Dealing with Wily Stepkids
Q: I'm getting really stressed out being around my girlfriend's kids. We're engaged, so that means I have to figure out how to handle them. She lets them run wild over her. The boy is 8 and he jumps up and down and throws a fit if he doesn't get what he wants. She tells him no and then tells him yes if he cries and screams long enough. The girl is 11 and she just threatens to go to her dad if she doesn't get what she wants. Sometimes she threatens to tell him that her mom can't afford to take care of her good enough or that her mom's spending too much money going out with me all the time. Both of her kids are manipulative brats. How can I get my fiancé to see what they're doing and stop it? --Ray, 40
Dr. Susan: You've facing one of the biggest obstacles to a lasting and happy marriage to someone who already has kids. There are books, courses, and counselors who can help both you and your girlfriend deal with this serious challenge. She shouldn't be intermittently reinforcing her kids' manipulations and tantrums. Many a relationship has come undone over exactly this kind of behavior (theirs and hers).
Before you go ahead with this engagement, I urge both of you to read a couple of books about stepparenting. There's no guarantee things will always go smoothly, but you can learn to keep out of the fray, and she can learn to be more consistent for everyone's sakes. If she won't see what's so obvious to you, perhaps because she feels guilty for any number of reasons, you're facing an even tougher road ahead.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.