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How to Deal With a Mean-Spirited Stepchild

By Barbie Carpenter ; Updated April 18, 2017
A step-family can learn to blend rather than collide.

Step-parenting is challenging under the best of circumstances, and when you have a stepchild who seems bent on upsetting you, adjusting to your blended family can be even more difficult. Rather than resorting to snarky retorts, set an example by being a supportive and present stepparent. And instead of expecting your spouse to take sides -- a normal reaction -- work with him, as the team that you are, to build a healthier relationship with the child.

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Talk to the child about competing loyalties. Your stepchild might not want to like you because he may feel in doing so he would be choosing you over his absent biological parent, according to the Stepfamily Foundation. Tell your stepchild, and show through your actions, that you are not trying to replace his mother or take over her role. Understanding your intentions might minimize the mean in your stepchild.

Grow thick skin. When a stepchild, or any child, hurls insults at you or ignores you, it's natural to have some hurt feelings. It will help you to not take this personally, if you understand the rude behavior or snarly attitude is common among new stepchildren, especially in their teen years. If you don't respond to such behavior, your stepchild might back off.

Minimize discipline. You don't want to let your stepchild get away with everything, but leave the strict disciplining to the biological parent. If you become the controlling parent, your stepchild will likely resist and resent you more, only exacerbating the problem, according to "Psychology Today."

Find a way to connect. Look for a shared interest, whether that be playing the piano or video games. Talk to your stepchild about the common interest when he's in the mood for a chat. By seeing you as an ally, your stepchild might change his attitude.

Be a role model. Your instinct might be to respond with an equally poor disposition, but being mean will only make things worse. Be pleasant and polite with your stepchild, even when you're being treated rudely. Your positive attitude may rub off on your stepchild over time.

Treat the children equally. Whether you have biological children, stepchildren or both, treat each child with the same level of respect and hold each child to the same expectations. Even if your stepchild's sole purpose in life seems to be to make you miserable, treating him differently than his other siblings can only make him resent you even more. Give each child respect.

Tip

If the situation doesn't improve, seek family counseling.

Warning

If you suspect there's more to your stepchild's behavior than normal step-family adjustments, speak to a health or mental health professional.

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About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.

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