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I Can’t Discipline My Stepchildren

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My fiancé, now the stepfather to my daughter, does tell my daughter to pick up things, but he, too, feels very uncomfortable doing so. I do know that my stepchildren would never get away with this kind of behavior at their mom’s house. Perhaps they think my nanny will just clean up after them (they don’t have a nanny at their mom’s house). I know I need to discipline them, but, always, always, in the back of my head, I just keep thinking, “I can’t yell at them. I want them to be happy here. And they’re not my children so how can I demand they do things without coming across as a total bitch?”

So this is what happens. They do something that I don’t agree with (leaving their dirty dishes on the couch, not walking the dog, making racist jokes etc.) and then I tell their father and he has a talk with them. Likewise, he comes to me if my daughter doesn’t listen to him. This is all really a pain in the ass, because usually if you have a problem with someone, you go directly to the source. And I feel BADLY that I sometimes need to complain about his children, who I adore, except when they leave their dirty socks in the backyard (yes, it happened.)

Trust me, I know that kids are messy and forgetful and it’s impossible to always keep a clean house. When I had my “breakdown,” I was at the end of my rope. Still sobbing, I called my best friend, who is a fantastic yeller. She has four children ranging in ages from five to 14 and somehow manages to keep a tidy house. She told me, like my fiancé has, that I need to tell my stepchildren that when they are with us, there are rules in this house that they need to follow. And I told her, just like I told my fiancé, I just can’t discipline them. I’m not good at it.

So she suggested that I write out a list of “rules.” (My friend is SO good to me she even had a “talk” with my fiancé, as if he were HER husband, telling him that he needs to be clear with his children about the rules.) I’m not sure if this is going to work, but I’m going to try.

I typed out the list of “rules” – walk the dog when you come home from school…knapsacks are to be kept in your bedroom…dirty dishes in dishwasher.” I printed it off in BIG LETTERS and posted it on the fridge. The good thing, I think, about this list is that it applies to EVERYONE in the house. I can’t discipline my stepchildren verbally. Like I said, I feel extremely uncomfortable making demands on children who are not my own. And I want them to feel comfortable here and know that it is also their home.

Pray for me that this list works. If it doesn’t, then you know where to find me…outside in the backyard crying.

(photo: Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock)

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