Avoiding Step-Parenting

Becoming a step-parent can be a blessing... and a gigantic stress. There are certain things, certain minefields, that step-parents should avoid to keep the relationship with the step-kids positive.

Step Mother and Step Daughter

When you marry someone with kids, everyone talks about the built-in family. What they don't mention, though, is the fact that it comes with an array of challenges. Chances are that the road to having good, positive, happy relationships with your step-children will be paved with a few minefields.

Avoiding them starts with relaxing. You aren't going to be perfect. The relationship isn't going to be perfect, either. Just take it slowly, and learn how to navigate the new road together.

Here are a few things that a step-parent should never, ever do:

Don't bad-mouth the biological parents

You are going to have your opinions. Perhaps the ex is way too lax about the rules. Perhaps you really don't like her. Whatever it is you are feeling and thinking, don't mention it. Your stepchild has the right to love his parents... even if you see them as imperfect.

It's also simply not your place to get involved in disputes between the biological parents. "Voicing your disdain for the other parent's actions will make the child feel as though she has to choose between you and her biological parent. Make it clear to the child that the relationship she has with her biological parent does not have to change just because you are present in her life," advises step-mom Evelyne Del Billingslea.

Don't be a disciplinarian

Without a doubt, being a step-parent is hard. You are treading in uncertain territory. One of the keys to maintaining your footing is to resist taking on a parenting role per se. "'Step-parent' is a misnomer: Parenting has nothing to do with it. It is your step-child's parents' job to be the parents, not your job. When the parents are not doing the job that you think they should be doing, you should be extra vigilant in getting out the pom-poms, not the soapbox," says expert and author Ellen Kellner. "Use your creativity and positive thoughts to create environments where relationships with your step-children are encouraged, not stifled."

That said, you still need to set rules for your house. Just do it in concert with your spouse, and don't be afraid to enforce them.

Don't be a replacement parent

Again, the challenging role of a step-parent is tough and uncertain. But no matter how bad the biological parent is, you aren't supposed to take her place -- or try. It could lead to big-time resentment. "Don't try to replace your step-child's biological parent. Be there as a support system, role model, mentor and caring ear," says Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce?

Don't expect things to be perfect

When you and your step-child's parent signed a marriage certificate, it didn't flip a magical switch that would create a lovely family dynamic in your home. Sure, it would be nice if that were the case, but it simply isn't.

So, expect some rough patches, and wait for the love to develop over time. "Don't expect [the stepkids] to love -- or even like -- you. They must treat you as kindly and respectfully as they would any other acquaintance or friend of the family. I figured I was going to be around for the rest of their lives, so they had plenty of time to get to know me. I could grow on them," says stepmom Melinda Mallari.

Don't play favorites

Step or not, a child is a child and shouldn't have to face the fact that she may not be your favorite person. "If you do have your own children, try not to show blatant favoritism to them. Chances are, you are never going to feel the same way about your stepchild as you do your own children. Kids know this on some level, but they do not need to see it blatantly played out in front of them, which can wreak serious havoc on self-esteem and set up a antagonistic relationship between bio kids and your stepchild," says step-mom Marifran Manzo-Ritchie.

Tags: step-parenting

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Comments on "5 Things a step-parent should never do"

Alienated One April 07, 2014 | 7:46 AM

I am a step-parent and I have a different problem; the OTHER step-parent. SO here's the deal- My spouse divorced his wife after she cheated on him and left him for a woman. Then she came back. Then she left. Then she came back...then she left again. lol See the problem? This was almost a decade ago and thankfully, after they finally divorced, my husband never took his ex back again. 8 years later, we met and fell in love and married. Now when he met his ex, they both had a child from separate relationships. Then they had a son together. So between the 2 of them, they have 3 kids. My husbands oldest son lives with us and his mom isn't around. His younger son with the cheater lives with her and the person she cheated on him with. He comes every other weekend and while I am obviously closer to my older step-son because we spend 24 hours a day together, I love this little boy because he's a sweetheart. Everything should be fine, but his ex and her partner are CRAZY. They have tried to do everything they can to keep my husband from being able to see his son. Now all of these tactics worked on her OTHER childs parent and the guy skipped town and has nothing to do with his child just so he can avoid the mom. But my husband fought for his rights and still sees his kid even after she tried to keep him away, accused him of abusing the child (thrown out of court and backfired because HER daughter ratted her out for drug use and abuse in the home and was taken away for a short period), stalking, harassment, fake profiles trying to befriend us on Facebook, etc. I mean they are CRAZY. And it's eating at me. I never thought adults would behave this way. The fact that his ex behaves this way is bad enough. But her gf is insane and does everything she can to talk negatively about my husband, make fun of him, call him a deadbeat even though he has ALWAYS paid child support and provided insurance, extra for his son. The worst part is she is deeply insecure and jealous of my husband due to the fact that his ex has left her repeatedly to get back with him. So she tries to turn the little boy against him by doing the things I mentioned above, buying his love with gifts, telling the child that his father is not his real parent but she is. It's just never ending and all it's doing is hurting the kid. Have I mentioned that this woman loves the little boy but has no relationship with the girl who lives in their home? She takes my step-son out, takes dozens of pics of them together, calls him HER son, but doesn't even mention the girl who is now a deeply scarred young woman who is forbidden from having a relationship with her father or anyone in his family. Ugh. It's just so sad and I don't know how to handle it sometimes. It's depressing that adults would do things like this and try to manipulate children and harm them emotionally, psychologically, etc. Add to that these two still have a tumultuous relationship where they break up regularly/fight/get drunk and act horribly around the kids??? I don't know how to even wrap my head around it. I guess I'm hoping someone out there has some advice for how to help the children deal with all of this in a healthy way. I don't say negative things about them, despite all they have done. I don't engage in conversations with them. I let my husband handle everything that has to do with that. But how do I help the poor kid realize that we love him and he doesn't have to remain distant or think badly of his father in order to have his step-parents approval and love?

Branda April 05, 2014 | 6:21 PM

Hello,,,Like said many times above I am glad that I am not the only one feeling this way...I have been with my husband 9 years and his 2 children 10(boy) & 16(girl) have lived full time with us for 5 years. We got full custody due to the bio-mom being a drug user and felon..My problem is I have been the main parent both father/mother in the relationship, I feel I've created my own monster by being the strong person. I handle all the finances..and caring for the kids.My husband and I also had a son 3 yrs ago. My step kids aren't horrible. So I have that on my side. What I am experiencing now is I am starting to feel VERY overwhelmed with all the responsibility! My husband doesn't see things the same as me regarding parenting ie: teaching respect..responsibility. I am the one constantly worrying about if the kids do their homework (and check it), take them to the doctors/dentists etc.. If I don't then he won't. I feel then I need to step up and take control. I know I need to just "Step down" and make him be a father but I don't know how without seeming like I just don't care..Any advice please from mothers..or fathers..I'm getting to the point I just want to walk away..I never thought I would think this way. I am a very happy, positive person and I've lost that person. I am miserable on a daily basis...PLEASE HELP...

Wouldn't RedoThis April 05, 2014 | 6:16 PM

hello - on the off chance someone about to become a stepparent is reading - GET OUT NOW. RIGHT NOW. STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Put everything at a halt until you figure out the safest exit for yourself and your children or future children. I repeat - do NOT attempt this. I WAS a stepchild. I have a stepchild. And I would never do this over in a million years. Only, I won't put MY children in the position that I was in so long ago, nor that my stepchild is in now. So, I am hiding out in my bedroom during our weekend visit instead of eating dinner with the "family". They say, Marriage isn't easy. I say, marriage is near impossible with the COMPOUNDED - MULTIPLIED stress, burden, baggage, harassment, financial BURDEN, emotional valley of having a blended family. If only for yourself, GET OUT! If only for your children, GET OUT! If you are already in the mire, pray. pray. pray. pray. pray. pray. pray. pray. and then, hide in your bedroom when you need to. Find friends, lots of them. Take your children OUT! Get out of the house with your kids. Have fun events planned and planned and planned for your kids. Find a place to "visit" for a night or two during the custodial days. IT IS NOT YOUR JOB to care for this kid. Even this article, which comes NOWHERE near my sentiment of being a step-parent even this article clearly warns and instructs that YOU are not the biological parent and you are NOT to take on the duties of him/her. THAT INCLUDES THOSE DUTIES OF YOUR SPOUSE!!!! I cannot stress this enough. IT is NOT your job to do pick-ups or school drop offs or remembering the birthday cards or planning for anything. NO. Do not carry that baggage. Let it rest FULLY on the bio-parent and your spouse.

florathinks March 29, 2014 | 11:20 AM

@stepmom I am so relieved to see the point of view of someone with what sounds like a situation not so unlike my own. I have three stepchildren that have lived with me for four years. Their father and I weren't sure of the seriousness of our relationship yet when a very serious event took place that we got the kids on an emergency basis one day and they have ended up staying with us. I have provided 100% of their financial support from that day on. I have asked,begged,pleaded threatened both parents for help to no avail. I have had a really hard time with being told to take a backseat as the step parent when the parents absolutely refuse to contribute. They have both admitted to me that if I cease caring for their children they will not do it. I've always felt very isolated because I don't really know anyone else that has been in a situation like mine.

nikki March 03, 2014 | 3:40 AM

Someone needs to write articles about things a step mother should NEVER have to do. A list of the responsibilities that should NEVER be dumped of someone who is repeatedly reminded that those kids are not hers every time she wants rights or respect. Like headline. Cleaning that filth should never be expected of someone who isn't even allowed to expect some level of respect for their efforts.

feeling crazy February 21, 2014 | 5:09 PM

im a new step mom I have my own son age 5 and my bf has two children ages 2 son and 4 daughter. Im lost, I have a great relationship with him and his son. But when it comes to his daughter its a battle. I think has to do a lot with the biomom she continues to tell her daughter that she misses daddy and that makes me the monster keeping them apart... His daughter is so sweet in front of her dad but so mean to me when she first comes home, we have the children 4days a week. by the time our visits are coming to an end shes a different child with me idk what to do how to fix the issue im not trying to replace or over role my place but I feel its my house I have rules and they will be followed. my bf and I talk regular about the children and are trying im getting to the point of giving up I cant take being disrespected in my home having a child act the way she does peeing her pants calling me a ----- hitting me dumping things going in my room touching things that she knows are off limits pushing every button I have, ive never disliked a child im a daycare provider I love kids and have a degree in child behavior but am lost with this child and I believe this is the mothers fault not the childs and my bf and ex have not relationship I deal with the ex ive tried to talk to her she blows it off saying kids will be kids and laughs... someone please help I love this man ive had enough bad in my life im a young widow who finally found love again and I feel like its falling apart.

Step Mom February 21, 2014 | 12:14 PM

Im a step mom to a 6 year old girl and a bio mom of a 2 year old girl. Ive been in my s-daughters life since she was two. Both the parents were unstable and not doing the best they could for her. Mom even said later on that I was the best thing to ever happen to their family. I am the family secretary, I set up parent conferences, applying for school, and for her daycare needs. I dont feel that I should be an enforcer and not part of the decision making. I resent that Dad agrees with over all plans but fails to follow through and I come home looking like the bad guy. We are all civil to each other but if we have issues with my s-daughter watching the Hunger Games at 6 years old (she is also violent at school) She states its not our business quit telling her what to do (We dont tell her we express our concerns and try to come to an agreement) TL:DR version. I am what caused these parents to keep custody of their child, and make a (relatively) civil verbal custody agreement. Step parents should not have to walk eggshells around their s-kids. Being a family unit means treating kids the same, and parenting together.

sisterwoman February 04, 2014 | 4:55 PM

If the bioparent is an enabler to the bad behavior, does not support your efforts, refuses to present a united disciplinarian front to the kids all efforts you put forth are lost. You will only get disrespect because the bioparent does not respect you enough to allow you in the parenting process of these kids, especially if the bioparent is at work or out shopping and you are left with the kids. Step parents have to be allowed to have some disciplinary judgment calls to make or the entire process is bogus. What the step parent ends up with is disrespect, no shared governance, no trust from the bioparent, plenty of frustration with no outlet to vent through. Having lived in this situation, I have experienced the maximum disrespect, verbal abuse to the limit I cannot even look the bioparent in the face and say I love them, because of such poor parenting skills demonstrated and no respect for my personal judgement from the bioparent. The only path to personal peace is to leave the situation that someone else created.

wh January 30, 2014 | 5:59 PM

To Holly. Somebody else is raising your child so you better just shut up and be happy that he has a step mom that takes care of him.... disgrace of a mother...

Step-mom January 21, 2014 | 2:34 PM

I'm a stay-at-home parents of a step-son (almost 6) and a son (2) with a daughter on the way. I have known my step-son since he was 2.. to say I should not be the disciplinarian is silliness. Yes, if there's a serious issue I call his father at work, but most of the 'raising' is done by me. We've done pretty well, even though he has issues like ADD. I teach him things like cooking (his mom doesn't like that, she's afraid he will get hurt) and he has chores (something she doesn't do either). When he visits her he plays video games all weekend.. doesn't spend 'quality time' with her. I tried telling him it's ok to turn the TV off and try to spend more time with her. See if he can help her with the baby (his step-brother). Lately he's been crying frequently, wanting his mommy. When we talk about it, it boils down to her not having time for him and she's busy with the baby most of the time. I tell him the baby will grow up before he knows it and she'll likely have more time. I'm afraid he's been replaced... I hope I am wrong.. but it really does seem that way. He loves his step-brother (we never call the kids 'step', but for this post I will differentiate) and he's very excited to finally get a sister. It's just hard to deal with his ADD and other behavioral issues when he goes to his mom every weekend and all rules are out the window. It's pop-tarts for breakfast, Dorito's for lunch and no bed time.. he watches TV and plays video games until he passes out. He comes home looking like a zombie, smelling like cigarettes. I hate to fuss at him the rest of the week, but we have to be stricter with him at our house or he gets constant notes from his teacher.. It's hard. I know he's happy here, even with the rules... but I always fear I will become 'the evil stepmom' in his eyes.

LD September 11, 2013 | 3:48 PM

Well, here's my story! Advice DESPERATELY needed. I have two children living with with my bf and I, 12, 14, he has one, 17.(all boys) My bf works out of town at least 3 weeks a month, can be home for a couple days usually at the most. My s-son's bio mother left the province/city we live in almost a year ago, leaving the 16 yr old young man to live on his own in her place. My bf and I decided that is was best for his son to move in with us despite the absence of his father. My s-sons bio mom was fine with this, but told her son that I'm not his mother (I agree to this and even told him I wasn't taking his moms place) but she also told him he doesn't need to like or respect me or my kids, that he didn't need to listen to me that WE (my kids and I) are NOT family and he doesn't need to treat us like family. Now we add the absent bio dad, my bf... LOVE him dearly and he makes big sacrifices working away for us. HOWEVER, now I am left to contend with the issues of a s-son who has theses views of my kids and I AND his father will NEVER hold him accountable, responsible for ANYTHING or stand up for me or defend me to his son EVER, unless of course I get upset or down right mad. It`s to the point that I don`t even want his son living here anymore bc it causes SO much stress between his dad and I!!! EVEN THOUGH I KNOW the problem lays with his father being unable to parent his son (my bf has no problem at all parenting my boys. (I understand he has fathers guilt) This has been going on for the 5 yrs we`ve been together, but for the last year it`s been super frustrating bc I have been parenting a child with ZERO support from his bio Mom or Dad. I know the step parent is NOT supposed to be the disciplinary but what am I to do. I am the only parent figure in the same province, city, house as this young man. And every time I tell my bf anything about what his son is doing or not doing, he sluffs it off or makes excuses for his son which infuriates me bc I`m left to deal with it..... with NO support. PLEASE I NEED SOME ADVICE... this is draining the life out of me and my relationship!!!!

phil September 09, 2013 | 1:03 PM

I was seeing my ex for 5 and a half years and 25 years younger then me when we split up she was pregnent when I met her but I wasn't botheredl we had a few problems but got on with it but we split up and met someone else and she wanted to get back together we did and it dint work and she finished it saying I cheated and dint and after she met someone after 2 weeks, she now stop me seeing her son I was there when he was born and brought him up as my son as well and she will not talk tome to sort it out just ignoring me and its hurting not seeing him its been 12 weeks now and its his 5th birthday next month and I don't know wot to do.

the real mom August 09, 2013 | 3:35 PM

Wow, all this help for the step-parents. Great, help them do better. I am the biological mother and the step-mom is constantly causing problems with the relationship with myself and my son. She has total control over his father and rules the roost. She tells the father what to say and do. She influences my son to lie to me and allows him to run around with her troublesome child. She even told my son that it is ok to do drugs as long as you do it in front of her. When I tried to discipline him, she has told him I am judging him and not a good person. She said mistakes should be in the past, like a year ago when she got a DUI after dropping him off to school. Well, she has ruined my relationship, tells him to walk to his dad's if I don't let him go (even though it wasn't his weekend). She is totally pushing me out of my son's life. I didn't have a say when he married her, but I am the one suffering the consequences!!

Joseph August 09, 2013 | 2:26 AM

Thanks for these things! I'm gonna be step father, I need this one! I'm learn more and more things to make our family will be happy family! I know it hards but keep have a little faith!

Lynn August 01, 2013 | 11:44 AM

I'm glad for a place to vent just a bit. I keep my mouth closed a lot because I know it's not my place to open it. I am new to the stepmom thing. And luckily for me, I have a very easy going twelve year old stepson. My husband isn't as fortunate as my own 14 year old son has a huge, headstrong personality and has challenged his BF and I at every turn for years. Divorce is ugly business that I tried so hard to avoid that we went through three different marriage counselors over the course of 5 years, I read everything I could get my hands on, and even became pregnant with my third as a way of kind of forcing myself to stay in my miserable situation. But now, I have a wonderful husband and have never been so happy in my life. I'm having a bit of trouble navigating the stepmom thing because it's something I never ever planned to be. I try very hard to like people, always. But I find myself thinking things about my husband's ex that are completely out of character for me and I'm ashamed to be thinking them! I think her motives in their marriage were despicable! I think she used him, betrayed him, and never appreciated him. From the time he and I started dating, his son was with us almost every weekend and all during the week which was his choice. When his mom had something planned he occasionally went with her. The two of them lived just blocks apart so it was easy for the son to go wherever the fun was. Well, my children and I live an hour and a half away. Before I ever met my husband in person, I made it clear to him that I couldn't move away. I'm very close to my own family and they are all here, not to mention that my three kids' lives are here. They have a big family on their dad's side also and they are very close to them. The thing is, in all the time we were dating, and engaged, it never occurred to the ex-wife that I would want to stay here where my home is. Then, when we got married and my husband put his house on the market to move here with me, his son expressed to us that he wants to move here with his dad. He also informed his mother of this choice. As you can imagine, all hell broke loose! She told the child absolutely not, scolded my husband for being "selfish and marrying someone who lives an hour and a half away".. the boy came back to us and said that he'd changed his mind because he did not want his mother angry or hurt. I wasn't sure how to feel or what my place is, but my husband did ask for my advice and I could not give it. If it were one of my children I would be upset too! I would have been smart enough to ask questions long before now... So, one day I had to text her to let her know what the plan was for the weekend (I see now that it wasn't something I should have been doing at this time) and I made the mistake of trying to reach out to her mom-to-mom. I said that the situation was causing me pain also. WRONG THING TO SAY! She sent me a string of texts putting me in my place and even questioning my skills as a mother. I stayed calm and did not respond. Since then, she is basically kissing the boy's rear like her life depends on it... amusement parks, new stuff, new pet.. Advice? How should I be feeling and what is my role here? I don't like thinking what I'm thinking, that the enormous amount of child support she gets which is also supporting a live-in, unemployed boyfriend is a factor... I'm a better person than this!

Sherry July 30, 2013 | 1:35 PM

@Mike June 23, 2013 -- If I wouldn't have known better i would have thought you were my husband on here under a different name. lol. I have been married to my current husband for 2 1/2 yrs and been together with him 4 years and we STILL have parenting issues with each other's children. His children are 18 (almost 19) and 14 and I have two grown daughters out of the home and an 11 yr old still in the home. We have learned our parenting styles are completely different...i'm more easy going and patient and he has no patience and more of an authoritative parenting style...this causes many clashes in the home. Not to mention my child's father has been a huge jerk and has removed himself from her life for his own stupid reasons and this, as well as the stress from the step father, has caused her to have regressive behaviors in which she is in weekly therapy for. My take on it is I want to handle things delicately due to these issues, yet my husband thinks she should just "get over it" because that's how what he expects of his kids. There is a lot of animosity between him and her; but they do try to make the best of it and animosity between his kids and her. There is animosity and resentment from me to his kids as well...but i don't let it show...mainly because they are not there fulltime. My husband and I love each other dearly. But I'm so afraid love doesn't solve these issues. I DO NOT RECOMMEND being in a blended family. If I would have known, no matter how much i love my husband, i wouldn't do it all over again.

Miss Hurt July 26, 2013 | 3:06 AM

My issue is that I am the step mom and I go above and beyond for my bf and his daughters but I always get treated second best by my bf. I feel if he truly loved me I would never have to feel less then. I shouldnt feel I have to compete but I constatly do. Any thoughts would be great. Thanks

step what?? July 15, 2013 | 12:30 PM

I am so happy to know that I'm not alone. Thanks to all of you who have commented. I keep telling myself that I have to change my way of thinking about how I expect the house to look, how many activities the (step) kids should be involved with and that chores shouldn't have to be done before other "fun" stuff can take place. But my biological kids (3 of 4 adults and moved out) had to abide by some basic rules why shouldn't the others? Their dad doesn't seem to understand that responsibilities should be taken seriously. I have begun to resent all the steps and their father. What should I do?

brent July 01, 2013 | 5:26 PM

@ mike June 23rd. mike, your situation is is very very similar to mine. My fiancé and I are constantly arguing and our problems seem to always stem from her daughter. The other father is completely out of the picture and I have dedicated my time to teach and love her daughter. Her daughter is completely disrespectful towards me and the rest of our children. She is 10 years old. She lies ALL of the time and is defiant in every way. I feel like she has it out for me and just wants to ruin our family. She makes up stories and tells other people I have pushed her and I yell at her. Her actions have even led to her acting as if I have tripped her or pushed her, in front of family members or even in public. Her mother is completely oblivious of the child's actions, and denies all that I tell her. I want to love and trust this child but I feel that she needs to respect me also. I will not sit back and let a defiant 10 year old run or ruin my family's life. I'm lost in which methodology to use to hopefully mitigate this relationship conflict soon. any websites out there where people like me can talk? I want to have a better relationship with my stepdaughter, but I feel its already too late. Anyone can email me if they know of websites or even have similar issues as I do. ( to vent).

Mike June 23, 2013 | 10:27 PM

I am a "stepdad". Girlfriends kids are ages 10 (girl), 12 (boy) and 13 (girl). First of all, I am the man of the house and I pay bills along with their mother, yet I'm supposed to just sit back and let her and her kids call all the shots? How am I supposed to enforce rules if I'm not allowed to be a disciplinarian? That seems contradictory to me. Enforcing rules involves correcting negative behavior, right? So, what if their mother does not discipline them? I have to say, I resent the notion that a step-parent is merely "riding shotgun" and is expected to bend over backward to do all the right things to make everyone comfortable, but doesn't have any real freedom to take charge. We have feelings and needs that need to be met as well. When it comes to my house, I do have some expectations when it comes to behavior and conduct. If the kids' mother knows that certain things are bothering me and makes no attempt at all to correct these issues, then what? I'm just supposed to go on sucking it up and letting whatever is bugging me keep going on? I am a person that is honest (even brutally at times) and I don't let anyone disrespect me or cross my boundaries and that goes for children. If they do something I don't like, you can bet I'm going to let them know. I tried the whole "run and tell their" mom thing and that just does not work. She doesn't handle it and it makes me feel like a tattle-tale. I am a man, so I figure if I have a problem then I should have the freedom to deal with that problem. Am I wrong? I hear a lot of info about what a stepparent needs to do to EARN the kids' respect, but doesn't it go both ways? As for being a replacement parent, that's what I feel like I am precisely, but it's not just my doing. Their mother expects that I will care for them and take on the same workload as any "real" parent, when it comes to the kids. Our relationship has been a bit strained lately (disagreements about the kids, go figure.) and I kinda feel like that's ALL I am these days. I feel like I haven't been a good enough "daddy" to her kids and now she's upset at me. Their dad isn't around, so essentially I AM the dad, aren't I? I tried just being their moms boyfriend and a casual source of support for her kids, but I feel like I've been thrust into a much bigger role. Now that I'm struggling with it and not handling it with the utmost grace, my girlfriend is feeling resentful toward me. Sometimes a stepparent does everything they can to make it work and, it's the kids that screw things up. I never talk bad about their dad (even though he's a piece of crap that owes their mom over $20,000 in child support), I never INTENDED to replace their dad and be their full-on "daddy", I treat all 3 of them the same, I cook for them, I clean up after them, I shuttle them around, I give them praise when they do good, etc. The only thing I can see that I've done "wrong" is correct them when they cross the line with me. I love my girlfriend, but I refuse to let her kids treat me like a doormat and continue to do the very things that drive me crazy. Personally, I think the kids should have some rules on how to earn their stepparents respect. After all, they do want to see their parent in a happy relationship, right? Why do kids always have to give the stepparent a hard time? Don't they know that causes problems in their mother's relationship and compromises HER happiness?I really do try to show the kids I care and be nice to them, but more and more I'm finding that I gotta "run away" to our bedroom or the garage just to get away, to avoid being mean or hurtfull to the kids.

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