Q: I have a 2 year old step daughter that cries for no reason. She is parented A LOT different than I would parent her. She is given anything with just a whine, never told to use her words. How do I go about dealing with this? Do I treat her like everyone else or do I have her follow my rules? I've told my husband that when she's in my house she's going to follow our rules and not be babied.
A: Talking to your partner about what is and is not acceptable behavior is the first step to making a two household situation work for a child. The next step is to be sure that your stepdaughter understands what those expectations are. Even at two a child can learn to behave in different ways based on the situation (i.e. grandma lets me jump on the furniture but mom and dad do not). Be sure that you and your partner agree on the rules and consequences for not following the rules. Sending her away from the group to her room if she is crying because she is not getting her way is an acceptable consequence and if you can both be consistent with the rules and consequences she will quickly learn the difference between is okay at mom’s house vs. dad’s house. The most important thing is that you and your husband work together and form a united front about expectations and consequences. If you can get yourselves in a position of control now things will be much easier as she gets older. With time hopefully your husband and his ex-wife will also come to agreement on parenting so that she gets consistent messages about her behavior regardless of who she is staying with at the time.