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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2568
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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I got married almost a year ago to a wonderful man. He left

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I got married almost a year ago to a wonderful man. He left his daughters mother when his daughter was 6. mom is bipolar. He went and got her every weekend and on holidays. when she turned 17 she moved in with dad. Dad never wants to upset her she ran the house she did the grocery shopping feeding her and her friends spending 300 dollars was nothing and he would let her. Even if it didn't leave him enough money to live on. She had her boyfriend pretty much living there. He is 6 years older. He don't work and is a bum. Now that his daughter is living with us she is very selfish. She is now 18. She works and altho everyone else in the house takes turns buying dinners etc. She will not offer anyone anything. She will eat food bought out in front of everyone and never offer. She will wait tell dad is alone and ask him to go places with her cause she don't want any of us around. Dad doesn't see the problem. Until I get upset. How do you teach an 18 year old about selfishness?

There may well be a part of that involved.

I think the first thing you need to do is make sure that you and your husband are in agreement about how you want this issue handled, because otherwise, the girl will be getting mixed messages.

Agree what you want the ground rules to be about, for example, taking turns to pay, and then use them.

First off, your daughter needs to be confronted with your feelings about her behavior, and made to understand that, while you care for her, her behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, at least by you

He also needs to understand that that any continuation of this disruptive and anti social behavior will have consequences. They need to be spelled out to her very clearly, with clear emphasis on the fact that they will apply immediately.

We humans only indulge in behaviour that brings reward of some kind. Only when that reward (whatever it might be) disappears, or the consequences of our behaviour promise to be unpleasant do we consider changing what we do.

Here is the clue to sorting things out. When you are faced with non-co-operation – give her choices, and make sure they understand the consequences of her choice – and always follow through. If you don’t he will continue to take treat you the way he is doing just now.

Ask her too, what he is prepared to do to change her behaviour in future – tell her to research what might help her , what professional help he might get, and even consider a ‘contract’ between you. In other words, involve her in her own change, with a prospect of a small reward for success and dire consequences for failure.

However, don’t get angry, stay cool and in control, matter of fact and stick to the facts. Avoid drama.

There are difficult choices to be made ' if you take you take too firm a line, you may alienate her completely, and if you are too soft, nothing will change. Try to find a middle way.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I really think you have given some good advice. I have an additional question. As the step mother me setting boundaries with her will not be a bigger issue? You read so much about how the step parent shouldn't discipline. I will say dad also has some guilt going on for leaving his daughter for several years when him and his exwife split. Altho he never stopped contact and always paid support he feels bad for not being there. He now is constantly trying to make up for that by never wanting to upset her, so even if he feels something is wrong if she gets a little upset he will stop the conversation cause she starts getting upset. That has gotten better since our marriage, but this is the relationship they have had for the last several years. Is it possible she needs professional help?
To take the last part first - probably not.

As to the step mother disciplining - that's really why I said that you and your husband need to be completely together on this, so see if you can reach some common ground with him abot what you are looking for.
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