How to Handle Stepchildren Who Do Not Respect You: 5 Steps
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Don't start a tug-of-war with your stepkids' boundaries.

You can thank Disney for that whole "wicked stepparent" thing. After all, it was Cinderella's stepmother who laid the groundwork for childhood opinions on stepparents in the first place. Of course, Cinderella at least listened to her stepmother -- a courtesy you might not be getting from your stepkids. If your relationships with your disrespectful stepchildren are not the type of fairy tale you were hoping for, it's time to buck the Disney trend and gain respect while proving that stepparents aren't so bad after all.


  1. 1
    Define the underlying issues that could be affecting your stepchild's behavior. Younger children rarely actively dislike a new adult in their life, so there could be specific issues affecting their behavior: feelings of guilt at bonding with someone other than a biological parent, anger due to huge changes, or abandonment issues can all affect the bonding process and result in a weak stepparent relationship.
  2. 2
    Admit your faults to your stepchild. Even preschoolers can appreciate you getting down to a child's level and admitting, "Look, I know I'm not the best at this, but I want us to be friends." It takes you out of the role of mysterious authority and creates more of a teamwork atmosphere.
  3. 3
    Clarify your expectations with your stepchild. Let him know that you don't expect to be a new parent, but you do want to work with his biological parents to make sure he has everything he needs. However, stipulate that you need acceptable behavior and respect to do that. By setting a precedent for the relationship early on, you show that while you want to create a relationship with your stepchild, you also intend for that relationship to involve respectful behavior.
  4. 4
    Arrange for one-on-one time with your stepchild. If he sees you as an ally in his childhood, he'll start respecting you more. Just be wary of usurping his biological parents' roles in his life. For instance, if he always goes to soccer games with his biological mother, you could offer to take him out for ice cream afterward, or create your own traditions that help you bond and get to know each other better.
  5. 5
    Give your stepchild five compliments for every criticism you make about him, whether it's in your head, to his biological parent or even directly to him. When a stepchild is treating you poorly, it can be difficult to look past a bad attitude, but forcing yourself to look on the bright side helps you cultivate a respectful attitude as well. After all, respect is a two-way street.


  • Refuse to be bullied. If your stepchild continues to be disrespectful and rude, withdraw yourself from the relationship and give him some time to cool off before trying again.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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