I have been with my wife for about six years. She has a daughter, currently age 11, from her first marriage who has lived with us during almost all of that time (sometimes stays with her father, but usually only on weekends, although recently she lived with him exclusively for about three months). My wife and I also have a daughter, who is four.
My stepdaughter is, and has always been, disinclined to help around the house or anything else that adults might tell her to do. I have always felt that it would be beneficial to set her up with a routine of basic chores, but my wife resisted this, and as she's the one in the home most of the day, any parenting plan that she isn't fully behind won't work.
On a daily basis, my wife and stepdaughter have interactions that look something like this:
- Wife: Go take a shower and get ready so we can go out.
- Stepdaughter: (pouts, stomps foot, doesn't go shower)
- Wife: Go take a shower right now.
- Stepdaughter: (either ignores her, or repeats previous behavior)
This might repeat itself a few more times, after which my wife starts yelling and may strike my stepdaughter. Stepdaughter is rather sensitive and will often start crying the moment my wife begins yelling at her. My wife becomes more upset at the crying, which exacerbates the yelling, and eventually one of them will storm out of the room.
When I'm present, I attempt to defuse things, both by trying to calm my wife, and reminding my stepdaughter to respect her mother and do the things she's supposed to do. This is only partially successful, and doesn't help them develop a functional relationship either.
My stepdaughter is definitely not showing the proper respect to my wife (or to me, although I don't directly ask her to do things all that much). She also fights with her sister regularly; that's not unusual, I'm sure, but the fact that she behaves like she's also four is a bit concerning. My wife is lacking in patience and doesn't want to establish the kind of structure that I think is needed here. How can I help our family build a better relationship so that my stepdaughter can do what she's told without excessive drama, and my wife can respond to issues in a more reasoned manner?