Disrespectful stepchildren are a big issue for many non-traditional families. How do you discipline a child that isn’t your own? You don’t. Maintaining your sanity with a disrespectful stepchild is not about punishment, it’s about setting limits and sticking to them.
1. Expect Respect ~ They don’t have to love you. They don’t have to like you. They just need to respect you and your home. You may never make a fan or a friend out of your stepchild, but you certainly don’t have to suffer their abuse. Believe that you, as an adult and the owner of your home, deserve to be treated respectfully.
2. Know Your Limits ~ You can’t expect your stepchild to know how much they can and can’t get away with if you aren’t even sure yourself. You must know and believe that you will not tolerate name calling, confrontation, destruction of property, rude behavior or the like in your presence or your home. How they behave in their home or outside your presence is their own business. When they are with you, everyone must know what is and is not acceptable.
3. Correction, not Punishment ~ You may be married to or dating their parent, and you may technically be called a “step parent”, but in reality, you are not an authority figure. And THAT’S GREAT! You don’t have to be the bad guy! When your stepchild breaks a rule of conduct or behaves disrespectfully, you need to address the issue. However, punishing the child is not your place (nor would you want it to be). Instead, correct them. Inform them that their behavior is unacceptable. Let them know that you will not your home or you to be disrespected. Tell them that if they insist on being disrespectful, you’re sorry, but they won’t be invited back. Nothing personal. It’s just the rule.
4. Get Support ~ Let your partner know that you find their child’s behavior disrespectful. Allow them to be the disciplinarian. Make it clear that you expect the same respect from your stepchildren as you do from any other child or guest in your home. Be clear that if the disrespect continues, you will not welcome the child back in your home until it has stopped. Your partner’s reaction will say a lot about how they value you and your home together.
5. Enough is Enough ~ If your stepchild refuses to respect you or your limits, it’s time to follow through. When you are alone with your partner, inform them that you will not tolerate the disrespect in your home. Let them know your stepchild is welcome to return when they can respect the rules of your home. Until then, they will have to visit elsewhere. Failure to follow through with the promised consequence of disrespect only encourages the behavior. It also demonstrates a lack of self-respect. If you don’t respect yourself, why should they respect you?