Stepmother Help-The First Thing You Need to Know About Your Stepkids-Stepmom Advice

stepmother advice stepchildren stepfamily
Stepchildren Are Just Being Themselves
It’s Not About the Stepmother.

If you have ever secretly felt that you hate your stepkids,  this blog is for you.  I know that these feelings are horrible.  But, it happens, right?  Between working, taking care of the house and family, plus being a partner to someone, it’s all you can do to keep your head on straight.  This blog is the first of a 3-part series where we screw our heads on straight.  I promise you will feel better.
Let’s Go Back to the Basic Biology

We all know that our egos and our left brain know the fairy tale.  Women hate each other and the kids always hate the stepmother.  It’s one of the rules.

So, when we see our children with dirty rooms, rolling eyeballs or just bad attitudes, we immediately think, “It’s the divorce! It’s because they hate me!”  No, actually, it’s because they are kids.    It’s easy to forget that.  One of the biggest complaints is that the kids don’t listen.  The good news is that they are not supposed to listen.  In fact, they are living in their own worlds…or an egocentric place.

Egocentricity is the inability to see the world, except from your own point of view. Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget theorized that the degree of egocentrism is directly related to the child’s level of cognitive development. In the infant stage (birth to age two) children are completely egocentric. In the toddler and preschool stages (ages two to six) children are unable to distinguish their point of view from that of others. In the middle childhood stage (ages six to twelve) children develop greater cognitive abilities. Therefore, their egocentrism declines and are able to visualize a situation from another’s point of view. In the adolescent stage (ages twelve to nineteen) egocentrism further declines, as individuals are able to analyze a situation from many perspectives.”[i]

Of course, there is no way that anyone would think that a teenager does not suffer from egocentricity.  You would be right. Dr. David Elkind, a specialist in adolescent development, claims that teens live in their own personal fables where they feel as if they are super special.”[ii]   I am sure that we have all seen that behavior in our teenagers.

Let’s not get caught up in our own egocentric thinking.  Don’t assume that your children’s behavior always has to do with us.  Most likely, our children are just being kids.


[i] Piaget, Jean. The Construction of Reality in the Child. New York: Basic Books, 1954.

[ii] Elkind, David. “Egocentrism in Adolescence.” Child Development 38 (1967): 1025-1034.


2 Responses to Stepmother Help-The First Thing You Need to Know About Your Stepkids-Stepmom Advice

  1. It is not uncommon for tension, compromise, and confusion to rule when the role of parent is shared between a step and biological parent. Some people still feel that stepparents aren’t “real” parents, but our culture has no norms to suggest how they are different. And the less our roles are defined, the more unhappy we are as both parents and stepparents.

    Another role ambiguity is that society seems to expect acquired parents and children to instantly love each other in much the same way as biological parents and their children do. In reality, however, this is often just not so. A stepparent might feel a tremendous amount of guilt about his or her lack of positive feelings (or even the presence of negative feelings) toward the spouse’s children. Discipline might be a constant source of family conflict: You might, for example, think your ex-spouse isn’t being strict enough, when in fact, most stepfathers and stepmothers think the real parent is not being strict enough.

    As a stepparent, you might feel like an unbiased observer with a grudge because you’re an outsider and the very thing that’s making you “unbiased” is something you resent, biology. Stepchildren, as well, often don’t react to their parent’s new spouse as though he or she were the “real” parent. The irony of expecting instant “real” parent-child love is further complicated by the fact that stepparents are not generally expected to be “equal” in discipline or otherwise controlling their stepchildren.

    Another reason for a difficult stepparent-child relationship might be that your child does not want this marriage to work, and so, acts out with hostility. Commonly children harbor fantasies that their biological parents will reunite. If children had reservations about or strongly disapproved of your divorce, they may sabotage your new relationships in the hope that you will get back together. Children who want their natural parents to remarry may feel that sabotaging the new relationship will get them back together. Stepchildren can prove hostile adversaries, and this is especially true for adolescents.

    Although all stepchildren and stepparents are to some degree uncomfortable with some aspect of their new family role, certain difficulties are more likely to affect stepmothers, and others are more common to stepfathers. Conflicting expectations of a stepmother’s role make it especially hard. As a stepparent, your best shot at happiness is to ignore the myths and negative images and to work to stay optimistic.

    As a stepmother, yes, your work is cut out for you. In fact, the role of stepmother is thought by some clinicians to be more difficult than that of stepfather. One important reason is that stepmother families, more than stepfather families, may be born of difficult custody battles and/or have a history of particularly troubled family relations.

    Society also seems, on the one hand, to expect romantic, almost mythical loving relationships between stepmothers and children while, at the same time, portraying stepmothers as cruel, vain, selfish, competitive, and even abusive (Snow White, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel are just a few bedtime stories we are all familiar with). Stepmothers are also often accused of giving preferential treatment to their own children. As a result, a stepmother must be much better than just okay before she is considered acceptable. No matter how skillful and patient you are, all your actions are suspect. Is it any wonder that stepmothers tend to be more stressed, anxious, and depressed than other mothers and also more stressed than stepfathers?

    Some researchers have found that stepmothers behave more negatively toward stepchildren than do stepfathers, and children in stepmother families seem to do less well in terms of their behavior. In fact, the relationship between stepmother and stepdaughter is often the most difficult. Yet, other studies indicate that stepmothers can have a positive impact on stepchildren. Because stepmothers are much more likely to play an active part in the lives of children than stepfathers, perhaps there is simply more to go wrong.

    Still, some step-mothering situations can make this role especially complicated — such as a part-time or weekend stepmother if you are married to a non-custodial father who sees his children regularly. You may try with all your heart to establish a loving relationship with your husband’s children, only to be openly rejected, or you may feel left out of part of his life because of his relationship with his children. In addition, a part-time stepmother can feel left out by her husband’s relationship with his ex-wife; for example, non-custodial fathers need to spend time communicating with their ex-wives about their children’s school problems, orthodontia, illnesses, and even household maintenance and repairs.

    Yet, well-run by knowledgeable, confidant stepfamily adult teams (not simply couples), this modern version of an ancient family form can provide the warmth, comfort, inspiration, support, security—and often (not always) the love—that adults and kids long for.

    Gloria Lintermans is the author of THE SECRETS TO STEPFAMILY SUCCESS: Revolutionary Tools to Create a Blended Family of Support and Respect.

    • Dear Gloria,
      Thanks for taking the time to write this comprehensive comment. We should get together. Maybe, you would like to come on The Stepmom Toolbox Show??

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