How to Deal With Disrespectful Stepchildren
A second marriage can bring with it individual challenges that a first marriage doesn't. It's no surprise that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the second marriage has approximately 28 to 50 percent chance of ending in separation or divorce 1. Stepchildren can further complicate your marriage, making you feel out of control when it comes to the rearing of someone else's children. Remember to take the kids' feelings and experiences into consideration when dealing with disrespectful stepchildren.
Establish your own identity as a stepparent. Some children will become concerned that your presence in their life is meant to be a substitute for one of the biological parents. Instead of trying to insert yourself in their lives as a substitute parent, become an alternative parent, with an identity and parenting style that is individual to you. If the other biological parent has certain discipline methods or traditions, find your own to show the children you aren't trying to replace someone in their lives.
Create a united front with your partner by agreeing on tactics for discipline, rewards and time together, suggests HelpGuide.org. Step children can cleverly pit their biological parents against their stepparents to get their own way. Decide what will and won't be tolerated with your partner. When your stepchildren are disrespectful, you'll already have a course of action that is agreed upon and enacted by both spouses as a team.
Agree with your step children from time to time, suggests FamilyEducation.com. It shows your stepchildren that you are willing to admit when you're wrong in order to create a respectful relationship. If your teenage stepchild yells that you are a bad parent and that she misses her biological mom, calmly state that perhaps you could have handled the situation better. Admit that you're new at being a stepparent, and ask for patience until you get the hang of it.
Show patience when your stepchildren are acting out. Becoming irate or complaining to your spouse does little to repair and establish your relationship as a constant fixture in your stepchildren's lives. Remember that a divorce and subsequent remarriage is a confusing and upsetting time for children, and like you, they need time to adjust. When your step children act disrespectfully toward you, avoid becoming upset and instead take a time-out until you all can treat each other respectfully, suggests Susan Philips in her book "Stepchildren Speak: 10 Grown-Up Stepchildren Teach Us How to Build Healthy Stepfamilies." 4
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States
- HelpGuide.org: Stepparenting and Blended Family Advice
- Family Education: Dealing with Your Adolescent Stepchild
- "Stepchildren Speak: 10 Grown-Up Stepchildren Teach Us How to Build Healthy Stepfamilies": Susan Philips; 2004
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images