.
C.W. answers from Dallas on November 06, 2009
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!
D.C. answers from Dallas on November 06, 2009
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
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J.N. answers from Lubbock on November 06, 2009
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.
D.W. answers from Tyler on November 06, 2009
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.
A.S. answers from Dallas on November 05, 2009
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!
N.C. answers from Dallas on November 06, 2009
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?
C.H. answers from Dallas on November 06, 2009
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.
J.B. answers from Tyler on November 06, 2009
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.
P.F. answers from Dallas on November 06, 2009
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.