Not sure how to reach SD

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by LostSF, May 14, 2010.

  1. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    Hi everyone. It's my first time posting.

    First, I want to say that while life with my SD has been very difficult, it's nothing compared to some of the stories I've read on here. So please don't take my posting as suggesting that my situation is as difficult as some of yours. But I've been looking for a place to get advice and this seems like a good place with good people, so I wanted to give it a try.

    First, the background. My SD is 14, and lives with her Mom and I full-time. Her Mom and I have been married for almost a year, and were seeing each other for three years before that.

    Her parents divorced when she was 9, and both her parents were emotionally abusive to her (and each other) while they were married. Her Mom was a yeller, and her Dad was very manipulative, lied, made false promises, never took responsibility for his action, yelled and used guilt to get his way.

    After leaving the marriage her Mom got a lot of counselling and is now a good, non-yelling, supportive Mom, but her Dad still continues with his abusive ways. We currently have her in therapy, although she resents having to go and resists any suggestions from the therapist that would require her to change her behaviour.

    While I don't think my SD has a conduct disorder (at least, not a serious one), she is extremely difficult -- beyond what I would expect from a normal teenager. She lies regularly, refuses to follow the house rules, refuses to listen when we try to talk to her, tries to manipulate us and ALWAYS gives attitude whenever we ask her (however politely) to do something.

    She also cuts herself (not seriously or regularly, but it's still a concern), gives her address to strangers on the Internet and has only one close friend... a young girl who is even more damaged than my SD is.

    Sadly, I know that a lot of my SD's inappropriate behaviour is learned and she's just doing what her mother did (the yelling) and her father does (the rest of it). We have tried very hard, in many different ways, to show her that this behaviour is destructive, and in some cases even dangerous.

    But she just doesn't listen -- even when the same message is sent by her therapist or others. We are supportive, loving and understanding, although that's been getting harder and harder to do. We set rules, she finds a way to break them. We try and explain why the rules are in place, she ignores us. We impose consequences for breaking the rules, she tells us she doesn't care and then proves it by repeating the behaviour again. No matter what we try, we can't get her to listen to us and change her behaviour.

    My SD has apparently always shown signs of these behaviours (anger, not willing to listen), but we had hoped that we could help her to change once she was in a healthier environment. But that just hasn't happened.

    Right now it's very frustrating, but my wife and I are very concerned about what choices my SD will make in a few years if we can't reach her.

    So here are the two issues I'm hoping someone can offer advice on:

    Issue 1: How do you get a child to make good choices when they refuse to make good choices, refuse to take responsibility for their actions, refuse to listen and refuse to follow rules? It feels like we need to be watching her 24/7, and it's exhausting. We don't know what else to do at this point.

    Issue 2: From pretty much day one, my SD has been cold and resentful to me. She rarely acknowledges my presence, replies in one-word responses when I try to speak to her and talks as if I'm not in the room whenever we're with other people. She's also told several people she hates me. I have tried everything I can think of to reach her and form some kind of relationship with her, but nothing has worked. I'm kind, considerate, thoughtful, funny... but she hasn't shown even a little sign of appreciation or acceptance of me.

    In therapy she admitted that she doesn't know why she doesn't like me, and admitted that she wouldn't like any man that her Mom chose to be with. Her Mom's told me that my SD has always been very jealous of her Mom's attention, and it appears to us (and the therapist) that her behaviour is based on that jealousy.

    I've heard that this isn't necessarily uncommon with stepchildren, and that it could take years for her to "warm up" to me (if she ever does). I understand that, and I could live with us having a polite, civil relationship, but after four years it's really bothering me that she treats me like I don't exist. Can anyone suggest any ways to get her to at least treat me with the respect that we would expect her to give a stranger?

    I appreciate any advice you can give.
  2. jal

    jal Member

    Hi LostSf,

    I unfortunately do not have advice as I have not been there done that, but I wanted to welcome you and let you know that others will be along soon and that they may have some very good ideas or words of wisdom. You have found the right place. There are a lot of caring and supportive people here.
  3. dadside

    dadside New Member

    Take a look at outdoor family-oriented programs. I'm a great believer in the power of the outdoors. And it is clear that if you can all cooperate for the common good you will build some bridges you can use in the future. Not to make your SD a different person, but to build respect - mutually! You may also find some comparable programs available through a local organization.
    Lasted edited by : May 15, 2010
  4. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Dadside, this board has a policy of not mentioning specific programs publicly by name. I would appreciate your PMing your suggestions to the poster.
  5. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    My husband and I have been there done that! My easy child son (yes, easy child) avoided contact with my husband as much as possible for years....and only used Mr. X as the form of address. Never did he even refer to him as "my Mom's husband". Yikes. My eldest stepdaughter is 52 and she is "polite" to mebut there is very little warmth after thirty plus years.Personally I don't think you can do more than be yourself, try not to monopolize her Mom's time and attention and provide an outside professional to help her work through her issues. At least she has someone she can speak freely to should she need to vent. Most restructured famiies have difficulty. The lucky ones are able to establish bonds in due time. The process often takes years and years. Having everyone be on the same page as far as respectfulness is hugely important in my humble opinion. Good luck to you all. DDD
  6. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    My SO came into my oldest sons life very age 2. Even at that young age, he has never called him Dad. He is Tony. Even though he was the only father he ever knew most of his life. His bio-father was not active in his life at all.

    Now my son and my SO have a great relationship...pretty much the same as all the boys. Tony considers that he has 3 boys. Exactly what he wanted in life. Billy has been overheard calling Tony either "my dad or my step-dad" when referring to him in conversation though. It is complicated to explain the
  7. dadside

    dadside New Member

    smallworld -- Sorry about the name.

    LostSF -- your message settings don't allow PMs, so I can't give you the name. The idea is a guided outdoor experience and challenge shared by the family.
  8. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the board, LostSF. Miss KT has been hostile, rude, awful, etc. to my Hubby for the last ten years. One-word (or no) answers, acts like he's in the way, and basically treats him like he's something stuck to the bottom of her shoe. He resents it because she can't behave like a civilized person, I ended up being called to mediate for the stupidest things, and I nearly fell apart myself from the stress and tension generated from the armed camp I was living in. 14 through 17 were the worst, and then marginal improvement she's almost decent most of the time!

    Is your SD on any medications? Is therapy working at all for her? I ask because therapy for Miss KT was a huge waste of time and money. We're fortunate that her doctor was on the board of the only adolescent psychiatric ward in the area (that closed...those wonderful CA budget cuts!), but he works with her informally during her medication check-ups.

    If my Hubby had not been loving, supportive, and determined to keep our marriage together, we might not have made it this far. You and your wife need to work on keeping your marriage strong, and present a united front. Wishing you and your family the best of is not an easy road.
  9. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    Thanks to everyone for welcoming me. It's nice to have someplace to share my story.

    I've responded to some of the comments below, but I'm still hoping an answer to my questions around getting my SD to take responsibility for her behaviour.

    We're running out of ways to make her care about the consequences of her actions, and still she continues to break the rules. Nothing major yet thankfully (that we know about, anyway), but she just regularly and almost predictably breaks the rules whenever we're not there to monitor her behaviour.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to reach your child when their response (either through words or actions) is "I don't care" no matter what kind of consequences/restrictions you put on them?

    Thanks dadside. I know which one you mean. I'd actually looked into this a few weeks ago... I'll take your advice and take a closer look. And I'll try to fix my PMs. :D

    Thank you for your reply KTMom91. Your situation sounds exactly like ours.

    My wife too has felt very much in the middle. I've tried to stop that or at least reduce it by only talking about the bigger things, and to support her the best I can with the stuff she has to deal with. But it's not easy... for either of us.

    It frightens me to think that this behaviour could go on for another 3+ years. We've been telling ourselves that she'll outgrow it at least a little in a year or two, although I think we both knew that may be naive. But I can't imagine my SD staying the way she is and being able to avoid the traps of drugs, drinking and sex that are soon to come.

    My SD isn't on medication and to be honest I wouldn't know where to start with that. I'm not sure if her issues could be treated with medication... although I'm no expert, I consider her issues to be more along the lines of sociopathic and narcissistic.

    Sooner or later she offends most if not all of the people she comes into contact with to the point where they don't really want anything to do with her (including teachers, babysitters, grandparents, etc.), but she doesn't have violent outbursts, screaming sessions or anything really tangible that we could use as a rationale for medication. She just has a bad attitude and generally treats people with disrespect.

    But I don't have high hopes for therapy based on what I've seen, so if there's a chance that medication would help we would consider it. Does anyone know where we would start based on her symptoms/issues?[/QUOTE]

    My wife and I just had a weekend alone together (SD was at her dad's) and it was wonderful. We felt at peace, we felt connected and we enjoyed life, even though we spent most of the weekend doing yardwork. But as soon as SD came back home, all that disappeared again. But we've agreed to keep holding onto and making the most of the time alone we do get, so we can keep our relationship on track.
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am so glad you and your wife were able to have a great weekend. Try to make every time you don't have your stepdau a time to reconnect with your wife.

    My bro married a woman with two teenage sons. He is very much a difficult child and it is his way or a big scene in about every facet of his life. I told him he had to change to keep the marriage. I told her it wouldn't work because they didn't know each other well enough and were waaaaaayy to different on basic values. I listened to her sons talk about life when their parents were married, which was horrible because both parents are alcoholics and sister in law was also addicted to narcotics and sex with every man she could get the pants off. They told awful stories about things she had done.

    My bro went into the marriage with the attitude that the boys were going to have to shape up to HIS expectations. He only got married because they were pregnant. She got preg on purpose because he didn't want to date her anymore. The boys were pretty spoiled, used to a lifestyle fueled by two parents with professional jobs who racked up tons and tons and tons of credit card debt. My bro is tighter than anyone I have ever known except when it comes to the tools he hoards.

    You cannot FIX your stepdau. At this point you need to leave ALL discipline up to her mom. You have to be there supporting her mom, but NOT telling her she has to do what you want. No lectures, no chore lists FROM YOU. There are some pretty good books out there about how to be a stepdad to a teen. Most of them recommend this, esp with a difficult child. Now of course if you see something that is going to hurt her, or someone else, or she is violent with you or anyone else you have to deal with that, to get her to stop. But consequences MUST come from mom. ONLY from mom.

    It will be HARD. You would probably benefit greatly from Families Anonymous or a parenting class aimed at step parents. While I KNOW you are not violent and probably helped mom stop being an angry screaming parent, the family might benefit if you and mom took a parenting class from the local domestic violence center or parent resource center. Our DV center runs a parent resource center that has great parenting classes, support groups for parents who have been abusive and want to change or want to keep on the right track if they have already made big changes. It is an excellent support for all parents. You may want to call around and see if there is something like that in your area.

    Welcome to our forum!! It is always great to have dads join us, and esp stepdads. You have taken on a big task parenting stepkids. Kudos for reaching out for ways to do it right!
  11. LostSF

    LostSF Guest

    Thank you for the advice and welcome susiestar.

    Her Mom is in charge of all of the discipline, although she and I discuss most things so I feel I still have a say. I have had to step in twice when she was completely out of control and my wife couldn't handle it to say "that's enough", but twice in four years is pretty fair I think.

    I'll take your advice and look into some parenting classes. We have some idea of what to do (self-help books, therapy, etc.), but anything more will help.

    Her Mom is very consequence-focused in her discipline, which from what I've read and heard is the best approach. But up until recently none of the consequences (e.g., grounding) seem to have had any effect.

    Recently because of several different issues, my SD has lost her priviledges to her stereo in her room, which seems to be having an effect. She's been even more rude and angry than usual since we took it away, and admitted she hates not having it (for every other consequence we've tried, she just says she doesn't care). But it's been kind of a build-up to this, so I'm not sure how much of it is losing her music and how much is her just being fed up with us trying to hold her accountable for her behaviour (e.g., lying, breaking the rules).

    But despite that, she still won't acknowledge that she's made some mistakes and shows no signs of wanting to change. And she's still continuing some of the behaviour that got her in trouble in the first place.

    I just know that when we do end up giving her music back, she won't have learned anything (or won't show any signs of learning anything).

    It's just so frustrating.