One woman wonders if she did the right thing after she found out that her daughter bullied her step-daughter.
When a family is blended, it is not always easy for everyone to get along. This is what happened to the family of a 35-year-old woman we’ll call Riley. Riley has a 15-year-old daughter named Jessica and she married Joe two years ago who has a daughter named Bella, who is also 15. Recently, the school called Riley to report that Jessica was bullying Bella for being “ugly” and “unfashionable”. Riley was horrified by this news as she had always raised Jessica to be kind and empathetic.
I was absolutely horrified at this as when I was a child I was also bullied for things like that and I have always raised Jessica to be kind and empathetic.
Riley tried to mend the relationship between the two girls by taking Bella out for ice cream and talking to her. Bella confessed that she didn’t say anything because she wanted Jessica to like her, and she didn’t want to cause any problems.
“I then continued to tell [Bella that] I wouldn’t tell Jessica what she told me,” Riley said. She also told Bella that “she can always talk to me whenever… although I will never replace her mom, I want to be there for her no matter what.”
When Jessica returned home, Riley spoke to Jessica.
When Jessica came home I told her that her behavior is extremely unkind and I asked her why she did it. She then continued to say that she is right and that Bella “dresses like a freak and looks like a hideous rat” and that her friends were teasing her for having to live with her.
Because of this, Riley took away Jessica’s phone and her makeup and fashionable clothing, except for skincare prescribed by her dermatologist. This action made Jessica cry and scream that Riley was ruining her life.
“I then told her that I would be taking away her phone for a week and that she has to apologize to Bella. She then proceeded to say more nasty things about Bella which then made me snap. I told her I would take away all her makeup EXCEPT her skincare prescribed by her dermatologist and most of her new clothes that I bought for her last week. She then started crying which made me feel bad but I didn’t relent…she screams I am ruining her life every time I am near her.
Others Weigh In
Riley’s story received a lot of attention from others, who shared their opinions and advice. Some supported Riley’s decision to take away Jessica’s makeup and new clothing, believing that it was an appropriate punishment for her behavior. One person said, “after raising her to be kind and empathetic, and her bullying her sister, I think the punishment fits the nature of the bullying.”
Others praised Riley for being a supportive stepmother to Bella and encouraged her to continue being there for her. One person wrote, “You’re a wonderful stepmother, and Bella is lucky to have you. I’m sure your support means a lot to her.”
However, some commenters suggested that Riley should also focus on Jessica’s underlying issues and try to understand why she is behaving in such a manner. One person suggested, “It might be a good idea to drop back on being such a wonderful stepmother and concentrate on being a good parent to both girls. Jessica’s remarks and new attitude didn’t come from nowhere. Give her some grace because she may be being bullied herself for having a step sister who’s a bit different.”
Many also advised Riley to seek outside counselling and therapy for the family to address their issues and learn how to parent in a blended family. One person suggested, “Parenting teens in a blended family takes that to a factorial level… My suggestion is to find some outside counselling for everyone.”
It is clear that parenting in a blended family can be challenging, especially when dealing with teenagers who are still learning how to navigate their emotions and relationships.
What would you have done in this situation?