Hi Dr. Zoe
I am having trouble with connecting with my 12yr old step daughter. I have 3 step kids. I don’t have any kids of my own. Me and my husband are full time custodians and they see their mom every other weekend. I don’t see we her respecting me. I feel like she hates me and only like to respect me when her dad says her to do so. My husband is a very wise parent. I am lucky that I have him in this situation. He talks to the kids about problem and set expectations as well as talking to them thru the problems. Please suggest me what and how to do my role. My ego gets in my ways when she makes some remarks and I get mad. I want to be a role model for her not a cunning step mom.
Dr. Zoe Answered:
Kids can bring out the very best and worst in us. And with tweenagers, it can sometimes be the worst! Just the fact that you are asking this question tells me that you are a caring stepmom. Kids are going to try us and push the boundaries. It’s their job and they do it so well—not the dishes or other chores, but they’ve got the boundary pushing down!
My best advice is to not take anything she does or says personally. I didn’t say this was easy, but it is necessary. It’s hard to be the calm adult in the mix when their energy draws you in. I get that! But if she knows she can get under your skin, she will push that button every time.
The best way to deal with her snide remarks is to ignore them, or calmly and directly ask her what she means by that? She will either quiet herself very quickly or an opportunity will open up for her to express herself.
And you’re probably right. She doesn’t respect you. In fact, it’s possible that she’s just barely tolerating you. You probably represent a lot of things to her immature understanding about her family situation and they may not all be good.
But all hope is not lost. Many bio parents struggle to connect with their tween kids. So, this is not all about the step situation, although that does exacerbate it.
I promise you (yes, hold me to it) that if you are able to love her dad well and give her a bunch of grace, yet remain a solid, consistent ear for her, your relationship will grow stronger over time. This is a long-haul situation and the current stretch of this journey is a difficult one.
The first step is to get over the whole respect thing. I know that might make your blood boil a little bit. Yes, she should respect you, but that’s not the first priority or necessity in this game. Write this saying down and keep it close:
“Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Your job is to show her you care for her—not your concern, not your advice, not your rules—your care. She is a child in a developing woman’s body—but she’s still a kid. What that means is that it is 100% your responsibility to maintain and direct the relationship.
You and your husband are teaching her how to do relationships. She is learning from you. She can’t have any responsibility for maintaining your relationship because she doesn’t possess the skills. When she becomes an adult, your relationship should be a 50/50 effort (not when she turns 18, but when she is actually a completely independent functioning adult).
Set aside some time for just the two of you. Go get your nails done together, take her out for ice cream or shopping. Invest in your relationship with her and she will be more apt to respect you when it comes time to lay down the law.
And if you’re already doing all that—keep it up. Don’t grow weary in well doing, friend. In due time, you will reap the harvest.
You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace.
For more relationship advice and related content, start here:
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Ask Dr. Zoe – How Can I Connect More With My Teen Stepdaughter?
You, Your Man, and His Baby Mama All Need Grit and Grace
Ask Dr. Zoe – Dealing with Blended Families and Different Household Rules
Here Are the 10 Commandments to Be a Great Bonus Mom
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