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Blending Families: When Your Preteen Doesn't See You as an Authority!

This reader has stepped into a new role and is seeking advice on navigating the challenges of being a "step-in" parent to a preteen who doesn't recognize their authority.

Hey MJ,

I'm reaching out for some guidance on a family dynamic that's proving to be quite challenging. I've been in a relationship for over seven years, and we're discussing marriage. My partner has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, and she's been living with us for the past five years. Her biological mother is still in the picture and isn't fond of me, which might be influencing the situation.

The core issue is that this preteen doesn't feel she needs to listen to me because I'm not her biological mother. She's very much a daddy's girl, and her father, while a dedicated parent, hasn't set firm boundaries regarding respect and discipline. This lack of structure is causing tension in our home.

I was raised with old-school values and respect for elders, and I find myself struggling to connect with her and establish a sense of authority. I have a great relationship with my own adult children and grandchildren, but this is a new territory for me.

I'm trying to balance being a 'step-in' parent while maintaining my relationship and, honestly, my sanity. I'm feeling increasingly voiceless in my own home when it comes to her. How do I navigate this delicate situation and establish a healthy, respectful dynamic with my partner's daughter?

Any advice or insights would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your help.



Dear Anonymous,

Stepping into the role of a "step-in" parent to a preteen comes with its unique set of challenges, particularly when it involves navigating respect and authority. It's a journey that requires patience, empathy, and strategic communication.

First, forging a bond with your partner's daughter that goes beyond the traditional parent-child dynamic is crucial. Focus on building a relationship rooted in mutual respect and understanding. Engaging in activities or hobbies that she enjoys can be a great way to connect and show her that you're interested in her as a person, not just as someone who needs to follow rules.

Communication is key in this dynamic. It's essential to have an open and honest discussion with your partner about your role in his daughter's life. Share your feelings about the need for consistent boundaries and how you both can support each other in creating a cohesive parenting approach. Presenting a united front is vital in establishing respect and discipline.

Understanding the complexities of blended family dynamics is important. Acknowledge that it's normal for a child in this situation to test limits and express loyalty conflicts, particularly if the biological mother's views are influencing her behavior. Patience and time are needed as she adjusts to these family dynamics.

If the challenges persist, consider family counseling. It can offer a safe space to explore these issues and develop strategies to improve the family dynamic. A counselor can help bridge communication gaps and provide tools to strengthen your relationship with your stepdaughter.

Lastly, remember to prioritize your own well-being. Balancing a new family role while maintaining your own mental and emotional health is crucial. Seek support from friends, family, or professional counseling to navigate this journey.

Navigating this new territory is a process, one that takes time, empathy, and concerted effort. With the right approach and support, you can develop a healthy and respectful dynamic with your partner's daughter.

Kenbe la,



In 2020, the "Badass Black Girl" book series author M.J. Fievre began receiving correspondence from a varied audience, including parents, young adults, and teens. Fievre, an established author and speaker, is known for her insightful engagement with themes relevant to these demographics. The communication, primarily through Facebook or the Badass Black Girl inbox, revolves around topics covered in her books and public talks. These interactions display a rich tapestry of experiences and viewpoints, highlighting the author's impact on her readers.

“Hey, MJ” is a platform created to foster a meaningful connection between M.J. Fievre and her readers. It offers a forum for open dialogue, personalized advice, and the sharing of collective experiences. The platform's effectiveness is rooted in Fievre's expertise as an author and speaker. Her work, particularly in the "Badass Black Girl" series, showcases her deep understanding of the challenges and triumphs faced by her audience. Her background as an educator and her commitment to empowering young voices further enhance her ability to offer relevant and empathetic responses.

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