25 CLEAR Signs Of A Bad Stepmother & What To Do (2024)

The signs of a bad stepmother can be difficult to spot. After all, most of us understand that it’s difficult to be a step-parent and we’re therefore willing to give a step-mom more leeway.

Signs Of A Bad Stepmother
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That’s fine, but it’s important to remember the impact that stepparents will have on the lives of their step-kids, especially younger ones.

As such, it’s important to recognise the signs of a bad stepmother and what to do if your kids are dealing with one.

In my role as a life coach, I am always helping people better understand and find happiness with the people closest to them.

That’s why I wanted to share this important guide with you.

So, let’s dive in. 

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What Are The Signs Of A Bad Stepmother?

I don’t believe in the trope of a wicked stepmother or an evil stepmother. This idea mostly only belongs in Cinderella, Snow White and other fairy tales. Sure, there are some truly horrible people out there – and I pray that your children aren’t exposed to them – but most so-called wicked stepmothers actually do have good intentions.

It’s difficult to slide into a family and be a good stepmom to a child that isn’t yours. Many stepmothers will make mistakes, but most of them are trying their best.

If the stepmom of your kids is making some wrong moves, it does need to be addressed. Still, it’s usually recommended to give a ‘bad stepmom’ the benefit of the doubt, at least initially. In most cases, they’re trying to do what they think is best. 

With that said, let’s explore my list of bad stepmother signs. 

1. She Doesn’t Try To Build A Relationship With Her Step-Children  

Any loving relationship requires effort. This is especially true when someone new takes a parenting role in a family. If a stepmom puts no effort to spend time becoming friends with her stepchildren, it’s fair to call her a bad stepmom.

2. She Tries To Be Number One 

A stepmother needs to accept that her husband’s kids will (or at least should) be more important than her. If she tries to be the number one person in her husband’s life, that does make her a bad stepmother and a bad wife too.

3. She Gets Jealous Of The Attention That Her Husband Gives To His Kids

This is very-closed minded and will only serve to cause tension in the family. Also, if a grown woman is jealous of a child, that’s a clear sign that she might have her own mental health issues to explore. 

4. She Deliberately Makes The Kids Jealous Of The Attention She Gets From Dad

If a stepmom does anything to create a “me vs them” vibe in the family, she’s a bad stepmom. If the kids do get jealous of her, she should be actively trying to stop this. A good stepmother will be aware how important attention is for kids, especially from their biological parents. 

5. She’s Mean

This is a clear sign of a bad stepmother. In fact, we’re diving back into the wicked stepparent trope here… 

If she’s cruel to the kids, she’s a bad stepmom who probably needs to work on controlling her temper.

6. She Breaks The Discipline Rules

Should a stepparent be able to discipline their stepkids? It’s highly recommended that a stepmother follows her husband’s guidance here.  

If she makes her own rules with regards to discipline, that arguably puts her in the category of bad stepmother (perhaps even an ‘evil’ stepmother, depending on her choice of discipline).

No stepparent in the world should expect to have the same rules for each of their own families.  

7. She Tries To Scare And Intimidate The Children

Scare The Children
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Yes, it’s important for parents to establish authority over their kids. Of course, this can be hard at times, especially for a stepmom with no permission to discipline the children. But trying to scare or intimidate them is the wrong move. That’s a great way to get categorized as an evil stepmother.

8. She Has No Empathy For Her Stepchildren 

It’s tough for kids to adapt to a new family with a new stepmother. If this stepmother can’t empathise with their struggles, it’s going to be tough for her to make it a happy family.

9. She Badmouths The Biological Mother

This is one of the clearest signs of a bad stepmother. Only a truly evil person would try to turn children against their own mom.

10. She Makes Drama With The Biological Mother

This does nothing good for the family and should be avoided at all costs.

11. She Tries To Replace The Biological Mother

A good stepmother wouldn’t force the kids to call her ‘mum’ or to do anything with her that they’re not yet comfortable with.

12. She’s Selfish With Money

How much money should a stepparent spend on stepchildren? It’s another contentious issue to be discussed between husband and wife. However, it might be fair to assume that a tight-fisted step-mom isn’t willing to put the family first.  

13. She Tries To Rush Or Force A Relationship With The Kids

This is an example of a ‘bad step-mom’ with good intentions. The best strategy is to be patient with the kids and let the relationship build according to their own needs.

14. They’re Always Around

If a stepmother isn’t giving children free time alone with their father, this isn’t great for the family.

15. She Guilt-Trips The Children

This is one of the most toxic ways to get what you want or make someone like you.

16. There’s Rapid Transformation In The Family House 

When a new parent arrives, there will inevitably be certain things that change in the family home. Still, it’s better for the kids that these changes occur somewhat slowly. A rapid transformation to family life isn’t great for the wellbeing of any child.

A bad stepmom would be someone who rapidly transforms a child’s house into her own home 

17. She Constantly Criticizes The Children

To grow up with healthy self-esteem, kids need a lot of positive feedback from their parents and those around them. A step-mother who constantly criticises them will harm their emotional development.

18. She’s Only There For The Good Times 

A bad stepmom is only there for the fun times. A good one is there when the children need her.  

19. She Ignores The Kids When They Need Help 

A bad stepmom won’t offer emotional support when the kids ask for it.

20. She Makes Her Stepchildren Feel Inferior To Her Own Kids

In some cases, a step-mother will make her own rules for her own children; and it should ultimately be down to biological parents to make rules. However, if a stepmom is making her stepchildren feel inferior to her own kids, she’s doing something wrong.

21. She Has A ‘My Way Or The Highway Attitude’

If she cares at all about fitting in. a stepmom will at least consider what the rest of the family wants. 

22. She Freaks Out When Things Get Difficult

Yes, it’s difficult to be a step-mother. Yes, it’s difficult to bond with a child that isn’t yours while working on a relationship with the father. Still, it remains true that losing your temper does no good for the family. 

A child will always make your life difficult, a parent must learn to rise above it.

23. She Manipulates The Children

A child’s mind is more susceptible to believing whatever the authority figures in their life say. Any important person in any child’s life needs to use this power responsibly. A toxic person would use this knowledge to teach children negative and depressing things about the world around them, for example.  

24. She Says She Wishes The Kids Weren’t Around

This is one of the worst things a stepmother can admit to her husband. If these words ever leave her lips, let’s hope it’s at least behind closed doors so the kids don’t hear.   

25. She Doesn’t Want To Be A Better Stepmother 

Most parents will make mistakes in a blended family. It’s tough out there, after all! However, if this woman doesn’t even attempt or show a desire to be a better stepmom, that’s when the alarm bells should start ringing.

What To Do If There’s A Bad Stepmother In Your Family?

It’ll usually only help to address a bad stepmother if you’re her husband or a member of her direct family.

Bad Stepmother
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If someone is criticised about their parenting by anyone else, they’ll usually become very defensive, consider them the bad guy or girl, and not take the feedback on board. 

So, if you’re a friend, relative or child of the husband, your best move is to bring up the issue with him. Hopefully, he’ll listen and agree. 

All single parents should make sure a new partner gets on well with their kids before even thinking about marriage.

But if you’re only just realizing your wife is a bad stepmother, you’ll need to calmly talk with her about the issue.

Explain how it’s affecting your kids and why they will always come first. Hopefully, you’ll find a compromise that keeps the whole family happy. 

If the step-mom refuses to budge, you might need to take more drastic measures such as marriage counselling or even ending their marriage altogether.

For more information, see my guide on when to leave a blended family.    

Frequently Asked Questions About The Signs Of A Bad Stepmother 

Let’s round off this guide with the answers to some frequently asked questions about spotting and dealing with a bad step-mother. 

What Is The Stepmother Syndrome?

This is when a woman is overly preoccupied with her position in a blended family. She will spend a lot of time worrying whether the kids like her. It is also known as the “evil stepmother” syndrome or the “Cinderella’s stepmum” syndrome.  

What A Stepmom Should Not Do?

Ultimately, a stepmum shouldn’t forget that it’s down to a child’s biological mother and father how their kids are raised. If she wants to change something, she should gain the permission of a biological parent first. 

What Should A Stepmother Do?

Here’s some good advice to help a stepmom slot more seamlessly into a child’s life. 

  • Make an effort to become friends with your stepchildren, at a pace they’re comfortable with. 
  • Follow the parenting rules set by the biological mom and dad.
  • Respect the biological mom and dad at all times.
  • Accept that you’ll always take a back seat to your husband’s kids. 
  • Give as much love to the kids as you possibly can.

Consider these five signs that a stepmom is doing everything in her power to fit in well with the family. 

What Should You Never Say To A Stepmom?

Don’t say anything that makes light of how difficult it is to be a stepparent.

  • “You knew what you were getting into when you started dating him.” 
  • “No-one forced you to become a step-mom”
  • “It must be really tough for their real mother.”
  • “He’s their dad. Let him handle it.” 

Also, don’t say anything that makes them feel inferior to a biological mum.

  • “You’d understand if they were your kids.”
  • “You’re not a real mother.”

These are all great things to say if you don’t want to be friends with a stepmother any more.

How Do You Deal With An Evil Stepmom?

An evil step-mother – someone who deliberately harms your kids – needs to be kept as far away from them as possible. 

Any Questions About The Signs Of A Bad Stepmother?

Thanks for reading my list of bad stepmother signs. I hope you’re now more clued up about the signs of a bad stepmother and how to deal with one.

If you have any more questions on this topic, feel free to leave a comment below.

Of course, I’ll try to reply to as many comments as possible. 

It would be great to hear from you.

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.