19 Year Old Step Daughter - What to Do

Updated on October 04, 2010
S.A. asks from Poulsbo, WA
13 answers

I have an almost 19 year old step daughter who her and I haven't been getting along for the past 1 1/2 years. I've been in her life since she was 6 1/2 years old.

I've caught her in lies and she has been disrespectful of me. I bring this up to her father and he shrugs it off. Her father and I haven't been able to come to a unity on rules and what is acceptable for her age.

She is a good person. Good grades, in college, works and volunteers at the vet clinic. My issue is that I've asked her to let us know her schedule when she is going to be here and to participate in a chore or two when she is here. I ask this so I can plan healthy and good meals for her. She disrespects this and chooses to do a chore when she feels like it. Her father on the other hand, doesn't support me and I end up doing everything.

Now she only chooses to let her father know her schedule 1 day or a couple of hours before she is suppose to be here and he often times doesn't share this with me.

I'm at my wits end with this situation and not sure what to do or how to handle this.

Any input or advice is appreciated.

Thank you.

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone so far for your input and advice.

BGBmom - I let her choose her chore. Cleaning the bathroom, dusting or walking the dogs based on her schedule. She is with us 3 days a week, when she again chooses to be here or at her mothers or boyfriend.

Momma L - I agree with you and I have worked towards what you suggested for many of years. I truly believe that have family dinner time is the best time and the best way to communicate with teenagers. Again, thank you.

Riley J - You are spot on and what you suggested is what I'm working towards. There are challenges are certainly ahead of us and you are correct, if she wants to be treated like an adult, then start acting like one. Funny thing is, she again, chooses to pick her circumstances on what and how she should be treated like an adult.

Again, Thank you everyone who has provided their advice and input.

All the Best from the Pacific Northwest....

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answers from Chicago on

You need to let this go. It doesn't sound like she lives there & just stops by periodically. If she is staying for several days then perhaps she should be expected to do a "chore or two". Other than that don't schedule any chores for her & DON'T prepare her meals. If she wants to act like an adult then let her join in for dinner if there is enough or she can make her own food & clean up her own mess. She is 19 & a good person so if you get off her she probably will come around (in time), not only that she loves seeing this drive a wedge between her dad & you. She is going to be in this selfish stage for a while so the best way to handle this is to blow it off, it's really not worth the energy to let this bother you.

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answers from Seattle on

When I was home on leave (I joined the military at 17), I'd do chores if I was actually living with my parents for a week or two... but now that I'm out... I most certainly don't. I don't live with them.

My sister and brother both lived at home while in college, and my mum drove them NUTS. They had work schedules, school schedules, study schedules, and social lives... and our mum kept "assigning" them chores to do (like unload the dishwasher) that did NOT work with their schedules. She would also get livid if she didn't know by 4pm (or earlier depending on her mood) if they were going to be home for dinner.

I finally sat her down at coffee one day when she was complaining about them and had a hash out. I was on my own at 17, and had to do everything for myself. Yet here my sibs were, years older than I was, being treated like highschoolers, like our younger siblings. My parents had OFFERED for them to live at home while going to school (to save money), but they were making the deal very one sided. They had none of the privileges of being an adult (setting their own schedules, being single and not needing to be responsible to others, allowed to take advantage of last minute plans or deciding to pull an all nighter, etc.), and ALL of the downsides of being a child. If my parents wanted them to act like adults, they needed to TREAT them like adults. They wouldn't ask a friend who was over for dinner to do their other children's laundry, or yell at a friend for being late or canceling, but because my bro and sis were their kids they felt free to "assign" and to guilt trip, and yell.

From then on, my mum let them go, and quit treating them like children. She quit asking them to do chores, but also quit doing anything for them (like laundry, cooking, etc.). And she was *amazingly* strong to do it in a non-snarky way. (She actually apologized for treating them like kids.) When she found their clothes in the wash, she put them in a pile and didn't touch them. When they came home around dinner time, they were more than welcome to grab a sammie, or any food that was left over... but she didn't go to special effort for them unless it was a prearranged dinner date. When my sister *did* inevitable complain (my brother was just relieved she'd quit micromanaging his life), my mum laughed and said that my sis was an adult. If she wanted help, then she needed to ask AND reciprocate (aka if she wanted dinner made for her, then to CALL and set it up, and then to help with either cooking or dishes, but not to dine and dash. And if she dined and dashed, expect not to eat with them for some time). My sister has this food issue, so she started eating most meals at my parents (and helping clean up afterwards). When she DID also eventually dine and dash, my mum cut her off for the next couple weeks.

The whole thing relieved SO much tension around their house.

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answers from Chicago on

As a SM, I have learned that I cannot burden myself with trying to better my stepdaughter or make her responsible. I can suggest to my husband the way I would a friend or family member, but I just won't take it upon myself to worry about it anymore.
Bottom line - if her dad isn't supporting you, don't bother. No matter how good your intentions are, you will still come across as the bad guy and that will never be a winning situation for a step.
What sort of chores are you asking for? Keeping her room clean? Doing her laundry? Those are chores you can easily ignore by shutting her bedroom door. Other chores... I'm not sure it's fair to ask a college student/volunteer who does not live with you full-time to do extra chores (vacuum for example).
Good luck, step-parenting is hard, often thankless, and rarely appreciated.

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answers from San Francisco on


Not to be mean or selfish, but to teach respect and caring works two ways, I would plan meals for two. If she comes and goes as she pleases she can make a sandwich, open a can of soup and last but not least provide for herself.

Dear S.,

She's an adult and hopefully will move out on her own soon. Stop planning anything around her schedule and stop cooking, cleaning or doing laundry for her. If her laundry is mixed in with yours separate it out and put it in a basket that is meant for her.

It is unfortunate that your husband does not support you and that certainly contributes to her ability to ignore you as well.

By the way and adult child who disrespects you in your own home is not really a "good person" and your step-daughter has some growing up to do. If she want's to be a part of the family, she need's to participant and pitch in.


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answers from Seattle on

It is not your daughter whom you need to discuss this with. It is your husband. If it does not bother him that she gives you only 24-hour notice, then I would back away from this. Let him decide where the boundaries are, and share them as a couple (united front). That way, at least, you won't be annoyed with both hubby and daughter.

Your stepdaughter is in college, working, and probably very busy, but she's also making her final moves towards complete independence, and thus she will likely resent any move to suggest she needs to be more dependent. It isn't that she doesn't like you, but certain tasks or rules may remind her of dependency, and she may resist such things, not because she disrespects you, but because she is trying so hard to be independent. I would relax as much as you can. Once all of this transition is over in her life, you may find a fantastic adult who'll come over often and really share her life with you two, as long as you accept her as an adult. Decide what you want more: her obedience or her presence. If she wants to be an adult, consider how you treat friends who come to your house. Do they do dishes? Sweep? Let her be that adult, and you will be surprised at how willing she is to help out when it isn't required.

This may not be what you want to hear, but I think you will do fine. Good luck!

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answers from Houston on

The issue here is with your husband. You can't force his daughter to be considerate or to listen to you.

If she is living in the home, she should be contributing, regardless of how busy she is with school and work.

Just let him and her both know that if you don't know when she will be around, then you won't be saving her dinner. If she doesn't follow through on certain chores, then no one will have clean dishes to eat off of the next day b/c you aren't going to do it. Just be sure that whatever chores you are giving her is towards a mess that she contributes to and that will work with her busy schedule.

Our family every Monday evening we sat down with a calendar and told each other our schedules... it was important since many of us kids worked, as well as had sports and such after school. Of course, things are subject to change, but it really helped us out. Maybe you can talk to your husband about how important this is to you and that it throws you off when you don't know what to expect, and especially when you are left doing all of the cooking and cleaning for everyone.

Really, if he can't support you, then drop it, and don't plan on her being there for dinner, and don't do her chores for her. Just save her leftovers and choose your battles, since she is transitioning into an adult. Let her make her dinner, do her own laundry, clean her own bathroom...

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answers from Sioux City on

She is nineteen. She is old enough to be on her own. I would ask that I know ahead of time if she will be attending a meal so that I could cook enough for the meal. As for preparing meals that have her health specifically in mind, she is 19 that's her problem. Is she staying the night or just visiting? I would be upset if she didn't clean up after herself while visiting, but if she isn't living at your house, I wouldn't require her to do chores.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

So---she doesn't live there full time. And you never know when she's going to grace you with her presence, right? She splits her week between your house, her mom's house and her boyfriend's place?

And you think she needs to do some chores.

I would just assign a chore or two like cleaning the bathrooms or vacuuming the house that she can do whenever she's there.

As for the cooking, I'd say if you don't know if she's going to be there, don't count her in on the meal. If she shows up a few times and gets a spoon of "leftovers" maybe she'll start giving a little more notice!

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answers from Norfolk on

It's scary how similar this story is to my own growing up. It was between myself and my step father who knew me since I was 7. Growing up with him was great in the beginning and since he loved my mother and married into the family, he had to take me on as a daughter. My mother was always laid back and never really had me do chores so I wasn't accustomed to being set on a schedule. At the same time, my step father was ocd and did take things to far when it came to doing chores. It was around that time we started to disagree and fight a lot. It would make me mad because my mom would always take his side no matter what it was. Not to mention I was and always have been a momma's girl. She's even agreed that sometimes he could be a little harsh a times to the extreme that if I forgot to load and unload the dishwasher he wouldn't talk to me and ignore me for a week. If I had to go back, I think I would of liked it more if I was given more complements and praise for the good work that I did when I did it. Esp good grades thing. I made good grades and it was always assumed that I made them that it hurt my feelings if my mom didn't notice. You can help her in doing chores in the beginning and tell her how much she is appreciated. I used to hate doing chores while my dad sat there and watched me. It's hard that she is at this age because she is going to college and working so it seems like to her that when she gets home she doesn't want to do anything else. I know how that goes because I've been there and that one might be harder to convince her that help is needed around the house. But however you do it, she will take it with her when she moves out. I can't stand living in a house that's a mess and ppl that are messy and she will def see why you have been pushing it. I did! My mother also had me on a curfew at 18, and I knew at that time it was time for me to move out or pay rent to her. I got my first apt and have been living on my own ever since. I'm now 22 and mine and my step dads relationship is great. I think it's because he doesn't have to see me everyday and there's nothing to complain about. (But I did learn the lesson after I moved out so all the fighting and bickering wasn't for nothing).

Sorry so long, but i figured I would share my similar story and maybe you could compare.

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answers from Portland on

This is a bit late, but I thought I'd chime in. She is an adult and if she is visiting and only staying periodically with little to no notice, then just let her know that she needs to clean up after herself. No real chores, just her own dishes, laundry, bathroom grime, etc. Not the common area of the house unless she has thrown her stuff around.

As for meals, fix meals for the two of you and the SD can fend for herself. Young adults eventually learn about healthy eating, especially if they have grown up with healthy eating habits. They may stray from healthy eating for awhile, but will come back to it when they realize that their bodies are in need of something other than junk.

Just politely ask her to be respectful of your (you and hubby) space and that she needs to clean up after herself.

She will probably come around to being more respectful when she knows you won't be doing anything for her.


answers from Eugene on

I have noticed when children are 17 years old they suddenly become rather cheeky. With my first child it was your dishes, and your...... She did participate some but I was glad when she decided to live elsewhere.
With my last child same scene only she clung like a spider to her bed. All she did was make the fire in the woodstove.
She decided to move out at 19 1/2 . We helped her financially but what a relief it was not to have her in the house.
If she can live on campus...let her and if she wants to live with roommates help her to do so.
From now until she becomes a mother or turns 28 don't expect much.



answers from Seattle on

Go on strike. If you stop doing everything maybe your step-daughter and husband will help out more or at least come to an understand that you need help too.



answers from Portland on

I know this thread is pretty much done with, but I thought I'd chime in, even though most of the posters said what I would say. My take on it is that at 19.5 years old, I lived in a dorm room with other miscreants of my age group. My five food groups were Chef Boyardee, Count Chocula, Barq's root beer, Toblerone and Nutella. I kept my laundry under my bed in a filthy, dust mice covered pile until I ran out of clothes, which took a long time since I would wear the same outfit for 3 days, including to bed. I outgrew it. Sophomore year I started eating better, but I didn't start doing my chores until I got married and had someone else's mess cluttering up my own mess. That was the point it got on my nerves. Your kid has her own threshold too. She'll grow up and learn those hard lessons about personal responsibility on her own, and if she gains the freshman 15 while she's at it, so be it. Physical fitness is also a lesson we learn best through experience.

And that's the crux of it for me and most of the posts I read: It's time for her to start learning the hard lessons through experience. You'll see her wise up a lot faster after she's had a chance to live completely independently, glorying in her own freedom (to be filthy, to be gluttonous, to stay up late, whatever). This, much more than getting a degree, is why we send people of this age group to a place where they can live in a bubble with other people in this same life stage.

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