Posted by: TANTRUM | 2008/08/07


Teenage Tantrum

Hi, your input please. My fiancé  &  I’ m getting married in 4 month’ s time. We’ ve been living together now for 4 years. He has a 13y old daughter out of wedlock and I have twins 19 yrs old –  one at Varsity and the other one working. We don’ t have one of our own and don’ t plan to have any –  too old (ha-ha). While mine has gone through (I hope) most of their teenage fase, his daughter has just started. She lives with her mom, stays over 1 day in the week with us and also every 2nd weekend. This arrangement works perfectly for years now. Last night her dad made a comment about her hair not looking healthy and that she should stop straightening her hair as it makes it look like straw. This is true as her hair is terribly damaged, dull and straw like. She does visit the hairdresser every 6 weeks but she also highlights her hair which adds to the damage. Being a normal teenager she shouted at him and said that she does not like her curls and that she WILL straighten her hair. She ran out the room and slammed the door. I went up to comfort her by saying that men don’ t understand us women but that she should go for an intense treatment at the salon. She was happy again after a hug &  a kiss and smiling again. After all that she wrote her dad a note to say that she is sick &  tired of him shouting at her, that he only thinks of himself, he never keeps his promises, that everyone says she looks like him (and she is a split image of him) but that she is not like him AT ALL, it is his fault that she is depressed, and this is why her mom left him. She went on to say that all he does is PUSH, PUSH, and PUSH her to study. What she does not understand is why he has to “ push”  her –  because she is in Gr 8 and can’ t study independently. He has to forever nag, beg and plead with her to study. She ALWAYS says she has no homework or that she finished it at aftercare. This might be true but we do not see the results in her exam marks. She is in a remedial school because her mom decided that she needed such a school because of ADD/ADHD. Back at the ranch we feel she is too lazy to study and being in a remedial school she should therefore get 70% plus average. She is 40 –  60% average per subject. They are only 10 per class and therefore get 100% individual attention. He is concerned that because of “ spoon feeding”  at school it is making her lazy to study and to think on her own. There was more in the letter but I can’ t remember it all. This left my fiancé  terribly sad - with understanding. He is now too scared to discipline her, which is wrong. He is the parent, he should be telling her what to do, and not visa versa. He did have a talk to her in the morning to reassure her that if he did not love her, he would have left her to do anything. He had the usual, normal conversation with her as most of us who have teenagers have done. She apparently did not say anything. I feel she owes him an apology. He’ s asked me to talk to her. I want sound advice as I don’ t want to say the wrong things as the step-mom can easily become the enemy.

Expert's Reply


ADHD Expert

Dear Tantrum,
It seems you and your step-daughter to be have a wonderful relationship and you should feel good about this. It is understandable, and wise, that you do not want to become the middle man between her and her father; ultimately he is her parent (despite your nurturing role). I have heard other parents query the teaching style of remedial schools and perhaps a meeting with her teacher together with all caregivers could shed a little more light onto the best route forward. Having said that, it is important to remember that children with any learning difficulty tend to work twice as hard for the half the result of children without a learning difficulty; and yet another point to consider is the possibility that she uses her difficulty as a scapegoat. Top all this with the hormonal changes she is experiencing and perhaps some confusion about her self worth as her biological parents are not together. Although the custody arrangement works well, and children adapt remarkably well, she may have some underlying resentment that she not even she is aware of. Perhaps a visit with an educational psychologist can lead to an assessment of her current level of difficulty with learning, and also venture into her emotional well being. The teenage years are very difficult for parents, but even more so for the child going through them. Discipline, a safe haven, immense love and guidance are her top needs - even if she disagrees.
Kind regards.

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