Electronics manufacturers include a 300 page instruction manual telling you how to care for your cell phone, but your new stepdaughter doesn’t even come with a small pamphlet. When it comes to learning how to treat your stepdaughter, there is no rule book. However, a good place to start is by watching Cinderella. What you see her stepmom do -- do not do to your own stepdaughter, unless you want her to hate you, of course.
Treat Her as You Wish to be Treated
You remember hearing your mom and dad tell you that you should always treat other people the way you want to be treated. You may think they were wrong about many things, such as your curfew and the age you could start wearing makeup, but they were really right about this one. You should treat your stepdaughter the way you want her to treat you in return. This means it is important that you treat her with kindness, love and respect. Toddlers may not be able to fully comprehend what it means to be treated with respect, but they are old enough to recognize when you are treating them nicely, and they recognize when a person loves them.
Treat Her the Same as Your Other Children
You carried your kids around for nine months, missed out on a lot of sleep and worry constantly when they are not in your immediate eyesight. They are pretty darn special to you. However, you cannot allow your stepdaughter to see you favoring your own children over her, as difficult as that may seem. You may not have carried her for nine months, and you never had to wake up with her six times a night for feedings, but she’s yours now. Actually, since she didn’t make you suffer through six months of morning -- or all day -- sickness and 67 hours of childbirth, you might like her a little more than your own biological kids. When you marry a man with children of his own, you have to accept them, love them and treat them as fairly as you treat your own children. If you let your own toddlers have play dates with their friends, you need to let your stepdaughter do so as well. If you let your own toddlers spend time with your mom and dad at their farmhouse, you need to ask them to include your stepdaughter. Even at this young age, she will recognize it if you are treating her differently.
Discipline Her Within Your Boundaries
If you really want to know how to treat your stepdaughter, you need to talk to her father and her biological mother, if she’s in the picture. As a stepparent, you have to respect the wishes of your stepdaughter’s biological parents; if they don’t want you spanking or disciplining your stepdaughter, then you have to respect that. However, in an effort to treat your stepdaughter the same as your own children, you should also make it clear that when she’s in your home, she’s part of your family and will obey your family rules. This means if your stepdaughter and your own kids take it upon themselves to redecorate the playroom walls with magic marker, they all receive the same punishment. It’s also not fair to any other children you have if they are held accountable for their misdoings and your stepdaughter is not, because you are not allowed to discipline her. This could cause her stepsiblings to feel animosity toward her, and that is not how she should be treated.
Do Not Try to Replace Her Mother
Even if her mother is no longer a part of her life for any reason, it is not your job to replace your stepdaughter’s mother. Even at such a young age, she will recognize the signs of you trying to replace her mother. To do this, do not force her to call you Mom or Mommy. Allow her to call you by your name. If she wants to call you Mom, she eventually will. Do not talk ill about her mother in front of her. Even if her mom is a raging lunatic, she needs to form her own opinions. You will very likely experience times when your new stepdaughter refuses to pick up her toys and screams, “You can’t make me pick up my toys because you’re not my mommy!” to you. It’s your job as her stepmother to appropriately defuse this situation by explaining to her that you are not her mommy, nor do you want to try and replace her mommy, but that you do love her and she is part of your family. As part of your family, explain to her that she receives the same treatment as any other kids you have, which means she is responsible for picking up her own toys when she is finished with them.