“My teenage stepdaughter loved me yesterday and hates me today. What happened?”

17 Nov

Teenagers: they love you one moment and hate you the next.

I have a friend who is an unmarried BioStep like me.  She recently asked me for some advice on how to deal with her 13-year old stepdaughter and said that I could share our conversation with you.  Our conversation is timely since almost everyone I know with tweens and teenagers is pulling their hair out dealing with behaviors and bad attitudes.  Is it because they’re stepchildren?  Is it because we are truly “wicked stepmothers”?  After reading the question and answer, if you’ve got some additional advice, please chime in and comment.     

Question:  What do you do when your stepdaughter hates you and thinks you are a bitch and too critical on everyone? She went from loving me a month ago to hating me in a heartbeat…telling her dad that I am way too critical on him and that she hates it and me!  Part of me doesn’t care what she thinks, but now when we are in the same place it is ice cold and she gives glares that could kill. I already told DH that I need his support in dealing with behavior.  I’m disgusted at how she acts towards him when I am around, but of course he won’t do anything about it! 

Answer:  So what do you do when your teenage stepdaughter hates you?  That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?  When you’re a stepparent it’s easy to attribute bad behavior to being a stepchild, or being a child of divorce.  The truth is that many of the behaviors that our stepchildren exhibit are age-appropriate and aren’t solely directed at us.  So the first thing to remember is that your stepdaughter is 13. It’s her “job” to love you one moment and hate you the next. And not just you, but EVERYONE.   Her angst towards you however is compounded by the fact that she probably has some loyalty issues to her mom which makes you an easy target.   I’ve got a three-step strategy that I’ve used in difficult relationships in my life that seems to make things manageable.  Take a look:

1.  I have found is that the best way to deal with an SD who hates you is to kill her with kindness. It’s hard to mean to someone who’s always nice to you and expects nothing in return.  It may take a few weeks or a few years to come around.  Worst case scenario is that she never comes around at all. But you can rest knowing that you did your best and treated her with kindness despite her behavior towards you.  I just keep reminding myself: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

2.  DH and you have to show her that you have a strong relationship and DH has to be willing to be the one to tell her to stop acting disrespectful to you, the woman that he chooses to spend his life with. This is what I’ve found to be the biggest challenge in most stepfamilies—the dad “chickens out” and gives his children free rein to act completely inappropriately towards his wife.   Your relationship with DH will only survive if you both make it a priority and if he explains to your stepdaughter what is acceptable and what isn’t. She doesn’t have to like you, but she does need to treat you with respect and/or give you the same common courtesy that she would give to a stranger.

3. Now, here’s the hard part. You have to look in the mirror and ask yourself if any of her criticisms are deserved. When my best friend was getting a divorce (and I was still married) a wiser, older friend of ours asked her “What is your part in the demise of your marriage?” I’ve applied that to every troubled relationship I’ve had since I heard that.  Try to be more mindful of the behaviors that she takes issue with.  For instance, are you too critical of DH?  If your stepdaughter is suddenly critical of you, is it completely out of the blue, or is there an issue or behavior that you could work on?

Teenagers are a crazy bunch.  A dear friend who has a blended family of 8 recommended a book that I found very helpful called, “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy!: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind” by Michael Bradley.  My copy is dog-eared, underlined and highlighted to the max.  It gives some great explanations as to why teenagers act the way they do and strategies to deal with them without engaging in WWIII.  Chapter 1 “The Adolescent Brain” was an eye opener for me and it sets the stage for the rest of the book.  I highly recommend this book if you’ve got teenagers in your life.

Relationships are hard work.  Relationships with your stepchildren are a lot of hard work.  Sometimes that hard work pays off and sometimes, even 20 years later, you’re still on the outside enduring the cold shoulder.  Remember that her behaviors are age-appropriate, albeit unacceptable, and aren’t necessarily directed at you because you’ve suddenly become “the wicked stepmother”. Live your life with integrity and honesty, treat her with kindness and firmness, and don’t let her mood swings affect your relationship with DH. Most importantly, give her time.  After all, she IS a teenager, next week she may love you and hate her brother instead.

11 Responses to ““My teenage stepdaughter loved me yesterday and hates me today. What happened?””

  1. Judy Graybill November 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    This is a great post. I dealt with the same thing personally and have since figured it out. The tips mentioned above seem to be right on the money, IMO. Her age and feeling a conflict of loyalty with her BioMom are the most likely reasons for her behavior. I would not suggest “killing her with kindness” though. If it comes across as sucking up to her, the effect would be the opposite of what you desire. It would not earn you respect. Definitely check your own behavior and ask yourself if you are acting differently toward your SD than you would a different loved one. What are your internal feelings or thoughts? Are you projecting frustration of your own? Maybe you are afraid to get too close to your SD. Fear of getting too close and losing another family is valid for either step parent or step child. She may feel the same way, especially if she senses that you’re fighting with her dad. Hence, strengthening your partnership/team/relationship with DH would have two-fold benefits.

    • BioStep November 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

      I would agree that keeping the “killing her with kindness” method in check is a good idea. Don’t go overboard and certainly don’t suck up. Just be kind in the face of adversity and don’t react to the negative stuff negatively.

  2. Erin November 22, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    The year before my stepdaughter was diagnosed as anorexic it was me that kept reminding her she needed to eat things that had a fat content. It was me that pointed out something was wrong — both to her and to her mom and dad. She was 12 when all of this took place. It was also me that she told everyone was being mean to her and it was me that was told by my husband and his ex-wife to “shut up” about her eating habits. When my stepdaughter was diagnosed and admitted to an inpatient hospital for her illness, it was me that was brought up during intake about who she hadn’t been getting along with and who was making her life miserable. I know now that it was her illness talking. She’s now 14 and on the road to recovery and we get along really well. I want to believe she knew I was trying to help her and that her teen-age stubbornness goes away somewhat because she realizes I wasn’t trying to mean, just helpful.

    • BioStep November 22, 2010 at 10:19 am #

      When she gets through her teenage years and out of the clutches of her disease, she’ll realize that you’re the one that saved her life.

      So many times, it’s the stepparent that will point out a problem or an issue that parents can’t or won’t see. There’s something to be said about having an extra pair of eyes around where parenting is concerned, don’t you think?

  3. Matt November 28, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    For me it all started in 2000 when I met my girl friend. She had a daughter (then 8). I decided to get serous with my now fiancée and fully knew that if I take on her, I also take on her daughter. The fist years weren’t bad in fact they were great, I took them to Disney world and when she (the daughter) got in to her teen age years we had actually talked about building a truck together. She was like the son I never had and we shared about everything together. Her mom is an alcoholic and there were times that we would break up. My step daughter would always stay in touch and when her mom would sober up we would get back together again. One of the times her mom got drunk she (the daughter) stayed at a friend’s house and when I went to see her something was different. When she saw me she had the look on her face that said what the hell are YOU doing hear. Eventually her mom and I got back together again but things continued to go down hill. She began to have disrespect for both her mother and I. Things like getting her to clean her room usually turned in to an argument. The truck that we were going to fix up together started to turn in to; I could fix it up for her and then just give it to her. This did not fly with me. I eventually told her that she would either help me fix it or forget it. She told me that “the only reason that I kept that truck is because I liked one of her friends”, making it seem like I really liked one of her friends. Now she is 19. She almost always gives an attitude to both her mom and I over anything we ask her to do. (Clean her room, pick up after herself ect.) The backtalk, the sarcastic remarks and lack of respect are I think getting out of hand. Today was the worst. She had got a shower and left her clothes, towels and make up every where. I asked her to pick it up. Now when I tell her to do something, I use the word “please” and I use a calm tone and when (or if) she does do it I always say “thank you”. I had to ask her several times. When she finally did, she flipped me off and at one time told me that she aught to punch me. I had enough. I said to her “why do you have to act like a C#&@”. OK I know that I should not have used that word but I’m at my ropes end. On top of the attitude, she does not have a job nor is trying to get one, she stays here rent free, her mom pays for her cell phone and her satellite TV. Any time she wants something she gets it. All I want her to do is pick up after her self, clean her room once in a while. And give the respect her mom and I deserve. What’s going on? What else should I do?

  4. R W December 9, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    I am not a stepfather, but am living with the woman i plan to spend the rest of my life with along with her 3 children (2 boys 5&6 and a 15yr old girl). I have one son of my own from a previous marriage who lives with his mother.

    I find myself in a situation where the relationship with MOM is at risk of falling apart due to issues between her daughter (I will call her “egg”) and I.

    In reading this article, it is somewhat reassuring (in a twisted sense), that I am not the only one in this boat.

    The one difference I feel I have, is that i truly love Egg, she is smart, athletic and full of potential. However she has a sense of entitlement that until no I had never experienced. She has gotten to a point in her life where all that she cares about is socializing and boys (I am very aware of this being typical). She is neglecting her homework/schoolwork. In the past she has maintained 3.0-3.5 GPA and is now at a 2.75 which is only a result of not turning in homeowrk and putting no effort into studying (actually, no effort into anything)

    My son is 13 and is very respectful and mindful of those around him. He has chores and responsibilities that he is held accoutnable for and consequences if he does not do as expected.

    I have (mistakenly) tried to exert some form of authority and boundary setting. This has resulted in major issues between MOM and I (and Egg and I obviously). Her mother is exhausted from dealing with Egg on her own in every sense for the last 14 years. Eggs father does not have a parenting bione in his body and is more interested in whatever takes the least effort on his part (letting her do as she pleases).

    I have a huge flaw in that I am a “problem solver” even when some may not want any problems solved. When her mother complains to me about some outlandish attitude issue or lack of perfromance from Egg, i kick into my “let me fix it” mode…..BIG MISTAKE as i am learning.

    Anyhow, now that i have rambled, thank you for this article. This along with other infromation i have found, has given me some things to consider such as “Yes, I AM overly critical of Egg” without question. In retrospect, i think it was me going into overdrive on my “fix it” approach to try to correct things as soon as possible (which only frustrates me (and MOM even more with me) when i dont see the desired results ASAP!).

    I am learning quickly that i need to let Eggs mother take the lead and when the two of us dont agree, MOM is MOM, as long as there is no direct disprespect cast my way, I should be fine.

    Thank you

  5. Judy Graybill December 9, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    R W, It’s admirable that you took the time to do a little research and read about other people going through similar issues. It is not twisted to feel relieved that others are going through the same thing. It’s human nature to want to believe we are “normal”. Others going through a similar situation gives us that. Plus, it helps us figure out what, if anything, we should do differently. It’s good to hear you have a new understanding that will help you. If your relationship with MOM continues to go downhill, I hope you would consider talking to a professional in Step dynamics before calling it quits. Having a realization is the first step, but it sometimes requires others to also adopt a new perspective. Remember, it takes 2 to argue.

    Matt, it sounds like there are other things going on in addition to stepfamily dynamics. If your wife is still drinking a lot, you may want to consider Al-Anon to figure out if her daughter’s attitude is a reaction to your wife’s unhealthy attitudes, which often accompany problem drinkers. There are many other possibilities, but we don’t have enough details. You may want to seek a professional opinion.

  6. Amanda December 28, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    I am dealing with this as we speak. My 14 year old step daughter hates me and says that her father is “wrapped around my finger”. She is nice to my face and acts like she loves me and even tells me she loves me only for me to find out that it’s just the opposite. I do alot for her and her brother as if they were my own. I treat them exactly the same as I do my two children. I don’t play favorites. If ANY of the kids do something they know is wrong there is a punishment. And if ANY of them deserve a reward I give it. I just recently found out that her and her friend have been talking about me for awhile now and saying some not such nice things about me. I am very hurt and betrayed. How do I confront this issue?

    • BioStep December 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

      My advice would be NOT to confront the issue. She knows what the truth is (and so do you), and giving any credence to her smack-talking just fuels the fire. Continue to love her as you have. This won’t be the only time you’ll feel hurt and betrayed. She’s a teenager, there’s whole lot of hurt coming up over the next few years. Batten down the hatches!!

  7. Annelie February 16, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    I do finally feel that I am not crazy! I have been married for almost 5 years to my husband, he has a daughter (now 14) and a son (now 13). He divorced his wife because she neglected the kids and slept around. They were divorced when the boy was only 6 months old. I do not have kids of my own and really was so happy when I met him and we later got married. I was so excited and I love them with. I have never ever spoke bad of her mother or denied her to talk about her, she even have some photos of her mother in her room. We do not know where her mother currently is, she does not have any contact with them since she left. I actually thought everything was super! I thought we were the happiest, most normal family in the world. I did not expect anything from them and their father never asked them to do anything. In my euphoria of being a happy mom I wanted them to learn responsibility and discipline. BIG MISTAKE!!!!!! She just told me she doesn’t want to do anything and I can’t make her. She ignores me like a stop street. I have been trying to get them in a routine getting them to go to sleep every night the same time. Monday night I asked her to go to sleep 5 times and she just ignored me, when she finally switched of her light she was on her cellphone the whole time. I warned her that I am going to take her phone if she doesn’t stop and switched it off. As per usual she ignored me and I took the phone. When my husband found out that I still have the phone and did not give it back he blew his top and he asked me for a divorce as I am bullying his daughter. Every night when he comes home he will greet his son with hi (lets call him john) a simple hi john. When she finally decides to come out of her room to come and greet him (which for me is a total sign of disrespect), or if he goes to her room and greet her he will greet her (lets call her jane) with a “o where is the most beautiful, sweetest, cleverest girl in the whole world” His boy gets nothing. He will pay thousands of rands for her and for what she wants but if john wants something it is just a matter of no, there is no money for rubbish. I am not sure where to go or what to do, currently as I am sitting here I am not even sure I still have a marriage. And I worry about her, she is going to get hurt a lot and I don’t even want to talk about john, the boy just being ignored. She is bullying him and ordering him around as if he is the slave in the house. He is the only one actually doing anything and if he gets some money she gets exactly the same. For doing nothing.

    I am not sure what to do. I am sure it is all my fault as I think I have tried to hard to be a mom to her and she does not like the rules and discipline. I have actually thought we would get past this. Personally I did not think it out of the ordinary for a mom (or stepmom) and her daughter (or stepdaughter) to sometimes fight. I personally thought it quite normal.

    But obviously I was SO wrong. I am not sure what to do. Must I just pack up and go or try to make it work

    • Judy Graybill August 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

      Hi Annelie,
      It’s been a few months since your post and I don’t know if you’re still in the same boat or not. It’s not uncommon for stepcouples to break up and get back together multiple times. Even if you’re still with him, I doubt it’s all turned around in just 6 months, although it’s possible, particularly with outside (professional) help.

      I’m not sure what you feel you were wrong about. “Normal” is a tough at best to understand because every family has a bit of uniqueness. A Stepmom or mom can argue with a daughter or stepdaughter and still have a healthy relationship, depending on other factors. I’d say your mistake was in thinking that you were one big happy “family” (instead of a “stepfamily”) and thus allowing yourself to act as a “mom” would instead of a “stepmom”. Sorry to break that to you. 😦 I understand why you thought that, though, as you were together for 5 years. Conventional thought would agree with you. Most in your position would probably feel the same way and make the same mistake. Though that may help you to realize others would make the same mistake, it doesn’t help you.

      This can only be turned around if you and your partner get on the same page. It seems that he doesn’t have the same views of disciplining her as you do. He probably never did. It seems that he felt his discipline of her was just fine. There was definitely a communication break down in your relationship with him. When he first started feeling that you were bullying her, he should have come to you. When you first started disciplining her, what was his reaction? Whatever it was, that’s your first clue as to whether he’d be on board with your way of disciplining. That’s when the conversation about what to do and how should have happened. It would’ve saved lots of grief and stress.

      Disciplining a teenager out of the blue, after little or no discipline, is a recipe for backtalk and disobedience. Simply stated, they won’t take you seriously, whether you’re a stepparent or biological parent. Being a stepparent has the added effect of being accused of heinous thoughts or feelings by your partner.

      If you’re still in this situation and trying to work these things out, I suggest you get clear on exactly what you’re willing to put up with and for how long. While you’re figuring that out, work on understanding your partner, his parenting style, and learn proper ways of disciplining teenagers. Your best bet is if your partner is willing to learn with you about how to raise a responsible teenager.

      I hope this was helpful as I don’t know what your current situation is.
      Wish you the best!

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