How To Deal with a Disrespectful Step Child

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

Dealing with a disrespectful stepchild begins with the establishing of limits for each member of the family.  An essential part of this setting of limits is agreement from one’s spouse, the natural parent of the child.  It is necessary to get concurrence so that the expectations that will have to exist with these limits can be given to the stepchild.  Once the child understands and now realizes that there are expectation, limits, accountability, and consequences, then it is very important to let the child also know that the child does not have to like the rules, but that child must obey them.  Loving parent and step parent should assure the child that they do not like the fact that the rules have to be enforced, but the behavior of the child forced them to be.  Some experts see this “discussion” as an admission that the child has a manipulative power.  It is important that the parents tell the child that these rules were always in place.  At this same point in time, other experts express that there is a need to ask the child what limits the child would like impart on the parents.  Most experts see this as extreme and dangerous. Regardless, using limits to set the bounds and the rules with this stepchild establishes a basis of respect among the three human beings. First limit is to know that it is not the step parent’s accountability to apply punishment when improper behavior occurs.  That accountability belongs and stays with the parent.  However, having expectations with applying bounds and rules and consequences are completely within the accountability of the step parent.  That accountability extends to being spot on sure that the parent and the step child knows what these bounds, rules, and consequences are and holding steadfast to them.  When improper behavior occurs the step parent simply states that these are the bounds that the step child knows already, these are the rules concerning such a situation, and here is the known accompanying consequence that the parent must apply to abide by the bounds and rules.  If this does not occur the stepchild’s improper behavior will drive the relationship to where it will degrade into warfare where everyone loses.  The point around the bounds, the rules, and the consequences is that expectation of respect.  The step parent and the stepchild do not have to love each other.  Yet each must respect each other.  Respect is earned.  Respect between the spouses is where the example of respect is shown to the child.  If the step parent does not allow the parent to deal with the child, it is a lack of respect.  If the parent does not apply the agreed-to consequence when the child misbehaves, the parent is not showing respect to the step parent – spouse.  The parent is also showing disrespect to the child who will soon pick up on the fact that no consequence is being applied, so what is the worth of all of the agreeing and accountability setting, and talk on respect and why it is important.

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