I have noticed that in both households when arguments arise, both between the children and the adults, the fights are often symptoms. If you can figure out what the symptoms stem from before the argument escalates, you can save lots of unnecessary frustration, and resentment. Step-parents have a difficult time being the odd-person out anyway, throw in the referee position, and everyone will end up turning against them. That has been my experience anyway.
Another popular scenario in my house is my oldest daughter, who is 14, waits until right before I get home to start pushing her step-dad’s buttons. The second I walk in the door my husband is livid, my daughter is in tears with an innocent look on her face, like she did nothing at all to deserve his wrath. I then get a story about my husband yelling at her for no reason, but I know better than that. She likes to twist the truth to manipulate the situation. What does she gain from this? This causes Bob and I to argue. The argument sometimes leads to me defending her, which leads to indifference. Eventually he and I shut down from one another briefly, which rewards my daughter with more of my attention. But unfortunately for her we figured out what she was up to and we no longer allow this behavior. My ex actually said that Bob had full rein to punish her however he saw fit, and to not allow her to treat him so poorly. Bob only yelled at her because he felt unheard, like he was being ignored, walked on, and like I was not seeing what was happening. The root of the problem: his needs were not being met.
A couple of months ago I was averaging 11 hour work days between my day job, writing, and websites, not even including my home life. I also have extra responsibilities outside of my immediate family. My father had a stroke a few years ago, and I have certain obligations toward him. During this time period I was getting very little sleep. I was spending very little time with my husband and children. I had no time for myself. I had no time for reading, no time for resting, no time for anything but work. My husband was frustrated because he was picking up the slack at home. My kids were acting out because I wasn’t coming home until 6:30 or 7:00 every night, and then immediately getting on my computer, and staying on the computer until midnight or later. I was exhausted and irritable. All four of us were quick to snap at one another. I needed rest, and time with my family, and time to myself. The kids needed time with their mom. My husband needed quality time and affection from his wife. None of our needs were being met, so all of us were short-tempered. Once we actually discussed how we felt, even though I was still working crazy hours for a couple more weeks (not anymore), the arguing, and acting out had improved. The only difference was that we had talked about our feelings, and we all acknowledged and validated one another’s feelings, and I think that makes a huge difference.
When our needs are not being met we don’t always know how to say it out loud. We may not even know what’s going on. Think back to all of the recent times when you have been angry, when you snapped at a loved one or just felt frustrated with life. What was going on?
Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of ten and fourteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, and www.bigblendedfamily.com. She is a regular writer on www.herviewfromhome.com, writer and co-editor for Her View From Omaha. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, and Pinterest.