From time to time readers send me some complicated issue they are dealing with to see if I might be able to help them through it. This is one such question from somebody who is having struggles with alien creature children who have married into her life, and they don’t like her. So ya, that never happens right? Here it is in her own words:
What do you do when your step kids don’t like you?
They don’t like rules. They don’t like change. They want to be entertained every second of the day and won’t free play. They and their mom blame me for there being rules and tie behaviour to identity and behavioural corrections are seen as character attacks. They want to go back to visiting only their dad at their grandma’s house and not participate in the family we have that’s been in place for over a year. They think they can choose where their dad lives. They did the same to their mom but it was not tolerated but this is being indulged because she is mad her ex isn’t miserable.
Signed: The Stepmonster
Wow lady, you are fighting a war on many fronts, which any military strategist will tell you is akin to a battlefield disaster. Fear not however, it isn’t your fault. Honestly, you could be any new partner for your dude, and they would hate you because their Mother is clearly being an asshole and feeding them the bitterness of her cold black heart.
More precisely, she, or even possibly your dude, may be the suffering from a low EQ and is bestowing that on the kids. As for the former wife, maybe she can’t get over herself (which often comes with the whole EX anything situation). Sadly, the children have bought in, and everybody is locked in their own funk. All troops have taken their positions, and your ass is hanging out in the wind as the only reasonable person who will inevitably take a bullet in the butt.
So now that we kind of have the dynamic figured out, what to do?
I will start with advice that I get from my own circle of friends, who are far nicer people than me. They always say not to go to my “scorch the earth” default, and try reacting with kindness instead. What they aren’t putting into words (because they are kind) is this: “Don’t be an asshole when you are mad.” Huh. OK so now I try it, and although sometimes responding with calm kindness feels a bit like I am attempting to contain a spiky cactus in my mouth, I do make the effort to respond to strife and drama without using a flame thrower.
All this to say that you could start with just being a consistent, kind and caring step-parent. It won’t be easy when you are irritated, but really, they need somebody to fight for them instead of teaching them to be mean. They are also communicating quite clearly that they don’t want anybody shuffling their asses around to places they don’t want to be. I would say that comes from kids needing to be able to control some aspects of their lives, and this behaviour you describe kinda seems like that is what they are doing. Also, the neediness and attention craving could be how they want to feel loved. I don’t know, there isn’t a degree on my wall, but if it looks like poop, smells like poop, then it is likely poop.
The next leaf you need to turn over is going to be harder. This is not your circus, and they are not your monkeys. Their Dad has to do the heavy communicating to his children, not you. He just needs your support (or swift kick in the pants) to deal with his brats and his former female. Through this process, you may discover he doesn’t have much of a spinal cord, but the integration of his kids with you is important and he needs to be seen to be managing that process. Tell him, and then tell him again. If he can’t withstand the pressure, well… you know…it could eventually lead to you pressing the ejector seat button.
I know it would be hard not to engage in all the drama and just be a sweet caring person who the kids can trust and talk to. Try not to channel the evil stepmother of every damn fairy tale. The trick is to play the long game, and accept the fact that you won’t see immediate results.
Essentially, you need to be a comfortable slow moving train. You are on the track, and nobody gets to derail or force you to lower your standards of behaviour and respectfulness. They are either on the tracks as speed bumps or on the train in a reclining seat with cocoa, it is their choice.
Alternatively, you could take six weeks away and hide in a mountain cabin. Let them all fight it out and see what is left of their cannibalism when you return. Either way, you get to keep your sanity..
Good luck pumpkin, be strong.
(Note: the author has zero qualifications to give advice other than being super old and experienced in every possible error ever made by a human)