Stepchildren may be disrespectful because they are unfamiliar with new family rules, grieving the loss of a family member or are angry over the breakup of the original family. In general, they may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with their role in the new family. Stepparents can develop strategies to empower their stepchildren to express themselves and help them cope with these issues. Stepparents ultimately can't control whether their stepchildren respect them, but can collaborate with their spouses to set ground rules and consequences for disrespectful behavior.
Agree with your partner or mate to be united in setting and enforcing ground rules that demand respect. Share the rules with your stepchildren early in the relationship, if possible. Identify roles of the parent and stepparent. Collaborate with your partner to determine consistent expectations of how your stepchildren will speak to you.
Hold stepchildren accountable for their behavior. Explain the consequences of disrespectful behavior to your stepchildren and follow through when your stepchildren disrespect you. Make consequences clear, such as the loss of certain privileges.
Ask your partner to handle situations where the stepchildren challenge you and accuse you of being unfair. Recommend that your partner ask for the facts of the situation rather than asking your stepchildren how they feel.
Allow your stepchildren to express their thoughts and feelings in appropriate and respectful ways. For instance, let your stepchildren give their input on how the family should be run. In this case, it's better for the children to give their input to the birth parent, according to the website Empowering Parents. When your stepchildren are empowered to talk about their issues, it provides an alternative to expressing their feelings through poor behavior. You and your partner can make decisions about how to handle the input and come to an agreement about solutions.
Recognize the reasons why the stepchildren are disrespectful.The stepchildren may be stuck in grief over the loss of the noncustodial parent, expressing anger over the family breakup, or rejecting the stepparent in the hope the biological family will get back together. Acknowledge the feelings of the stepchildren and encourage and help them to express their emotions and work through their feelings in way that isn't disrespectful.
Expect that stepchildren may use rejection and rudeness to test whether they are safe and won't be abandoned in the new blended family. Address these concerns by clarifying the rules and explaining how important the childrens' needs and opinions are in the family hierarchy and how much empowerment the stepchildren are granted in making family decisions.
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