I have been married for two years, and we have an eight-month-old daughter. My husband has a thirteen-year-old daughter from his first marriage, and she has been living with us for five months…. I feel tired, and the truth is that I don’t want to live with the girl…. There are times when she is well behaved, but from time to time she acts spoiled and is aggressive, and on two occasions she even insulted me and wanted to attack me.

I realize that in those situations I lose my temper and yell back at her. My husband also loses his temper at times and they yell at each other.

The girl’s mother doesn’t want her back…. A psychiatrist has told us that it is pure and simple rebellion and that she will improve with discipline, but that it will be difficult and that we as the adults have to control our tempers…. The idea has occurred to me that I could just take my baby and leave, and let my husband deal with his daughter.

I wonder how long I should have to put up with this environment. I knew that he had a daughter, and I understood his desire to live with her, but I can’t put up with her anymore.

Dear Friend,

We are sorry that you are having stressful times in your home, and that you feel you have reached the limit of what you can tolerate. However, we are glad to know that a professional has evaluated your stepdaughter to make sure that there is not a medical or serious emotional problem. We would have recommended that course of action if you had not already taken it.

The teenage years are very difficult. We had four teenagers in our home at the same time, and we could now write a book on all of the negative situations that we faced during those years. For example, what do you do when your son blows up the neighbor’s mailbox or sets a church bathroom on fire? Sometimes it felt like we were more prison guards than parents, and there were days and even weeks and months when we felt like we could not take anymore. We got professional medical help, and we trusted God for the strength to keep on going.

What would you do differently if this girl were your biological daughter? Would you still be thinking of splitting your family apart? Probably not. You would most likely determine to do everything in your power to help your daughter and to survive her teenage years yourself.

This situation is no different. You admit that you were aware that your husband wanted his daughter to live with you before you married him, so by marrying him you agreed with the arrangement. To leave now would be to betray your husband and your baby. It is not “his” daughter against “your” baby daughter. All of you are part of the same family.

You say that you cannot put up with her anymore. But it is you who chooses what you will put up with and won’t put up with. You can choose to stay, and choose every day to control your temper and to discipline with love. You and your husband must agree on the rules and consequences, and then write them down on paper and pin it to the wall. When your stepdaughter is disrespectful, there is a consequence written down that she should receive every time. When she calls you a name, there is another consequence. The consequences should usually be the loss of privileges such as TV time, phone time, and computer time.

What we as parents could not do alone, we managed to do with God’s help and strength. Ask Him to give you strength, along with patience and wisdom, and He will help you too.

We wish you well,