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Dealing with Teenage Stepchildren

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 10 Jul 2020 | comments*Discuss
Dealing With Teenage Stepchildren

As seasoned parents will tell you, it can be hard to deal with a teenager, but teenage stepchildren can be especially challenging. No longer children, yet not quite adults, teens often test their limits by rebelling, disregarding house rules, and refusing to recognise stepparents as authority figures. While the teen years can be difficult, parents and stepparents can take steps to make them a little easier.

Establishing House Rules

Whether they like them or not (and they usually don’t), teenagers need rules. Although teens are nearly adults, they are not quite there and still need guidance from their parents and stepparents. Teenagers may be inclined to deny their stepparents’ authority, but it is only reasonable that the kids in the house (and that includes teens) be expected to offer their stepparents a reasonable amount of respect and compliance.

House rules should be discussed and agreed upon by both parents in the household so that the kids don’t get into the habit of playing one parent against the other. Ideally, natural parents should take the lead role in enforcing the rules, but stepparents need to be obeyed, too. Sometimes, though, kids (and especially teenagers) may have an easier time accepting rules when they seem to come from their natural parent.

Teaching That Actions Have Consequences

Teenagers need to know that their actions have consequences, so breaking the rules should result in some loss of privileges. The teen’s natural parent should take the lead role in matters of discipline, but they need to make it clear to their children of all ages, teens included, that the stepparent is to be recognised as an equal authority figure.

Stepparents find that it is easier to deal with their teenage stepchildren if the teens have been raised to expect that their ability to enjoy certain freedoms is reliant on their willingness to be respectful and cooperative. Unfortunately, not all children have been taught appropriate self control, and reining in a teenager who has been allowed to misbehave without worry about the consequences can be a daunting task.

Even the most obedient children are likely to go against their parents’ rules once puberty hits, but they must be made to understand that the rules are to be obeyed, even when they disagree with them. While some teenagers are certainly easier than others to deal with, all of them must be expected to adhere to a basic set of safety and respect based guidelines.

Enlisting the Help of a Teen’s other Parent

Ideally, all of their parental figures who are influential in the life of a teenager would work together to establish and enforce a set of standards for behaviour that the teen is expected to comply with, no matter which of their parents’ homes they are at. It can be difficult for parents and stepparents to work together, though, but the resulting differences of rules at each house can end up working against all of the parents’ hopes to raise a teenager who is well-behaved and self controlled. Even if bitterness and hurt feelings remain between the adults, they should do all that they can to set their differences aside when it comes to the children. The best way to deal with raising kids in a blended family is for the natural parents to agree on a uniform code of behaviour and then enlist the help of their spouses in carrying out the plan.

Respectful Parenting

Teenagers are just a short step from living on their own, so it is vital that they be provided with the tools they’ll need to help them succeed once they’ve moved out of their childhood homes. While it can be challenging to deal with the moods and sometimes less than stellar behaviour of teens, parents and stepparents must try to keep their own emotions in check as they guide their teenagers toward adulthood. Calm, consistent discipline, reasonable rules, and a willingness to listen can all help teenagers and their parents to get through the turbulent teen years with as little drama as possible.

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When I met my now husband, he had a daughter who was 8 years old. Her biological mother stopped seeing her when she was 5 even though she lived 15 minutes away. The mom had a new baby with her current boyfriend, so my husband had their daughter full time and raised her for years with the help of his mom. I grew attached to his daughter instantly and it was obvious she longed for a mother figure. We married when she was 11 and I've been helping raise her as my own daughter. When his daughter was about 13, her biological mother suddenly wanted to see her but it was only once every 6 months kind of thing. After more than 8 years of no interest and now barely any, our daughter started showing more interest in this person who pretty much abandoned her. Now our daughter is 16 and sees her biological mother every few months. I show support in front of our daughter and do not say anything negative about her 'mother' but the attention she so strives for hurts me more than anything. I am the one with her every day for years, helping her through school, when shes sick, taking her to appointments, shopping for anything and everything, the list goes on and on, just like any good parent, but our daughter shows so much love and attention to this "mother", for what? I guess, there are no real answers, its natural in most ways but it doesn't stop it from hurting. I don't have a child of my own, I think of her as my own. Of course there is some jealous mixed in because I want the love that this other person is getting who doesn't deserve it. My husband doesn't understand so its hard to express what I am going through to him. I am writing because I have no one that understands or is going through what I am and it seems this place it somewhere people maybe can relate. that's all, thanks for 'listening'.
Malbae - 10-Jul-20 @ 3:39 PM
I’m a stepmother to a 14 year old boy. He’s been with me since 4. When he was little he used to cry when he had to go home to his mum. He stays with is from Tuesday to Friday but now he want to stay at weekends as well. His dad takes him a football Wednesday, Thursday night and Sat and Sunday, now it going to be Monday nights as well. His mum never takes him. I’m feeling like where do I fit in. He stayed with usTuesday went home Wednesday and came straight back Thursday and stay Friday night. He’s out until 10pm then coming in getting in shower Xbox I can’t relax. I work hard all week but went with it knowing he would go home Saturday and we could have a night to ourself with some peace but then he asked if he could stay again his dad said yes because I understand it’s difficult but I said no. I was so looking forward to one night alone with peace without having to get up at 5:30 for work. I feel terribly guilty everyone was upset. Why don’t his mum tell him to come home so it don’t put us in this position? Is that wrong?
Green leaves - 23-Feb-20 @ 8:31 AM
Since my step daughter started grown up who is coming up to 13. I have been part of her life since she was 5. I'm finding it harder and harder to deal with her and get very frustrated with her. Now my other half had now walked out on me with all the kids. As it has got to much for her. Which I have 2 with
Kbaker - 14-Jul-19 @ 3:16 PM
I am married and have 2 stepkids. The daughter who is 15 in the last 8 months has become impossible to live with, she lie's to her mother to get her own way. When I tried to discipline her for treating me so horrible and back talking she told her mom a whole different story, told her Mom she couldnt live in our house any more, that she wanted to live with her Aunt, so my wife took both kids the daughter who is 15, and son who is 12 and are allowing them to live with the rich aunt, now the kids have servants, are allowed to run the streets, they refuse to come back home. My wife is now treating me like I am the problem, when all I do is work 60 hours a week to provide a new 400K house with pool. My wife is now staying at the sisters because he can't be without her kids, she doesnt have it in her to discipline her children. I am losing on every front, for 7 years I helped raise these kids, now they are teenagers they have decided they will not abide by our house rules, there mother lets them dictate where they will live, they are refusing to come home, thus putting us closer to divorce. I don't know what to do. How do I deal with the rich sister, wanting the kids to stay with her, now my wife, I am just befuddled on what to do.
Tired in Indiana - 20-May-19 @ 8:39 PM
I have known my step child for 7 years now and her dad alway assumes I will do everything for her. He gets upset when I put my foot down stating that is I have no clue what is going on till the last minute then I am not doing it. His daughter is 15 and they both have cell phones and yet I am still the last to know what is going on even when I ask that morning. He always says that he didn’t think it was a big deal since I didn’t have anything going on. He never jumps down his baby mommas throat to help w their daughter but yet he does it to me all the time.
Maychild - 22-Mar-19 @ 9:19 PM
Hi I am 29 and my girlfriend is 39, she has a son and a daughter, now her son is 14 and her daughter is 8, we have a son together and my son is 7 months, the real dad leaves 5 mins away from our house and i have been noticing the 14 year old attitude has started changing, with his baby brother he talks rude to the brother and says it as a joke to him that why does his breath smell when he is only a baby, i have noticed the 14 year old has started talking back to his mum and i feel like he is trying to take over as in been a man of the house, he does some things that is very stupid sometimes example we had a broken ironing board leg by our storage room and he started playing with it and dropped it downstairs. i then said to him really did he have to drop that and why is he holding it in the first place he then answered back to me with why can't i hold it which was a very stupid answer, i even had a big argument with the mum the other day who is my girlfriend and said i have to be calm, i do not put my fingers on the kids i tell them off and i feel like i cant be the man of the house due to this child. i just don't know what to do anymore, there are times the daughter is annoying but i can deal with her but the son i just don't know anymore.
Danzz1 - 20-Feb-19 @ 6:02 PM
My stepdaughter is 17 and I’ve been with her dad over four years. The problem is, he is very mellow and let’s her get away with a lot of attitude and discipline, and I’m left feeling very disrespected. She is here every other week, and when she is here the house is extremely chaotic and I’m left feeling like it’s not even my house. I bite my tongue and keep quiet and go to him with the issues that bother me, but then he gets angry and says I’m being “too hard” on her and he feels in the middle. Please help!
Pinkisperfect - 27-Jan-19 @ 7:12 AM
I a Stepchild of a Marine, and we live on a military base. usually, I'm fine with him. I follow the rules, I do my chores, and I do normal things a teen SHOULD do. However, there are those days where He just seems to Hate me. He gets on my nerves, and he usually has this 'Talk' With me almost every day how I should respect my mother, But I DO!! I Help her, I don't disrespect her, and, in fact, the only time I've talked back was going through a depression a couple years ago. apparently, when I'm in a bad mood, I have to say 'Yes Sir' or 'Yes' instead of 'Okay'. I'm at the end of my Sanity with this Stepparent. Help?????
Aidan - 2-Oct-18 @ 2:21 PM
@Sarah. Completely feel for you. There's not much you can do but weather the storm. Most teenage kids are the same but it feels different though when it's not your own. Speak to hubby and try to sort the matter out with him. I went through this with my own daughter. The issue is that I've sorted all the rebellion problems out with her and now I have met someone who has two teenage daughters who are giving me the same hell. LOL.
SD - 22-Feb-18 @ 11:13 AM
I have been with my husband for 14 years. He has a 17 year old daughter whose life I have been in. She was living with her mother until 3 years ago when he got custody. Things were good until after she turned 16. I went from being mom to being Sarah. And when she doesn’t like when I question her she curses at me. She’s very disrespectful and sometimes I think I am going to have to call the police on her. My husband drives trucks and is gone for 3 weeks at a time. Help please. I’m at the end of my rope.
Sarah - 21-Feb-18 @ 8:40 AM
@Grandma - can't you step in to help look after your grandson? It seems someone needs to if his father won't. His father sounds as selfish as the wicked step-mother, sorry to say.
Billie - 8-Jan-18 @ 11:33 AM
I’m trying to find a self-help book for my 46 yr old son to read, but can’t find anything that might address his truly special set of problems. He has a very sensitive, depressed,16 yr old son who has been through so much.His mother left them when he was approx 8 yrs old; and he has cried like a baby every time she has to leave after a visit.She left him with his dad out of guilt.She took her 2 older sons with her, from a different father. My son then dated and married a narcissist 4 years ago, who clearly has never been able to treat his son (my grandson) with love or respect.She clearly favored her younger daughter over him, even though my son treated the children the same. She was unfair & hateful, in every way possible, to put it lightly.My son was easily convinced by her that the son was in the wrong, not her.And that she was only trying to “make him stronger”.She admittedly doesn’t like children, barely even her own, and BOTH of their bedtimes was still 8 pm!(Even at 10 & 14 years old!).My clueless son was in love and didn’t want to fail at a 2nd marriage.We found out too late, around 2-3 years ago,that my grandson was cutting...both arms all the way up and down.They tried counseling...she went one time & refused to go back.My workoholic son took his son anyway, but only around once a month.I don’t think they even go anymore The hatred grew between the evil step mother & my precious grandson, until finally 1–1/2 yrs ago after returning home after the summer with his mother in a different state; she started verbally bullying as usual, and for the 1st time ever he broke loose and screamed all the hateful things he had ever wanted to say for the past 5 years.I should make it clear that he never had never talked back before, out of fear.He lost cell privileges all the time for things like not eating all his vegetables, or leaving the bedroom light on. She decided he was a danger to her daughter and kicked my son and grandson out of “their home” in to an apartment!They’ve lived there for going on 2 years; my grandson is basically raising himself, as my son spends all his spare time with her, working on her home improvements, and spending the couple nights a week with her, that he doesn’t have to work at his 2nd shift job.There is no one home to drop my grandson off at a friends house, or work or school when needed.He can’t get his license because no one is there to help him get his driving hours in.I could go on and on.My son refuses to talk about any of it... she has him convinced that WE are the narcissists who just want to control his life.Grandson wants to go live with his mom, who has no money or even a house.She lives in a crowded house with her girlfriend.My son is trying to make everyone happy, but clearly doesn’t understand why his son does not feel loved.I’m so sorry to go on & on.Is there any hope?Or help?
Grandma - 7-Jan-18 @ 3:50 AM
@Thinking of calling- ...it off, perhaps? It's probably not a good idea to get married if you can't resolve this issue and you are already arguing about your SS. Think about how you'll argue about it when you're married. If you can't get on with the kids save yourself a lot of anger and heartache and don't marry the parent.
raxchel - 23-Oct-17 @ 2:38 PM
My fiancee has a 16yr son. Who is very disrespectful to not only me but his mother. Neither mom or dad really make him mind. He is very disrespectful to me and instead of my fiancee making him mind we end up fighting or not speaking for days after. I was rsised with respected and discipline. I raised my daughter the same way. This kid is lazy disrespectful smart mouth brat. I don't deserve to be treated like that. I wouldnt stand for it. I'm at my wits end!
Thinking of calling - 22-Oct-17 @ 10:29 PM
@JTV65 Thank you so much for your response. It is incredibly helpful to hear from a male/father who has experience with spouses/children/step-children. He is going to a therapist today and seems committed to addressing these issues and also says he is going to insist his boys go as well after he has had a few sessions. I don't think any of the 3 of them have coping skills for change- I'm hoping this helps. I loved his boys and really thought I did my best to make them happy and comfortable- cooking what they liked, cleaning their rooms, going to their games. I was just hurt that they would insist he leave me (and my kids, including an 8 year old) and even more hurt that he didn't stand up for me- we were married. Best of luck with your issue- and again- thank you for the advice. I am open to all of it!
AmIcrazy?? - 29-Sep-17 @ 4:19 PM
@AmIcrazy? - It's all about compromise on both sides. It seems you are in a really tricky position - but it sounds like you have done the right thing and it has given him time to think and reflect. You have to understand also that these are his sons and he probably feels guilty enough as it is. I know - I've been there. A lot of men just really want to keep the peace.....they don't want aggro. He's not keeping the conversation from you because he is acting duplicitously...... he will just not want to rock the boat or upset you further. We are simple creatures really - made more complicated by circumstance. I have a problem with my ex's step-daughter (which is what has brought me to this page)..But let him have the time with his boys, don't be jealous (it can't be a me or them situation - if it is you will always be unhappy and resentful). Keep away from his kids if you don't like them and let him get on with fathering his sons, he has a right to do that. If you love him, stay in his life. He's just trying to be a father and coping with a situation that he's probably not designed to be able to cope with and muddling his own way through it, like we all are. Regards, John.
JTV65 - 29-Sep-17 @ 11:46 AM
@Izzy80 - I did end up leaving with my kids and we are back in separate houses. He is determined to go to therapy (now that I've left) and 'try to find a balance.' He say's he is devastated that we are apart but he keeps our conversations secret from his boys.I am hurt and angry that he didn't stand up to them for me and for us but at this point it is either have a completely separate relationship with just him or cut it off all together.I love him but I don't know how we can ever move forward with these issues. #1- they way his kids act and call the shots and #2- the fact that he will play into it and leave me out in the cold.
AmIcrazy? - 28-Sep-17 @ 5:42 PM
@AmIcrazy??? I think I'd be telling my husband that he can spend as long as he likes with his sons because you're outta there. I can understand that he may feel torn, guilty and all the rest, but there is no need to take it out on you and your kids. He's not being very supportive and is almost choosing sides. A little separation might be better - you don't have to ditch the relationship fully, just have two separate ones, you with your kids, him with his.
Izzy80 - 28-Sep-17 @ 11:46 AM
I moved to another city with my 3 children to be with and marry my husband. His 2 teenage sons, now 17 and 18, decided they would not be a part of it and after living with him for 10 years, moved to their mothers. They basically told him to either leave me or they would not be a part of his life aside from dinner once a week. They have no rules or boundaries, neither parent disciplines and there are no consequences for smoking pot, lying, skipping school, bad grades, speeding tickets etc. My husband is convinced that he ruined their lives by marrying me and that they act this way because they are so emotionally distraught over not having their father to themselves. If they were my kids (my kids would never act this way)- I would not tolerate it and there would be accountability. Instead, my husband apologizes to them, gives them spending money and begs for their love. Little by little the resentment towards me and my kids is building- he seems angry that mine are here and his are not. He told me recently that we won't be able to spend holidays together going forward b/c his boys don't want to be around my family so the 3 of them will make separate plans. Am I crazy??
AmIcrazy??? - 27-Sep-17 @ 4:32 PM
I've been married too my wife for a little over a year i have children from a previous relationship my daughter 10 years young and my son 12 year young and my wife has 3 children from a previous relationship her two boys 18 and 19 years old and her daughter 14 years old... And i see that my stepdaughter is a handful she doesn't like too listen too mr at all and from what im being told my wife did say that her biological father raised her so she didn't have too listen to anyone and not respect her mom
Shizzb02119 - 26-Sep-17 @ 9:56 PM
@Chrissy - but what can you do? How can you prevent it when they are in the same school together. Lilly.
LHI - 21-Aug-17 @ 3:15 PM
My step-children are 12 and 14. My 14 year old took drugs from someone in school to get rid of them for her. Her mother thinks it's okay for these two to still hang together and we have forbid her from hanging out with her again. So now she is doing it behind our backs. Are we being unreasonable for not wanting her to hang out with someone who brought drugs to school?
Chrissy - 21-Aug-17 @ 1:35 AM
I'm 30 my husband of 3years has a daughter DAT came to stay with us last year, she's 19 and has a tendency of doing wrong things on perpouse and when we talk to her she. Will just ask for forgive ness and promise to never do it again ,now she came home at around 02H30am my husband said he is going to send her back to her grandmother but the following day he just said eish he does not wanna talk to her coz his gonna end up beating her and his the only parent she's left with
Enough - 13-Aug-17 @ 10:23 PM
@motherofjo I just read your post and am happy to say that I got a place of my own for my son and me. I move in, in a couple of weeks.We are continuing our relationships but we are just living separately. I'll be out of the house for at least a year so hopefully that'll give time for everything to settle down. I really appreciate everyone's advice on this.
Beyond_frustrated - 15-Jul-17 @ 6:47 PM
@pleasehelp - I'd be tempted to walk away. It seems as though the mum has everything under control and if one child doesn't want to speak to you both and the other is rude, then the therapist is right, there's not much you can do. It's unfortunate, but some things can't be fixed, no matter how hard you try.
EdieBass - 7-Jul-17 @ 11:56 AM
My husband got divorced in 2009.I feel it's important to state that he never had a hand in "taking care of" or disciplining his 2 children.His ex is a professional nanny and wouldn't let him...she felt she knew best when it came to the kids.But he allowed this so moving on... He was in another relationship following the divirce for about a year then he and I started dating.We dated for about a year then began sharing a home together.We have been married for 2 yrs.When they divorced his ex convinced him that it would be better for the kids if she took them and moved to her home state to be near her parents/family.He is a very non-confrontational, gentle person so he agreed.They were 6 and 10 at the time.His son is now 13 and his daughter is 17.We live in VA, they live in AZ.Like I said, he is a very kind, gentle, mild natured, responsible man.He has always paid child support on time or early and all other expenses as the court ruled, as well as paying the full cost of school trips, health ins., cell phones and bill, etc.His ex placed a restriction on his visitation that he could not bring me to meet them unless we were married.We visit about 4 times a year, and most of the summer.She also placed a restriction that he is not allowed in their home or any of her family members home.She will not allow me to contact her at all and will not allow any contact with the children unless it is through her.His daughter wants nothing to do with him at all despite the many letters, cards, emails he's sent over the years, and attempts at trying to talk to her.His son (Joey) is very rude, inconsiderate, and disrespectful, to both of us.Joey has had some social, behavioral, emotional issues, ADHD, and I believe Asberger's to some degree.We can't confirm anything regarding the kids health because their Mom will not share it with us. A few years ago he made up (or dreamed) I don't know, a story that I was there when he was born and I'm the reason his parents are divorced.Which of course is untrue.The troubling thing about this is two fold - He believes that I told him this, and he told this to his Mom and sister.My husband asks me to ignore Joey's behavior, that he will grow out of it, but it's unacceptable to me, and I believe it's doing a disservice to Joey as well.I fear for both children's future ability to have relationships outside their Mom's bubble.The kids went to a therapist for a while and we met with her as well - one time - her response at the end of the meeting was basically "you're just going to have to deal with things the way they are until they decide to let you in".I wish we could all go together to try to work through things, for the kids sake, but they don't want to and neither does she.It's all very stressful on us and I'm at a loss.
pleasehelp - 7-Jul-17 @ 12:10 AM
@Beyond_frustrated - you don't have to live with your b/f. Take the best of the relationship andwhen she moves on and gets her own life and then talk about living together again. if you love each other the love will continue x
Motherofjo - 30-Jun-17 @ 3:36 PM
@wings - there are lots of situations where is comes down to; 'it's either the kids or me'. You definitely don't want a 16 year old on his own in your house when you're away, it'll end up getting trashed. You need to talk to your OH without it causing a row, surely he must see your point of view????
AlisaH<3 - 29-Jun-17 @ 3:57 PM
My stepson is very rude and disrespectful not just to me but to everyone. He only moved in with us a year ago and since then it has been nothing but turmoil. I am scared I will loose my marriage over this...I finally had enough and asked him to move back to his mothers as I just could not do it anymore. He is 16 and we going away for holidays and he did not want to come so we told him that is fine but he has to go to his moms while we are away. He decided that did not work for him, as he always does and said he will leave to his moms basically when he wants, which was the straw that broke the camels back for me and I finally said I cannot do it anymore and he needs to leave. This is hurting my husband, tremendously but I just cannot have his constant turmoil in my house. What does one do with a teenage who does not respect you, your home or your rules and just thinks he can do whatever he wants when he wants???
wings - 28-Jun-17 @ 6:36 PM
@Bangmyhead - you need to talk her dad about this. Talk to your stepdaughter/stepdaughter (it's not clear what relation she is to you)and make sure she knows how NOT to get pregnant. There isn't much you can do unless you ask her dad to put an end to the tenancy. If you have parental responsibility of the daughter then you could take the matter to court and request that she is too young and that she moves back in with her dad and/or you. Sorry if I've got the gist of this wrong, but it's not clear whether she's your kid or not. I hope she doesn't get pregnant - she would be very silly if she does. Fliss.
Fabro - 27-Jun-17 @ 4:17 PM
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