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End of my rope

Jzone's picture

Hi. I'm new here, and desperate.

I raised two kids with my wife before we divorced. Both kids are great -- different, but great. They are independent, successful in college, disciplined, self-motivated, and goal-oriented. I am in a new relationship (4 years now) with a woman who has her own 16 year-old daughter. They moved in with me a a year and a half ago. 

The challenge is the step kid. She has challenges at school (diagnosed ADD) and has no, zero, zilch motivation at school or home. We ask very little of her -- basic chores and taking care of her room and pets. She seems almost completely unwilling to contribute to the household. We have talked, I give her plenty of opportunity to express how she feels, and nothing changes. 

My latest tactic is to charge her rent, hoping money will motivate her. If she completes her basic chores without nagging her rent carries over to the next month. If not, I collect another month's rent. I made it clear that I do not want her money -- I want her participation. If this doesn't work, my next step will be having them both move out until she is a legal adult and her mother can move back without her. I don't know if our relationship (or theirs) will survivie that, but I won't put up with this stress in my home much longer.

Any advice or similar experiences would be appreciated. 

beebeel's picture

You partner is failing as a parent. As well intended as your plan may be, unless MOM expects more from her, she will never deliver. As long as mom is fine with her non-contributing, academic mediocrity she will always put forth the bare minimum. I think 16 is way too late in the game to try to finally start parenting. Your plan to have them move out is probably best. Good luck!

Jzone's picture

You are assuming that mom is ok with the behavior. She is not. She is as frustrated as I am. She just has had no success after trying the carrot, the stick, and counseling. Nothing seems to get through to this kid, and she is clueless about the consequences to herself and her family. I agree that 16 is old for changing bad habits, but that's where we are.

SonOfABrisketMaker's picture

Can you come up with one positive thing about your girlfriend's kid? Can you say say one thing that your partner is doing correctly? 


Im not being rude, I'm just wondering if you are so far gone in your perspective of this whole situation that it's probably better for your well being to just walk away.

Jzone's picture

Wow. You are misreading between the lines, SOB.

My partner has tried and tried: rewarding good behavior, consequences for bad, medication, tutoring, school counseling, gathering teachers, grandparents, and other concerned adults to form a team. Our home is open to SD's friends, and we encourage them to come here after school or join us for dinner. I have taken groups of her friends for weekend hikes, and we have brought a friend of hers along for ski weekends. 

SD is a beautiful girl, quick to smile. She interacts well with adults. She loves animals, farms, and gardens. She has an interest in drawing and has some ability there that might be developed. I could go on. There are many positive things about this girl, and she is failing in school and does nothing to contribute to the family or household. 

Rags's picture

It works wonders on teens who are struggling to comply with the household standards of behavior.

Make it far more painful than they are willing to accept and .... they will comply.

Not rocket science. Just basic change management.  Measure her performance against the behavioral standard and apply consequences.  A 16yo would find losing all connectivity to be extremely painful.  She would find you and mom picking her outfits for school each day even more intolerable. 

Start hitting her where it hurts (figuratively of course) and she will get in line in a hurry. You just have to be able to stick to the plan and keep applying the pain until you get the desired results.

No guilt, no quarter, lather, rinse, repeat.

Java_Junkie's picture

Here's a possibility:

Either she's doing this because there's no incentive (or disincentive) to do the right thing...


She may be depressed about something.

Have you considered family counseling?

Jzone's picture

Thanks JJ,

There have been months of incentives and disincentives. I may try making the disincentives more severe. However, I suspect there is a strong possibility that depression, low self-esteem, and ADD play significant roles here. My challenge is that this issue is beginning to take my time and attention away from my own (young adult) kids. I really want her mom and family to step up more, but I don't think it will happen without my direction and insistence. 

mtnwife530's picture

When we moved in with my then BF, DS was 13,DD was 7. My DH and DD were like oil and water most of the time, mostly because she was hypersensitive (at 26 still is !!!) She was out of the just before she turned 18( Sept. BD) She has came back a few times very temporary basis. They are both opinionated and stubborn.

   My point being,DH is the one to get Fathers Day card and phone calls and cards on his BDay (from both of them) Sometimes she calls for me and I'm not home and they will have a nice visit. I know that she has even confided in him. I learned,after the fact, he was going to co-sign a car loan for her after I had refused! She ended up handling it herself, but I never would have believed he would do that willingley 10yrs ago.

   None of thought we'd live through those years, but we did, it can get better. The kids do have light bulb moments and realize that Bios and Steps had done what they did, because they cared.  Good Luck

Jzone's picture

I appreciate the comments, and hope that this kid does some fast maturing at some point -- for her sake.

At the moment I have just finished dinner. She came downstairs an hour ago wondering when dinner would be. I said 20-30 minutes. I finished cooking, sat down and enjoyed my meal without her. If she can't be bothered to help out, I am not going to call her when a meal is ready. I will put leftovers away and she can come downstairs again when she gets hungry. Kitchen cleanup will be waiting for her, as agreed.