How Do I Get My Husband to Ease up on His Step Daughter?

Updated on July 29, 2017
M.R. asks from Olympia, WA
17 answers

My husband and I just blended our families. He has a six year old daughter and my daughters are 12 and 19. I'm way more relaxed than he is and he hates it. He's very critical of my 12 year old daughter. For example we agreed to put dirty dishes directly in the dishwasher instead of the sink. If he comes home to her plate from lunch in the sink, he gets pissed off. He feels by her "forgetting" she is being disrespectful to the home. Also, when I say, "just tell her to go do it" he says he shouldn't have to tell her. He also asks me why is she the way she is. I'm so sick of the nagging and tension. At this rate I feel more anxiety at home than I do at work. No one can relax. Please help.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone. I'm gonna work on this. I love the part of ... if he gets angry about dishes then that's his problem, not mine. I have depression and anxiety disorder so it gets to me bad.

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answers from St. Louis on

Ya know what, my husband doesn't put his dishes in the dishwasher, I think he knows it drives me nuts because they rest of us do unless something is stuck on the plate. Then we soak and move them to the dishwasher. He complains when we do that saying we should rinse them and set them in the sink, which drives me nuts.

Oh and the worst, he simply refuses to put the scissors in the drawer they have always gone in, it actually makes him nuts that we put them in the drawer that we do.

My point, we are a blended family, his rules do not apply to me, mine do not apply to him. What on earth makes either set of rules more important?

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answers from Norfolk on

Very different views on parenting can make for a very difficult marriage and home life.
Perhaps some marriage and family counseling might help get you both on the same page.
Blending takes time - and it's obvious you guys need to take more time than you have so far.
Tween years can be tough even without this sort of thing going on.
Just get some counseling in motion asap.

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answers from Boston on

You've gotten some great advice below. I just wanted to chime in that for 13 years, I dealt with my husband being an over-reactive douchebag to my oldest son, mine from a prior relationship. Anytime my son did something that normal kids do, he took it personally, interpreted it as defiance/manipulation/conspiracy, etc. After being accused of such things for years, my son then did deliberately look for ways to piss him off - he was going to get yelled at or talked about anyway, so he made a game of it.

I'm single again, and it's lovely. So much more peaceful to share my home with just my children and not an overgrown, petty, irrational man-child.

Please get some counseling together to nip this in the bud now. In the beginning of my marriage, I was pregnant with one kid after another pretty early on and was really hell bent on making our blended family work, to a point where I bent over backwards and let a lot of nonsense slide. I wish I drew a line in the sand over this much earlier than I did.

He's the adult. He decided to enter into this new family. Your daughter is just along for the ride. He should be doing everything in his power as the new adult in the family to make her want to be a willing passenger on this ride and not a hostage. It's on him to bend and accommodate and ease into this. I hope that with some help, he'll be able to see that and change.

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answers from Portland on

Meant kindly: if you are dealing with anxiety and depression, please definitely find your own counselor to help you manage this. (I currently manage my anxiety disorder quite well; I have had a lot of therapeutic help to identify triggers, maintain a mindful sense of reality so I don't get swept away with the biochemicals which do this to me, and use medication to manage it as well: all this has been life-changing, which is why I recommend it.)

Like some others below, I too, suffered from having a very authoritarian stepparent and am glad for you that you are identifying the problem and seeking advice. I agree with others that, especially right now, your husband should come to you if he has complaints and let you address your daughter. I also think *he* needs some counseling as well, to deal with the 'why does he feel disrespected and what's at the root of that?' I know, in my stepfather's case, a lot of his behaviors as a parent were learned from his experiences as a child (military schools, very rich, hands-off parents... I learned this over time, from listening to his stories, but didn't put it together until I was much older. I just feel sorry for him now.) The point of the counselling individually first is that one has to address their own beliefs and behaviors before starting family counseling so that it's not devastating to your daughter, who he perceives to be a problem. (also speaking from experience).

For me, if a spouse did not want to address this, it would eventually be a dealbreaker. Sorry. Walking on eggshells is not a healthy way for anyone to live. It is not a loving way to live. Your daughter needs you to be an advocate for her; not to put her above your husband, but for you to expect your husband to treat her with respect if he wants respect from her. As others have said, when children are put into this situation, they have a rough time feeling good about the parent that decided to let it continue. I don't say that to stress you out, but to make it clear that even as she grows up and eventually moves out, that resentment about her circumstance will grow.. it doesn't go away on its own. And she may very likely lose her self-esteem, because if Mom will let her be treated badly, maybe that's what she deserves in life? See where I'm going with this? It's not that she shouldn't be held accountable for her actions or responsibilities (and I do have my 10 year old clear his dishes a couple times a day. It's just a good practice.) It's that her small negligence should be treated as you are treating it... a small inconvenience, not a personal insult.

ETA: I'm astonished that some feel that this is an act of defiance or disrespect. As parents, we are supposed to choose 'what's important' and not make it all about us. It's a biological fact that puberty/teen years and the hormones have an effect on the brain. I'm going through perimenopause and am forgetful at times. Can't we offer some flexibility and understanding to our children? The people we are supposed to love?

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answers from Houston on

Your husband is going to get a crash course in parenting a teenager. yes, you have to remind them ALL THE TIME. Did you shower? Did you brush your teeth? She is not "disrespecting" the home. She is being a teenager. All he needs to do is say "hey, dishes in the dishwasher, please".

I think family counseling would benefit everyone. Blending families is difficult.

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answers from Miami on

You two need to go to marriage counseling. If you don't, youll wish you hadn't married him. And your daughers will always feel that you chose him over them, even when they are grown, because you didn't try to get him to work with you. Instead, they will feel that you chose the path of least resistance by just letting him have his way.

A counselor can help him understand that the person in the family who is disrespectful is HIM. He doesn't understand pre-teens and teens yet. He is acting like your daughters should think and act like adults. They aren't.

Don't let him ruin your adult relationship with your daughters in the coming future. Demand that he join you in counseling, or change your living arrangements. Tough, but your kids should have at least come a close second to marrying this man, if not first...

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answers from Boston on

You and your husband aren't on the same page at all. That's a red flag. Blended families are tricky anyway and they take time, but it sounds like you have totally different parenting standards.

It's too bad this wasn't addressed before the wedding, but the horse is out of the barn on that one so all you can do is go forward. I'd start with marriage counseling and maybe family counseling.

Your 12 year old isn't "disrespecting the home" - she's being a normal tween! Your husband will find this out when his 6 year old is 12. Does the youngest live with you primarily? Or is she just coming in on weekends and so she's not a daily parenting chore for him?

Your husband can either lighten up and be glad the dishes are in the sink, or he can put a little sign on the faucet that says "Dishwasher?" or he can parent his own child and leave the discipline and rules of the older girls to you. He feels he shouldn't have to tell her - and that's fine - telling her becomes your job.

My concern is that he asks why she is the way she is. Is this a veiled criticism of you and your parenting? I'd be in his face about that!

This is not about dishwashers and plates. It isn't. It's about bigger things - who's the boss, what's normal for a tween/teen, what "power" he may feel has has lost by joining your home, or some issue he has from his past. I don't know which, but you need to get to the bottom of it.

He thinks nagging and tension are a good dynamic for this family? That's not going to work. Sounds like you know it. But if your solution of "Go tell her yourself" is to put it on him, he's going to use his own style with her, which doesn't sound too nurturing or patient. I think that creating a hostile environment with a teenager is a very dangerous path - she'll go find some other guy who is nice to her, or she will find someone who treats her just as aggressively as your husband does and she'll wind up being abused.

If you have anxiety that needs to be treated - go get treatment. No shame in that. But if you don't solve the underlying problem of vastly different parenting styles, this isn't going to go away. You either need to agree with each other on how you are going to handle discipline (and which "offenses" are discipline-worthy and which should be ignored), or he needs to keep his mouth of your child and you keep your mouth off his.

Good luck - but please don't delay.

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answers from Santa Fe on

It sounds to me like the problem is you two have different parenting styles. He is authoritarian. You have to both come up with an agreement on how you are going to handle things in a way that you both agree to. You have to stop being relaxed with HIM and tell him matter of factly that you do NOT consider it disrespectful if a dish is not in the consider it just a tween forgetting and being distracted and you do NOT believe in making a big deal about it. That from now on he is to simply remind her calmly or let you handle it. If he cannot agree to changing I think you two should do some kind of parent counseling together bc maybe hearing things from a 3rd party will make him think more about changing. Maybe not though. My mom had a boyfriend who lived with us for 7 years (when I was age 11 to 18) who was VERY authoritarian. He was a total a**hole and a bully as far as I was concerned. I still feel pretty pissed off at my mom for bringing this man into our home and making life miserable for all of us for so long. Seriously...there was so much tension all the time. I would often just hide in my room. When I meet other parents my age that are very authoritarian in their parenting style I am quite wary of them...I really disagree with parents being so overbearing and jerky towards their kids. Yes, I make my kids (7 and 13) put their dishes in the dishwasher. Yes I usually have to remind them...almost always. Yes sometimes they do it on their own without being asked. I just don't turn it into a power battle and that is what your husband is doing. He gets ANGRY about it. He takes it personally. It pisses him off. Please work with him to get him to be more kind and forgiving towards his stepdaughter. She is a work in progress. If she forgets something it is NOT something she is doing TO HIM. If he refuses to change you have a problem on your hands.

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answers from Washington DC on


Welcome to mamapedia.

You need to define "just" - when did you get married?
Did you and your husband NOT talk about discipline and expectations prior to moving in together?

Your family needs help. It sounds as if he is singling out your 12 year old daughter. The rules need to be the same for EVERYONE in the house. Not just one.

If he's upset over a dish in the sink? that's HIS problem. This is NOT a major crisis. A major crisis and being disrespectful is if she takes off without permission or willingly damages another's property - THAT is disrespectful - a dish in the sink? That's BS.

Set down. Have a family meeting. Get the expectations of the household out there so that EVERYONE agrees to them. EVERYONE is on the same page. Same expectations, rules, etc.

A household that walks on eggshells is NOT "HOME" but a war zone. Tell him things must change and that change starts with HIM. He needs to back off. A plate is mole hill and he's making a mountain out of it.

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answers from Anchorage on

She sounds just like my two, 11 and 13. This is normal for preteens/teens, you do have to remind them often because they are so easily distracted. I would have a very serious talk with your husband about how he is allowed to speak to her, my mom finally told my step dad point blank (after he yelled at me for dishes in the sink) that she would handle me and he was not to tell me off again. She is the way she is because she is 12, it is that simple.

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answers from Wausau on

Honestly, this is something that should have been sorted before the wedding. It sounds like your marriage was premature. If you didn't do pre-marital counseling with a therapist who deals with blended families, go see one now.

When families are newly blended, there is a long adjustment period. If your husband expects immediate compliance with changed habits, he is doomed to be disappointed.

For now, make an an agreement - you are the sole authority of your kids, he is the sole authority of his, except if a situational safety concern arises. He does not monitor, scold, or punish your daughters. You do not monitor, scold, or punish his.

You're not ready to actually 'blend' so you must live somewhat as roommates for now.

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answers from San Diego on

Yes, it's the usual dysfunctional blended stepfamily dynamic.
Why are you subjecting your daughter to this experience?

Don't let your children be mistreated and bullied in their own home....

Tell your husband to back off. This passive aggressive approach is unacceptable.

He is obviously targeting your daughter making her the enemy in your home to deflect the real issues and problems between both of you.

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answers from Portland on

You can talk to your daughter, put a sign up to remind her .. beyond that, they're kids. They forget.

The problem I have with what you've written is - you're taking on the stress he's feeling. That's the part that I would be more concerned with.

My husband is super laid back, but gets annoyed by stuff like that too (dishes). I could care less. Sometimes I hear him griping in there (muttering to himself). I don't want to hear it. I remove myself from the equation. I don't get stressed because I don't allow myself to. It's his problem if a dish is going to upset him. Not mine.

For us, it's pretty minor. It's not every time, just some days he comes home tired from work and finds a few dishes, and gets annoyed. I get it. I'm home and I suppose I could be reminding the kids to put them in dishwasher. Well - I do to a point, but I have other stuff to do.

So - if he's being unreasonable (which sounds like he is) just let him stew.

Talk to your daughter at another time, and remind her to clean up.

If it's bigger than this - then that's a problem. I get where you would feel the need to protect her but also feel you need to handle/deal with this because she's his step-daughter. Everyone just has to try to be mindful when living together - just remind them both of this, and tell him it's stressing you out that he's not a bit more accepting. If he responds poorly t that - then bigger issue.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I've been thinking about your question since I read it this morning.

I have a couple of questions. Does his child put their dishes in the dishwasher? Why is your child an exception to the rules? Does your child always leave their dishes in the sink? Or maybe once a month forget?

In my opinion, if everyone else but your child is putting their dishes where they go then your child isn't following the rules. Period. No "He's picking on her" no nothing. If she's not following the rule then you should also be dealing with her oppositional behavior.

Natural consequences would be that she has to stop whatever she's doing and come back to the kitchen and put her dishes where they go. Then she'd learn that following the rules allows her more time to do what she wants.

A friend of mine, when she was in elementary school, had gone to school one morning. The office called her in and her mother was there. My friend thought one of her grandparents had died, they were older and very sickly. Her mom took her home and told her to go make her bed. That she was tired of my friend not following the rules. So my friend went up and made her bed then her mom took her back to school. To this day my friend gets up and makes her bed every single morning.

Your kids are old enough to have consequences of choosing to not follow the rules. If it were me and everyone else was following the rule I think she'd only get paper products for a week. Throw them in the trash when she's done and not put dirty dishes in the sink.

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answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Gamma. Husband is not picking on her - he expects a 12 year old to be able to follow a simple rule and he should be able to expect that from a 12 year old. The fact that there are no other dishes in the sink should be a reminder to her not to leave hers there. IMHO,this is clear defiance. In my house, there would be a consequence for that.

That being said, blending families is extremely difficult. It will take a good solid 6 months minimum for everyone to adjust - possibly longer. I don't believe in the "you take care of your kids and I take care of mine. " That's not blending anything - that's parallel living not a family and it will breed resentment.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You should completely relieve him of parenting your daughters. If he has a problem with something that they do, he should come to you and let you handle it. If you think that a reminder is the appropriate response, then you remind her. Unless it is an emergency (eg, someone is in imminent danger and could be injured if the situation continues), he should wait for you to get home, let you know of the issue, and let you handle it.

This should help the tension between him and your daughters. Then, you and he get into marriage counselling to learn how to handle the different parenting styles.

Good luck!

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answers from New York on

It sounds like you are not being honest with your husband. Communication is key.

To use the dishes as an example - when you say "we agreed to put dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher", what does that you truly care *where* the dirty dish goes? If not, why did you lie/pretend like you care enough to "agree" to the dishwasher rule? Tell your husband: IT DOES NOT MATTER WHERE THE DISH GOES, PLEASE SHUT UP ABOUT IT. (You can catch a tone with him if he is doing that with your daughter.)

On the other hand, if you "agreed" to put dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher because you truly believe it is important to do so, explain to your daughter why that MUST happen and create a sign to remind her next to the sink.

Do not agree to "fake unenforced rules" simply because your husband likes rules - be honest with him about your [more relaxed] feelings.

ETA: I agree with the idea from some other responses that a "quick solution" might be to just agree with him that neither of you is allowed to say anything other than positive praise to AND ABOUT each other's children (so, he cannot say critical stuff about her to you, either). You each discipline/criticize your own, unless the other child is "on fire" (really doing something dangerous).

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