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Defiant SD9 driving me insane

Mamma Jamma's picture

I know there's probably a million posts on this same topic...but still. I haven't posted here in forever, but the stepkids are driving me nuts. So I'm back, hoping for sage advice from veteran

I'm sorry this is so long....Venting for the first time in years!!

My SD9 has lived with us full time for nearly 2 years, with minimum contact with her BM. (Occasional phone calls, and no call even since Thanksgiving 2013--she's transient so I have no contact info for her. Mixed blessing. I feel bad that SD9 can't talk to her mom, and i suspect that contributes to some of SD9's issues, but I certainly don't miss listening to her rant and lie to SD9!)

My SS14 has lived with us for nearly 4 years. His dad laid down the law to him when he moved in. He has older 1/2 brothers that's been in quite a bit of trouble, and DH wanted to be clear we wouldn't tolerate their sort of behavior. After all, that's the atmosphere the guy grew up in, brothers backtalking and defying their mom and stepdad all his life. Aside from a couple outbursts when he was 10, he's been an amazing kid and I'm proud to be his stepmom. Kinda spoiled me though, when SD9 moved in, I kinda expected the same temperament. Nope.

SD9 has always been defiant, as well as being daddy's girl. Lately this leads to me giving instructions, asking her to do something (nicely!) and she either ignores me, or runs to daddy claiming i'm being mean. DH is ongoing trying to get through to her that we aren't mean because we don't give in to her every wish and whim.

I experimented with asking DH to tell her what needs done, but he has no more luck than I do.

She's starting puberty already, so greasy hair, body odor, and a developing body are already issues. She just turned 9 in February, and I'm already trying to figure how to teach a 9 yo to shave under her arms, when she's not yet trusted to use anything sharper than a table knife. Physically she's mature, but she still insists daddy tuck her in every night, which turns into a hour+ process, with drink and snack, stories, games etc. (I can't change that, much as I'd love to. DH says she'll grow out of it soon and he goes along because she's daddy's girl.)

The puberty issue is getting drastic. She lies about whether she's done something, then denies she lied. I asked her this AM when waiting for the bus if she had put a bra on (required wearing these days, she's developing. of course she hates them, but what girl doesnt lol). First, she didn't answer, so I repeated the question. She didn't answer. She said 'I did.' I heard her clearly. She had that look on her face though, and i asked her, if i come over there and check, will i find one? I stepped toward her and she immediately insisted she said she DIDN'T not that she DID. I told her to hurry to get one, the bus is coming. 60 seconds later, there's the bus. She runs out of her room to the bus. Braless. I checked her shoulder as she ran past. She does the same thing about teeth brushing, deodorant, cleaning her room, finishing her dinner, combing her hair, washing her hair, anything. It's like her default setting is 'LIE' these days.

She's so bad about getting ready for school (no matter how much time she has--I'm not getting up 1/2 hour earlier so she can screw around and still almost miss the bus every day) I've instituted a rule--you miss the bus because you're not ready, you are grounded. (With reasonable allowances for me oversleeping, bus being early, unforeseen issues; of course). She CAN get ready to leave in 15 minutes. She did yesterday when her dad got her up. She tried the 'I'm too sick to go to school' routine on him, and messed around til almost bus time, when i told her to get out of bed NOW you aren't sick, go get ready. Under 10 minutes to be completely ready.

She refuses to have help brushing her hair, which is past her shoulders. This results in rats nests at the nape of her neck after a couple of days. I insist on brushing it when i get her up for school--I don't want her going around looking like a homeless person (Though some homeless people look better than her, somedays). She also won't wash the front of her hair, because she's afraid of getting baby shampoo in her eyes. the back of her hair (after I brush it) comes out gorgeous, but the front looks like a gutter child. I would LOVE to do the same thing my mom did at that age--take your pick, either take care of it properly or it's being cut. (My hair went from waist-length to a 3 inch crop.)I threatened it, but tears to daddy ensured i'm stuck with her long, stringy knotty hair. She naturally prefers dad to get her up for school, he forgets to check for a bra, doesn't worry about a few knots in her hair, and doesn't ground her for fooling around and missing the bus.

She can't be trusted with scissors, as Barbie hair has been butchered, and blankets and scarves have turned up with chunks cut out of them. (Used to make barbie clothes--I told her I'd get her some fabric if she wanted to make clothes, she should've just asked. She acts like asking for help will bring down a storm of abuse on her head. Perhaps it used too with her BM?) Paint used in her room ends up on the carpet. (Meanwhile, my 4 yo niece has her own art center in her room with scissors, oil paints, canvas...and doesn't abuse them.)

Yesterday, I asked her to come take a shower. She'd been told earlier shower time was 8:30 and stated she understood. at 8:30, I step outside to tell her to come shower now, and she says, No, I'm playing soccer now. Turns out DH hadn't realized (he claims) I told her to shower at 8:30 and agreed to play with her a while before bedtime. I KNOW he heard me tell her to shower at 8:30.

Grounding her has no effect. I've tried making bedtime earlier (impossible to enforce-see above. She runs to daddy and stays up as long as she wants). Taking away privileges, electronics, anything i can think of. The last time I grounded her, I told her no TV the rest of the evening. her response is "so? I don't care" to anything she's punished with. I respond by adding more time to it until she complains. my theory on that being, that if 1 night w/out tv or whatever isn't enough to gain compliance, it must not be a strong enough punishment. when she complains, maybe it's harsh enough to get through to her.

She runs to daddy every time i try to discipline her. DH agrees in theory that she needs to obey us, and have consequences. We've sat down multiple times discussing what needs to happen with her. Recently he's been better about it, because she's been defying HIM instead of just me. But generally, he rarely does well on the follow through. usually caves 1/2 way through a grounding and lets her have whatever it was, back.

She's hit the stage of 'You're being mean! I hate YOU!' EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. she doesn't get her way. Recently it's escalating to not wanting me around at all. DH has been on the receiving end of this a few times, mostly me. DH used to cave to this, but not lately--he's finally figuring out she's manipulating him.

After giving me the 'I hate you!' treatment last night, she wondered why I didn't want to help her with cleaning her room and doing her laundry. Since she's not listening to a word I say this week, I asked her dad to explain to her that when you're nice to people, they help you with things. When you yell at them and say you hate them, stepmoms are very reluctant to help you with chores that are your responsibility. (yes, she's 9, but her brother has done his own laundry, voluntarily, since he was 10. There's precious few chores to be done around here, so she's doing what she's capable of. I'm still teaching her how to use the washer and dryer, and sometimes I'll wash her clothes if I don't feel like arguing with her about it. She was re-cleaning her room, after stuffing everything under the bed and dressers Saturday. I just deep cleaned her room a month or so ago, and told her clearly, I will not do it again. When I clean, I take trash bags and throw stuff away.)

Ugh. Thanks for reading this, if you've made it this far. Comments are welcome--except suggesting i disconnect and let her dad take care of everything with her. I'd love to sometimes, but I love her too much to pull away from her.

Mamma Jamma's picture

A couple comments.

Yes, I've shown her how to brush her hair properly, more than once. How to make sure you get the nape of your neck, and why it's important.

I've explained how she's developing and what that means as far as odor, breasts, modesty, and so forth.

I've taught her multiple times how to shower and wash her hair-doing her hair for her and explaining the steps and why (bathing previously for her was ducking into a bubble bath and playing for an hour or so. Then getting out. she doesn't mind sticking her head in the bubbles, just shampoo, apparently.)

I've cleaned her room WITH her, showing her how to put things away (in labeled storage) and what's trash and what's not. We even posted a list of things that need done. I make an effort not to make room cleaning a punishment. I'm trying to teach her to enjoy order over chaos. I don't insist she 'clean til it's done' as I was as a child. She worked 30 min on it last night, and I saw great improvement, so I told her to finish it today.

I make it a conscious practice to praise her efforts, even when they're not up to my standards.

tabby yabba do's picture

Comments are welcome--except suggesting i disconnect and let her dad take care of everything with her. I'd love to sometimes, but I love her too much to pull away from her.

My favorite parenting motto:
"The biggest disservice you can do for your children is to do too much."

It sounds like you and your DH agree you should be the primary parent? And that you do almost everything for this child except wipe her bottom after a bathroom visit? Disconnecting from her a bit will probably help her. It shows you have confidence in her to do the right thing, even if it's in her way and to her standard (not yours). Teach her, guide her, offer some reminders. But let her fail, or succeed, along the way.

But if it were me, I'd advise my DH he needed to step up to the plate since I'm stepping down.

Mamma Jamma's picture

See, this is exactly what I asked NOT to hear!

I do not do everything for her, she got practically zero training with her BM, her big brothers took care of her as best they could. They were 15 and 17.

I'm trying to overcome the years between 3 and 7 when she was taught absolutely nothing and allowed to run wild. That can't be done in a day, or even in 2 years. She's much better than she was at age 7. Mostly what she learned from her BM was that being screamed at is normal.

We're trying to teach her how to be a decent, clean, healthy young lady. And I understand, DH remembers the 3yr old she was rather than seeing the 9 yr old she is, sometimes.

Naturally she'd prefer to be a stinky slob because it's easier. Puberty at 9 is no picnic. I was hoping to have 2-3 more years of little-girliness to train the wildness out of her. But it is what it is. I'm certainly not going to pull out of her life because she's annoying sometimes (a lot of the time)!

tabby yabba do's picture

I think my point, that was apparently missed, is that any parent (or step parent) who does too much for their child (or skid) is doing them a disservice. Think about what you just wrote:

Your skid is 9 and you:
Brush her hair
Check to see if she is wearing a bra
Monitor her shower-time
Help her clean her room
Help her do her laundry

All of those are things that my SD8 is expected to do on her own (minus the bra), without parental help. And if those things weren't done on her own without direct parental assistance, there are natural consequences. Not earlier bedtimes or no TV. Natural consequences. Two weeks ago my DH and I were discussing SD8s knotty
hair (we struggled too!). I asked him to try to brush it out for her. He couldn't. SD8 got her hair cut the next day (from mid-back to shoulder-length) and SD8 was advised (by her father) the next hair cut would be a short bob if hair knots weren't brushed out every morning and every night. Natural consequences. Less direct parenting. Don't do so much.

You sound like a loving and involved step-mom. I'm just suggesting that you are too hard on yourself, and doing too much. "Disconnecting" means letting go of some of the control-issues you may have (there are a few blogs this week on this very topic actually) to allow this child to FAIL or SUCCEED on her own with natural consequences.

Sorry if you took offense to my opinion, but doing the same parenting things over and over and getting the same negative results obviously isn't working. This is as much for your sanity as your SD9s well being!

Mamma Jamma's picture

What I'm understanding you to say is that even though she is 9 and very unmature emotionally for her age, as well as having had minimal teaching on habits most kids learn between 3 and 7, I should let her

live in a pigsty
smell as bad as she likes
go around with unkempt greasy hair
allow others to see her developing body inappropriately
wear dirty clothes
backtalk me and her dad whenever she feels like it
basically do as she pleases

and trust that 'natural consequences' will teach her how to behave and be a healthy, polite, mature young lady by the time she's a teenager.

What that will do is get her dad and I called to the school for a serious talk on how we are (not) parenting her. I'm willing to let her go to school stinky etc on occasion to see if peer pressure helps, but we're not going to let her go around as if she lives in a slum, just because she used to.

Mamma Jamma's picture

Thank you! yes, it's frustrating as crap, but I'm not dumping all the responsibility on her dad just because she's not my bio kid. Were we both her bio parents, I can just see the shock and disgust from folks if i suggested i'm not taking care of her anymore, I'm tired of her drama, here, DH, you do it all.

DH and i are husband and wife. When we married, I knew he had kids, and that these 2 would more than likely live with us full time at some point. I'd also heard enough from their bio mom to know it wasn't going to be a walk in the park.

I have pulled back some, letting him see how she acts lately. I could have left him to totally deal with her 'sickness' yesterday, but I didn't.

I understand some stepparents feel they can't deal with the skids any longer and totally disconnect from them. I'm not one of them. I love them as if they were my own, and I treat them as if they are.

As far as what DS wears, I couldn't care less. She wore a yellow and white striped top with pink and black zebra print pants the other day. and mismatched socks. That's one battle i'm saving for when she decides low cleavage and mini-skirts are appropriate attire. as long as she's weather-appropriate and clean, i don't care how it looks. I'd rather her have clean hair and no smell than match. Smile

"we have even let others tell the kid he stinks - family and friends who are offended by his odor - and agreed with them right out loud and pointed out that we'd warned him no one wanted to be around a smelly person."

is that working? I've been tempted to try it myself...let her go stinky and straggly-haired and see if peer pressure works better than what we've been doing. I'm just afraid of how cruel kids can be, and that she'd be stuck being known as the 'dirty kid' or something at school. it's a small school district, and she'll be with basically just these kids til she graduates. (I know how it works-i was known as a tattle-tale when i was in grade school, and it never got better til college).

Mamma Jamma's picture

What I was actually looking for with this post was 'hey it happened to us too, and this is what helped' or even 'this is what didn't help, and this is what happened'

I know no two kids or situations are alike, but ensuring basic hygiene and decency is something we're not willing to forgo.