Relationship Advice: Stepchildren Behaving Badly!

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

Wait till you read this comment I received from this woman whose boyfriend’s kids (young adults) sound like nightmares! I have some much needed relationship advice for her.

My boyfriend’s kids are 18, 20, 22, and 24. The 3 younger ADULTS live with us. The older adult was finally told to leave because he didn’t go to school, didn’t have a job, didn’t shower, didn’t communicate with us and ran up the internet bill playing online video games. I am waiting for the 22 year old to be told to leave. She doesn’t go to school nor does she work.

The 2 younger adults go to school part time. No one but me does the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping. I used to set the table, prepare dinner, sit down to eat. By the time I sat down one of them would be finished and would be leaving before I even took my first bite. Now I don’t bother setting the table. Sometimes I don’t even bother cooking. I prepare food for myself and my boyfriend. I tell them that if you can’t say hello to me when you enter the house or say what’s for dinner, then I am not going to prepare your dinner.

This is horrifying to me, and these kids sound like really big jerks. That said, they are young adults, so in a way, they are still children who need to learn how to act appropriately and treat others with respect.

The thing is, they are not YOUR children. They are your boyfriends, and the fact that he lets this go on—you cleaning and shopping and cooking for them—and doesn’t enforce better behavior on their part is concerning. Is he just really busy? Does he have no backbone? Does he have such little respect for you?

I don’t have a lot of information, so I can’t say if you did the right thing by ceasing to prepare their meals, but my guess is you did. But, did you try to talk to them about their habits? Have you asked them for help and they decline? Have you tried assigning chores and responsibilities to everyone who lives there?

The bottom line is, you and your boyfriend need to collaborate on this and take charge. Is he willing to do that with you? The two of you need to “lay down the law’ and tell these kids the rules of being under your roof.

I think the two of you joining forces and enforcing better behavior will not only make your household a much happier place to live, but it will strengthen your relationship with your boyfriend.

I’m not saying the two of you should throw his kids out on the street, and I’m not saying you can’t present a plan in a nice way. You can. But you need a detailed plan of cleaning, shopping and cooking responsibilities shared by all.

When these kids realize who is in control (you and your boyfriend) you better believe they will change. Be strong. And, make sure you say thank you and let them know they are appreciated when helping. That motivates them to keep doing it. I think what you will find is that sharing the responsibility will take resentment and underlying anger out of the equation, and not just you, but everyone will be happier.

The thing is, I know it is a slippery slope when it comes to step children. We all want ours to love us. But, the bottom line is, nothing is worth being treated with disrespect. And, if you lay down some laws, they will respect you more and like you more, too.

Hope that helps!


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    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

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