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My 9 year old step daughter is out of control
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My 9 year old step daughter is out of control

My step-daughter is out of control when she comes to our house. She spends the first day or so bad mouthing her bio-mom and step-dad and telling elaborate stories of what they make her do ie: clean her room etc. Then the next day or so she is absolutley so rude. We cannot get her to follow rules in house. Every few minutes or so she is saying very rejecting and mean things to us both. Bio-dad and me (step-mom). She screams and cries so loud when she is taking a bath bacause she wants me to assist her. I help her every step of the way if she asks. She has a complete meltdown if water gets on her back when we have just dried off after the bath. She says "I can't do and I can't do that" continuously. For example: When we ask her to put her shoes on she says "I can't" in a very whining voice. She starts stomping her feet and kicking. If we ask her to help us open the door when our hands are full she says I can't. It is simply a light weight glass door with a handle in reach. She complains constantly. I don't have this toy and I can't go here or there. I don't like the food. I can't sleep alone. I don't like these clothes. I don't like these socks. There's a spider in my room. My tummy hurts. I have a scratch on my leg. She screams and cries and we are just at our wits end. What is going on with her?

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Hello,
   this sounds thoroughly frustrating, and I am sure not at all what you pictured when you imagined becoming a stepmother. This girl sounds pretty miserable. She is demonstrating symptoms consistent with anxiety, depression and behavioral problems. I would recommend you ask your pediatrician for a referral to a psychologist so she can be evaluated and treated.

  It sounds like she would benefit from individual therapy combined with parent guidance therapy for your and your spouse (this type of therapy is also known as parent management training or parent coaching--basically the goal is to help you and your husband manage these behaviors in effective, humane, non-putative ways). Keep in mind that you and your husband will have to make a lot of changes in order for her to change. It would be best for her if you could get her other family on board with the therapy or at least communicating with the psychologist.

   For you, I recommend 3 books: The Enlightened Stepmother, The Kazdin Method
and How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk. See which of them appeals to you.

Best Wishes
Rebecca Resnik
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Tali Shenfield, PhDBlank
Richmond Hill Psychology Center
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MindWell Clinical Psychology
Bethesda, MD
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