New stepmom, need help fast! - FamilyEducation
New stepmom, need help fast!
12/03/2010 at 18:46 PM

Here it goes, this is gonna be long but I am in desperate need of help here!

My name is Missy and I'll be 24 tomorrow. My husband and I have been married for about 4 months. We met and were married pretty quickly. He already had 2 daughters, ages 2 and 5. They took to me pretty fast, and after only about a month of knowing me, they were both calling me mom. Neither of us had asked or told them they had to, I simply told them if they wanted to that it was ok, and if they just wanted to call me Missy, then that was ok too. I have been their mom ever since. Their real mother passed away about 6 months after the youngest was born, so the oldest was pretty young when it happened. She still remembers her mom and talks about her often. I encourage her to talk to me about her whenever she wants because I don't want her to forget the few things she actually remembers about her real mom.

Here is the problem: Our 5 year old has always been one to throw a fit, but recently it has become worse and worse. I know she has been through a lot of things in the short amount of time she's been alive, with her mom passing away, her dad getting remarried, moving to a different house, starting a new school...that would be hard on a kid of any age. But she has always seemed to be a happy kid, she loves me as her mom, she LOVES school (learning is her thing and she's really smart), and she loves our new house and is excited to start picking out things for her new room. She has a pretty steady routine, she gets out of school at 1:30, eats a snack, and then takes a nap, does her homework, has some playtime, dinner, bath, and then bed. But here lately she wants to throw a fit about any little thing that doesn't go her way, or if we tell her she can't have something or do something. And when I say "throw a fit", I mean this girl can SCREAM! She jumps up and down, rolls around on the bed and the floor, she kicks and yells and screams bloody murder, it honestly sounds like someone is trying to kill her, and I am seriously surprised that our neighbors haven't heard her and thought we were beating her or something. She has given herself bruises and scratches because when she's throwing a tantrum, she will throw herself against the wall or the bed or the floor, and if you try to restrain her she kicks and hits. I am so scared that someone is going to see a bruise she has given herself and think that WE did it.

I don't know what to do. We have tried everything. We've spanked her, we've taken away her TV, we've taken away toys, we've taken away privileges, we've tried rewarding her good behavior, we've tried sitting and talking to her...I just don't know where to go from here. She doesn't act this way at school, she has not been in trouble at school at all. And it only gets worse when she's tired, which is why she takes a nap after school. She is one of those who needs a lot of sleep. When she is in a good mood, she is the sweetest little girl, she says "I love you" all the time. She's very smart and does so well in school. I just don't understand why she has been like this and I don't know what to do to help her.

I love her so much, even though these kids are my step-daughters, I've always just considered them to be mine. They are my world and I would do anything for them. So any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you in advance, and again, sorry this is so long lol.

You've said it's worse when she's tired. Another trigger for my kids is low blood sugar. Try including some form of protein and/or fat in every snack she gets: dairy, nuts, even jerky. Fat and protein take longer to digest than carbohydrates so you don't get the blood sugar spike and then trough that you get with fruit and grain snacks. Somebody else suggested that dehydration may be a trigger, too. You need to avoid reinforcing the tantrums--don't give her what she wants just to stop the tantrum. Give her a drink of water instead. Have you directly taught her that pitching a fit will not get her what she wants, that calm discussion MIGHT get her what she wants? You may need to role play the correct way of behaving when she is disappointed or frustrated. Apart from that, if she is in a safe situation just walk away when she throws a tantrum. If you feel you need to supervise her, do it without emotion.

That makes sense. I'll try changing her snacks. I don't allow her to throw her tantrums in my presence and neither does her dad. We both make her go to her room and close the door. We have both sat her down, together and separately and explained to her that throwing a fit does not get her what she wants. But it's really hard because we put her in her room, and she will start saying she has to potty or that she's thirsty just to get out of her room. Or other times she will scream til she falls asleep and throw off her sleeping pattern. It's just really hard for both of us to come up with an appropriate and effective punishment. Thank you for the advice, it really does help and gives me something to think about!

Another thing is I know there was a short period of time after her mom passed away that she lived with her grandma, who let her do whatever she wanted. While her dad was a single parent, I know he had a hard time disciplining her because he felt guilty because of her mom passing away and everything she had been through. But I feel like she has had plenty of time to adjust to our rules and the way she is supposed to act, but maybe I am wrong. I also think there may be some jealousy towards her little sister, who is 2 and requires a bit more care than she does. I don't know, I could be totally wrong.

So, offer her water to help her calm down, and if she says she needs to go potty, supervise her while she does. If she calms down enough to go I'd ask her if she is ready to come back and be part of the family routine again, or if she needs to go back to her room and calm down some more. You've told her what doesn't work, teach her what does work. Role play some discussions so that she can practice stating what she DOES want in a calm voice. Then unless it is a safety issue or there is some other reason let her have what she asks for. You also could offer her choices when that is appropriate. Only two choices though. It could be "Do this chore or that chore," or "Do it now or do it in 5 minutes." It's also a good idea to give children transition time. If you aren't already doing this, try to give her a 5 minute or 2 minute warning when she needs to wrap up what she's engaged in and start doing what you want.