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My husband (their Stepdad) hates my kids

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Dear Dr.,

My 12 yr old and her step father can't seem to get along. My husband will consistently criticize my daughter, keep telling me that she will not do well in school, will do drugs, get pregnant and drop out of school. She has a 76% grade average. She has promised me that she will work harder to bring up her marks in school. I have been seeing how hard she's trying lately, but my husband doesn't see it.

My daughter hates her stepdad, because of his negative thinking towards her, and because she has heard us argue many times about these things. My husband is very judgmental towards her. He feels that I'm too easy on her. Well maybe I am, but she knows how important it is to get a good education, I remind her of that all the time. He makes me feel that I am not doing a good job.

I also have a 17 yr "A" student. I believe that my 12 yr old will also become an "A" student. She would much rather hang out with her friends and spend time on the computer then homework. She has a certain amount of time on the PC and has to be home at a certain time. I have plenty of rules.

My husband's 17 yr old (not living with us) is not an "A" student. His youngest for the past 3 yrs has had to attend summer school to bring his marks up. So I feel like...How dare he judge me about my daughter? I also feel that my 12 yr is just screaming out for a "Father figure." Her dad is in another province, and her stepdad is not giving her the affection she so desires from him. How can I bring these 2 together ?

I feel that if I could just get him to love her, then she would have such a totally different outlook on life. She seems so depressed. But there's only so much that I can do. I spend time with her before bedtime, our alone time. I know that helps, but she needs more. He never wants to do anything as family fun either. Please help me to help my daughter and husband to get along and respect each other.
Worried Mom


Dear Worried Mom,
You are absolutely right to be worried. Children respond to the messages they receive from the adults around them. They are just figuring out who they are, and they assume we know. So if a parent figure, including a rejecting stepdad, gives negative messages, you can count on a child to live up -- or down -- to those messages. Your husband almost certainly does not realize he is endangering your daughter, and may even think he is being constructive, but he is actually programming her to get pregnant, do drugs, and drop out of school.

You say that your daughter seems depressed. Twelve is a pivotal age, when kids are deciding where they are most likely to get their needs met -- their families or their peer group. If your husband doesn't ever want to do fun family activities, and constantly criticizes her, why on earth would she be looking to her family for support and belonging?

It's terrific that you spend time with your daughter each night before bedtime. However, I think it is important to also create family time every weekend. If your husband won't join in, then leave him out, but make sure that you and your daughter have something special to do together, whether it is as simple as going out for an ice cream cone and a walk, or making a festive dinner together. If you want ideas for dinner table conversation that could build bridges, you might want to read the list of family conversation starters in the Talking with Your Kids section of this website.

Your husband needs some basic parenting lessons, but I suspect he wouldn't be interested. If his concern for your daughter is genuine, then a good family therapist would be able to help him articulate his concern for her more effectively, and help your daughter articulate her hurt, so the two of them could begin to build a bridge. If he refuses to see a family therapist with you, or to change his way of relating to your daughter, it would be an indication that he isn't willing to care about her and do what's best for her -- which would be to make some changes in his way of relating to her.

If that's the case, you have a tough choice to make, because letting this situation continue really is endangering your daughter. You are a brave woman to have confronted this reality in your own mind and have written to me. I hope you can find the courage to stand up to your husband and protect your daughter. Your willingness to do that may be exactly what is required to shift this precarious situation.

If you need help finding a referral in your area, please don't hesitate to contact me. I wish you strength and every blessing.
Dr. Laura


Hi Dr. Laura,

I know what you mean. My step dad is the same way. He criticizes me all the time and he thinks he is helping when really he is not he is just going to cause me to either leave the house or not speak to him. it seems like everything i do is not good enough for him. so i know what you mean. For all you step dads out there grow up and realize that things are not the same as they used to be!!

-- from Anonymous


Dear Anonymous,
What a terrible feeling to get from your stepdad, that you are never good enough.

Do you think you could sit down with your stepdad and explain to him that you are trying hard but you feel like you are never good enough for him and it makes you feel like giving up?

Do you have anyone on your side (like your mom), who you can talk to and who can talk to your stepdad? This is too hard for a young person to go through alone. You need support from an adult who understands. If your mom won't help you, I advise you to find another adult you can talk to -- maybe a family member, or school counselor.

Thanks for writing, and good luck!
Dr. Laura


My situation exactly. My husband HATES my kids and the feeling is mutual. One of my boys is off at college and isn't in the picture... my other son is 22 and between jobs (dropped out of college a couple years ago) and husband took it upon himself to text message him "Your stuff is in MY new office... Trash day is Tuesday." (as in "you have two DAYS to get your stuff out of your room and I don't care where the h*ll it ends up)... I can understand "you need to get on your feet" but ONLY TWO DAYS to get his stuff out of the house???? with NO warning????

Now we're down to my 13 year old daughter.... and my husband has NOTHING good to say about her (in spite of the fact that she's just made the honor roll for the 4th consecutive quarter)... he expects her to handle herself like an adult but she's barely a teenager!!! He won't share the TV with her, gripes whenever she has friends over, says she's lazy...well, how the heck does he EXPECT her to react.... she's going to spend every waking MINUTE in her room as long as he's treating her like this,I don't blame her a BIT for not wanting to be in the same room with him, let alone doing chores while he's on his @$$ in front of the TV..... (I should note that HE has no kids, just two good-for-nothing MUTT dogs.)

I spend my whole waking existence being the mediator between the two of them and worrying about what I've done (or what my daughter might do) to piss him off and I'm just SICK of it....I'd throw him out (the house is mine from before we got married) but I need his help with the bills.... THIS SITUATION IS HOPELESS



Dear Chocaddict,

Existence is meant to be more than running interference and trying to keep your husband from getting angry. I hear how hopeless you are. The only way out of hopelessness is to recognize whatever power you have in the situation, and to take it. And, in fact, you have quite a lot of power here.

I want to encourage you to stick up for your kids and yourself. It's your responsibility as a Mom to protect your kids. Your husband's attitude toward your daughter is actually endangering her, because she will start looking elsewhere for male approval, and will live down to his expectations. It certainly isn't good for your 22year old, either, but I assume you stepped in and intervened. If it's your house, then you get to decide what happens with your son's stuff. Your husband sending that text was not only irresponsible as a stepparent, but was completely disrespectful to you.

I hear that you think you need your husband's help with the bills. But I also hear that you are paying a very high price for that help, and sacrificing your kids in the process. If you need to take in a tenant, fine. But endangering your kids' emotional health for money isn't worth it.

I suspect that if you decide to lay down the law with your husband, he will either change or go, and all of you will be better off. I wouldn't wait for your daughter to ruin her life before taking action. Good luck!
Dr. Laura

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