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Real Life Step Parenting Advice

Updated on October 13, 2015

I will be the first one to tell you that most children do not want a stepparent. I will also tell you that it can be hard being a step parent. Real life step parenting is not like the movies at all. It's not like a T.V show where everyone always lives happily ever after. Some of you may disagree with me and if you do, then awesome! That means that not everyone out there has had a difficult time adjusting to this big lifestyle change and that is honestly wonderful news. But, there are families out there that struggle everyday. My mother struggled everyday. I became a stepchild when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My mother struggled everyday trying to keep the peace in our home between my stepfather and I. I also struggle every once in a while trying to keep the peace in my home as well.

I have been on both sides of this step parenting equation; I have been the stepchild and I am a stepmother. I have insight into both minds. I will share with you my "secrets" if you will.

Before jumping head first into this new and life changing experience, you must make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page. In order for your new family to run smoothly (most of the time) you and your husband/wife must be on the same page regarding discipline, rules, expectations etc.. If you and your spouse are on different pages, then you and your spouse will Not make it. If you are not on the same page regarding these issues that come up then this is going to leave both of you tired and frustrated and it will make your marriage and home unstable and unhappy. I know this because my mother and step father were on completely different pages in regards to parenting me. Their relationship ultimately ended because of their differences in parenting styles and their lack of compromise. I know that sometimes having this conversation with your husband/wife can be awkward and maybe even uncomfortable, but please do it. You will thank yourself later for taking the time to figure out a parenting style that suits both of you. Compromise goes a long way.

Dealing with jealousy.

Many children experience jealousy towards their step parent. I know I did and I know my stepdaughter did as well. I remember I would get so irritated and jealous when my step father would show my mother any type of affection. It would upset me so much that it made my stomach hurt. I'm not exactly sure why children feel this way, but I believe it's because they're used to having their mother or father all to themselves and it can be hard to adjust when a parents affection must be shared. I remember when my step daughter had issues with jealousy. She was about 3 years old and when my husband(boyfriend at the time) would hold my hand, she would try to get in the middle of us. I know it can be irritating when you have a little person trying to pry themselves between you and your spouse, but you should try to remember that this child isn't used to sharing their parents affection. I can also assure you that most of the time this behavior subsides over time. I eventually got used to my step father and him showing my mother affection became the norm to me, as it has with my step daughter. I have a couple of tips that I used that can help you and your step child deal with jealousy;

Give Space.

When my step daughter would try to get between my spouse and I, I would let her(only a couple of times in the beginning). It lets the child know that you're not trying to exclude them and that their parent still loves them. But, as time goes on and the child gets older, the prying should subside. If it does not, then I would suggest you and their parent speaking with them about how you're in this family too and that you're not going anywhere. Their parent should also explain that trying to get between you and their parent is rude and and rude behavior will not be tolerated. Of course, this method only works when the parent knows and realises what is going on. If your spouse does not see this as rude then you and your spouse must have a sit down and talk about it. I would suggest allowing the child to get in between you and spouse three times at the most and after that, I would put a stop to it. I was lucky enough that my husband saw what my step daughter was doing and he put a stop to it before I had to say anything. Having an understanding partner is always very helpful.

Choose your role carefully.

Some step parents have no idea what their role is. In the beginning, I had Zero experience with children and I had no idea what my role was supposed to be. Am I supposed to be a second mother? Just another one of Daddy's friends? More like an Aunt? I decided very early on that I was going to be none of those. I found my place and am happy with what I have chosen. I have chosen to be a Positive Female Role model for my step daughter. I am not her mother, nor have I ever tried to be. Step children already have two parents and no matter how bad one of those parents are, they know they have two real parents. Period. They Do Not Want a replacement. This does not make you any less important! I know this because as I said, I had a step father, I know what it is like. I know this is hard, but I would suggest trying not to compete with the biological parent. The children will see this and their Bio-parent will always win. I have not replaced my step daughters mother, but I have taken over this role. Not intentionally, but it is out of my control.So, due to the circumstances, I have taken over the role. I can not replace her mother, but I will continue to provide for her, feed her and be someone that she can talk to if she ever needs me and I will continue to set a good example for her and my own children. I have also been in the situation where we only saw my step daughter every other weekend. When this was the case, I was still just a role model. I listened if she ever needed me. I was my husbands helper when he needed any help parenting her. I would not suggest being a big sister or just a friend because a child may lose respect for you and begin to treat you as a peer instead of a respected adult with authority. Like I said, choose your role carefully.

Dealing with your jealousy.

When my husband and I first started dating, I would try to stay away during the weekends he had his daughter. Being around during their time together made me feel like a third wheel or an outsider. I also felt a little jealous. It was almost the same feeling I had as a child towards my step father. After talking with other step mothers out there, I have realized that this feeling is completely normal and it happens much more than anyone talks about. I didn't like sharing my husband and I was conflicted. I knew it was wrong for me to feel irritated that his three year old daughter needed more time and attention. I knew how much she enjoyed spending time with her daddy, who at this point, only saw his daughter every other weekend. As time went by, I got used to her and she got used to me. I learned that the love he had for his daughter was obviously much different than the love he had for me. I also learned that he was struggling at the same time; Trying to keep both of us happy was difficult. It takes time and patience to adjust.

Who should Discipline.

Many step parents have this question and I have found the answer that works for me. My husband has always told my step daughter this: "You don't have to like [your step mom,] but you will be polite and respectful." Since I am the one that is home with our children during the day, I am usually the one that has to discipline when the time comes. I am very fortunate that my step daughter is a great kid who doesn't need much of it and she rarely, if ever, gets into trouble. I usually use a stern voice and time outs for our children. I have never spanked my step daughter and neither has my husband. There has been no need for it. I would strongly recommend that a step parent Not use any corporal punishment for their step children. I strongly believe that this should be left up to biological parents. When I am with our children during the day, I am the adult and they know this. I will ask my step daughter to do something and she usually does. There are occasions when I have to ask more than once, but only because it's something she has forgotten about or is seriously trying to avoid. I have had to put my step daughter in time out and when my husband got home, he spoke with her in her room. If a problem or argument comes up between our children, then I intervene. I will ask all of them what's going on and I will ask them to stop doing whatever is causing the problem. If the problem is not resolved, I remove the one that is causing the problem and if needed, there will be a time out in a corner or in their room. If something very serious comes up, I address the problem right then and there, handle it accordingly and speak with my husband about it when he gets home. Usually, if it is something major, he will feel the need to pull my step daughter into her room and speak with her about the problem or behavior. As long as you choose your role carefully from the beginning, discipline shouldn't become a huge issue.

The dreaded Ex. The all knowing biological parent.

Ah, the Ex wife, Ex husband, Ex girlfriend or the Ex boyfriend. How do you handle them? Do you handle them at all? Should you be formally introduced? Should you pretend like they don't exist? So many questions.....

I will start off by saying that I Do Not interact or speak to my step daughters mother and I intend to keep it this way. However, there are people out there who have to interact with their spouses' ex.

I was never formally introduced to my husbands ex and this is perfectly fine by me. There are some people out there who feel the need they must be introduced, they must interact etc etc. I don't. I am talking more about the unstable, violent, hostile, mentally ill, or just very jealous or difficult ex. I don't have experience dealing with a stable or normal ex, so I can't give advice on that area. However, I do have advice on dealing with a crazy jealous ex and a mentally unstable and violent ex. I don't. And what I mean by that is I don't deal with her, I don't really acknowledge her either. I don't have to and I have not allowed myself to be put in the position where I have to deal with her. I have been in her presence at my step daughters sporting events and at school events though. She sits in one area and my husband and I sit in another. During visitation drop offs and pick ups, usually my step daughter gets out of one car and hops into another. Most of the time neither parent get out of the car, unless the ex has informtion. When something has to be shared, usually they roll down their windows and exchange info that way. During a sporting event and the ex feels she has something important to tell my husband, I keep my distance. I don't need to be included in their conversation and he will definitely tell me what was said later anyway. So, do I handle her? The short answer is No, I do not. I have chosen not to and I will do everything in my power to keep it that way. I married my husband, not his ex. But, as I said before, if you must interact with your spouses ex, I would try to keep it business like. There should be no arguing, no hostility and no disrespect. If something like this comes up, I would suggest finding an alternative because the children should not be subjected to their biological parent arguings.

Real life step parenting can be hard, but it should not discourage you. As long as you and your spouse have clear ground rules and open communication, then your home should run much more smoothly. You must find a happy medium in your step parenting and when you do, you will find you're a happier person.

© 2012 Dannell


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      Sherry 2 years ago

      My husbands daughter who is 3 is currently coming more into our life. We weren't allowed to see her for a very long time because of her mothers jealousy. We now have her and the connection they have is amazing. Why so these feelings of jealousy, abandonment and sadness overwhelm me? About a month ago I miscarried and it was my first baby. I find it very hard to be around my husband and his daughter. I'm trying my best to fit in the best way and not feel like an outsider. But now she is talking rude and starting to hit and throw tantrums. I'm running out of ideas. Please help!

    • profile image

      sylvie 4 years ago

      \I almost died when I saw your comment on how she used to get in the middle, my step daughter still does that after 6 years and she is 19!!

    • profile image

      Debbie 4 years ago

      Hi. I am a step mom of a 12 year old girl. She is very sweet and a good kid. Makes honor roll when she is pushed but has to be kept on top of. My boyfriend and her mother have been apart for about 10 years. The mother was never really there for my step daughter. Even when she had custody my boyfriend was always picking up his daughter and taking her places. The ex only got pregnant to keep my boyfriend and take his money. Long story short my boyfriend now have full custody even though his daughter has been fulltime living with him for about 7 years. Over the 7 years her mom only saw her once or twice a month. At the end of last summer the mother took us to court to force my step daughter to see her, my step daughter did not ever want to see her mom and use to cry when we had to tell her to go. It was very hard on all of us but has gotten a lot better. The mom is now supposed to have her every other weekend, take her to dinner once a week and have her on all her vacations, half holidays and half the summer. Which was starting to happen but has now started to get messed up again bc my SD does not want to go and her mom really doesn't care that much. I try my best not to take her moms role but when it comes to discipline my boyfriend and I usually agree on things and both have rules and punishments we both enforce. However my step daughter is always lying and manipulating people to get attention and try to get my boyfriend and I to fight. She gets very jealous of my boyfriend and I together. She has pushed all my boyfriend's other girlfriends away and my bf is scared I'm going to leave too. She is always back talking and trying to get anything she wants which isn't hard bc she is my boyfriend's princess and when she is punished ends up getting of and doing things punished kids shouldn't be. I am having a lot of trouble dealing with fitting in, my boyfriend and his daughter always say they don't have enough time together but she spends every night with us and he sees her for hrs a day with her when I'm not around. I'm not sure what we should do anymore about the lying and especially about her always trying to get between us. I have told my bf I would go away for a weekend and they can have time together and he gets upset like I don't want to be with him or them. I'm so confused and feeling like I'm going crazy.

    • Dannell profile image

      Dannell 4 years ago from Washington

      No, not at all :)

    • profile image

      Mary 4 years ago

      Thank you I thought I was going crazy.

    • Dannell profile image

      Dannell 4 years ago from Washington

      Jealousy is normal. Some people will deny it and deny it more, but I'm going to tell you it is completely normal. Usually, no one expresses this strange feeling we have. Personally, it's not something I would discuss at home, but that's just me ;) It's something that I've had to work on for many years. It will get easier. And like you said, the love your husband has for his daughter is completely different than the love he has for you. You say you're pregnant; Congrats! When you have a child of your own, your views change. Sometimes the feelings of jealousy aren't as strong, sometimes the "Mama Bear" instinct kicks in and many step mothers feel ultra protective of their children around their step children. I don't think you need counseling, unless your jealously is interfering. If you feel counseling will help, then I would do it.

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      Mary 4 years ago

      Good article. I'm a step mom to a 10 year old daughter. I'm curious about my jealousy towards her. I've been with her dad for three years. My step daughter lives in a different state and comes to visit every month, holidays and stays the summer with us. I really don't know why I'm feeling jealous since I know it's a different type of love. I do give them there time. You mentioned in your article that its normal. Do I need counseling or just time? I am also pregnant how did you handle your pregnancy with your step daughter any advice?

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      Rachel 4 years ago

      Thank you so much - I think I just needed someone else's opinion, I guess sometimes you just feel like you might be doing the wrong thing and worried about upsetting people.

      My partner knows it makes sense I think he is just worried she will take the changes as a "your sister takes pride of place" situation.

      I think we just need to make sure we explain it properly and make sure she understands the reasons we are doing it.

      Thank you again I really appreciate it.

    • Dannell profile image

      Dannell 4 years ago from Washington

      Have you talked with your husband about your idea? Is he on board with this? My opinion is the same as yours. It's not about "demoting" your step daughter, like you said. It's about thinking ahead to the future. It makes sense to me that the child who resides 100% of the time should have the 'bigger' room, only because more time will be spent in the room. I would speak with her father and explain your point of view and then you and him should make the decision together and then explain to your stepdaughter. I hope my thoughts on your situation help.

    • profile image

      Rachel 4 years ago

      Brilliant article.

      Any advice for my current situation - my step daughter whose 10 sounds very similar in nature to yours - she is a good girl, polite, well behaved. She is very much a daddy's girl and I give them their space as much as I can because I know and do understand she is used to having him all to herself.

      We now have an 8 month old daughter which has come with its challenges but my partners daughter knows how much we love her and she is 100% part of our family.

      We are due to move house in January which we do not intend to move out of for a long time - if ever. It will be very much our long term family home.

      My problem is that one room is a double and the other a single - currently his daughter has the biggest room - she is the biggest sister so it makes sense. My issue is that my daughter will grow up in this house until she is an adult and ready to move out - as opposed to my partners daughter who comes once a week

      If not every other week. She never plays in her room as we are out or even when given the chance she will spend time with us

      Downstairs playing in the front room or watching tv. Any time spent in her room is usually in the morning to watch tv when she wakes up.

      My point is that my daughter will inevitably spend a lot of the

      In her bedroom playing etc as she grows up- just as I did growing up (i know she is only a baby now) but I don't want to "demote" my partners daughter to a smaller room in years to come when our daughter has grown out of her room an needs extra space to play in.

      On the other hand I don't want my step daughter to think she is any less important.

      Do you think we could explain the situation to her as I have on here. Ashe has the big bedroom at home and a very loving mother so she is definitely not deprived in any way.

      So please help!! I need some friendly advice.

    • profile image

      Angel 4 years ago

      I loved it. I was a step child and I notice most articles about step parenting is done by someone who has never been a step child. I really do not like my step dad. I loved the part about "roles" which my step dad doesn't understand. He is not my dad unfortunately he keeps calling himself that. I still haven't forgiven him for smacking me in the face and I never will. Good hub. I hope this hub does continue. Good to see a good step parent.

    • Dannell profile image

      Dannell 4 years ago from Washington

      Thank you. I'm glad you found it helpful! That was my goal.. to help at least one person out there!

    • profile image

      Kristin 4 years ago

      What a great article. This is the only article I have been able to relate to, and I have read many many articles and blogs. Thanks so much!


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