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Dealing with Disrespectful Stepchildren

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 15 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Dealing With Disrespectful Stepchildren

It can be very hard for a parent to deal with their disrespectful children, but even harder for stepparents, who may not feel that they have the authority to change the way that their stepchildren behave. Allowing kids to be disrespectful, though, isn’t doing them any favours, as all children need to understand the importance of treating others with care and respect. Once a home environment of less than stellar child behaviour has been established, it can be hard to turn it around – but it is not impossible.

Establishing Reasonable Boundaries for Stepchildren

Every household needs rules. Society operates on a system of behavioural guidelines and one of the most important tasks of parents is to prepare their children to become well-functioning members of society, and that training begins in the home. Teaching children to speak and behave in a manner that honours other people helps them to understand appropriate behaviour as well as gives them a base of self-respect and good impulse control.

Children can and should be encouraged to express their emotions, but it is important that they learn to do so without hurting others. Disrespectful back-talking, refusal to comply with house rules, or selfish expectations are all examples of habits that children can easily acquire if their parents and stepparents do not show them that these behaviours will not be tolerated. Kids need to have a clear idea of what is expected of them and they must also be made aware of the consequences, should they choose to behave otherwise.

Enlisting the Help of your Spouse

Stepparents who have the support of their spouses have a much better chance of getting the stepchildren to treat them with respect and comply with house rules than those whose spouses fail to stand up and make their positions clear. Especially in the beginning, kids may be more inclined to take direction from their natural parent, rather than from a stepparent, who they may view as an unwelcome intruder. The adults in the home need to decide together on a set of behavioural guidelines for the children and then present them together, sending the message that obstinate or disrespectful behaviour will not be tolerated by either parent.

Setting Limits and Respectful Discipline

Teaching kids to be respectful requires that they be disciplined in a kind and respectful manner. It is unreasonable to expect that parents and stepparents can utilise harsh methods of discipline and then have children who do not emulate this type of behaviour. Kids may learn a bit from listening to a line-list of rules, but they are more heavily influenced by observing the important adults in their lives. Gentle, yet firm guidance will help kids to understand that they do not need to behave in disrespectful ways in order to be noticed and understood.

Breaking Through when Stepchildren are Stubborn

Some children seem determined to be defiant, despite the efforts of their parents and stepparents to garner their cooperation. Wild or disrespectful behaviour can be symptomatic of a variety of conditions, so if a parent finds that their children are out of control or disrespectful in more than one area of their lives (for example, they act out at home and at school), they may want to seek the advice of their GP to see of their child may be suffering from an undiagnosed behaviour disorder. Teachers and school officials may find it difficult to deal with kids who aren’t able to control their behaviour, so seeking input from children’s teachers can be invaluable. Effective treatment is available once an accurate diagnosis has been made, so parents should not delay in seeking help if they feel that their children’s disrespectful behaviour may be the result of a physical or emotional condition.

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I found this article quite useful if in a perfect situation. My step son is 5 years old, he hits my 6 year old girl and bullies and hits my 2 year old girl. He never says please or thank you, everything he says is; I want, I don't want, I don't like that get me something else, I want it now, put it in the microwave cos It's cold now... just asking him to say hello to someone he knows, he refuses and starts a tantrum. He swears and sticks his fingers up at my kids plus he is constantly riddled with head lice, he is approx 3 stone over weight so I am worried about him playing with my 2 year old as he likes play fighting and if he falls on my 2 year old he'll break her. All his issues have been raised with his mum who says he isn't like that at home and refuses to believe the boy has issues. I am worn out, he wets the bed, he can't wipe his bottom as he's too large that he can't reach so I have to do this which I am going to refuse to do because it makes me feel ill. None of these issues are the boys fault but why should my girls and myself suffer?
EmmaC - 15-Dec-17 @ 12:15 PM
I found this article quite useful if in a perfect situation. My step son is 5 years old, he hits my 6 year old girl and bullies and hits my 2 year old girl. He never says please or thank you, everything he says is; I want, I don't want, I don't like that get me something else, I want it now, put it in the microwave cos It's cold now... just asking him to say hello to someone he knows, he refuses and starts a tantrum. He swears and sticks his fingers up at my kids plus he is constantly riddled with head lice, he is approx 3 stone over weight so I am worried about him playing with my 2 year old as he likes play fighting and if he falls on my 2 year old he'll break her. All his issues have been raised with his mum who says he isn't like that at home and refuses to believe the boy has issues. I am worn out, he wets the bed, he can't wipe his bottom as he's too large that he can't reach so I have to do this which I am going to refuse to do because it makes me feel ill. None of these issues are the boys fault but why should my girls and myself suffer?
EmmaC - 15-Dec-17 @ 12:06 PM
Rob - Your Question:
This was a semi-informative article which was completely ruined by the last paragraph. I was seeking legitimate advice on how to best discipline a child in order to get results and not scar them for life. Instead the article, like many, went straight to disorders. Labels are quickly given in today's society, which more often than not, leave the parents with an excuse for their unruly children and a packet of drugs to calm them. This cannot be the answer!

Our Response:
The article covers all possibilities in order to give parents an informed choice. 'Drugs' are not always considered an option where a child may be hyperactive or suffer from ADHD. However, many parents welcome help from their GP when there seems to be no obvious answer to their child's behaviour.
BeingAStepParent - 11-Dec-17 @ 12:49 PM
Megan - Your Question:
@JMcM. Yes you are right. Sometimes I am not sure if his love for me. Sometimes he seems jealous of me having fun w boys. Sometimes he keeps plivilledge of him owing houses. I really hate when he does. But I think I have some faulty parts too allowing him to be like that. I fight but I do not win. Sometimes I want to leave this place and find a new partner. A whole new relationship where there is no kid. But I also know many thought about such once or twice in their marriages. I want to walk away from this relationship time to time. But I am not sure if I do. And life goes on.

Our Response:
@Megan - but don't undermine yourself, if you have been married for 33 years, then 'his' houses are your houses too. It really sounds as though it's your man who is the problem, not the kids, they're just stuck in the middle. Best of luck with what you decide to do. But the main thing is not to let him bully you. You are worth more than that and don't forget it!
BeingAStepParent - 11-Dec-17 @ 12:20 PM
This was a semi-informative article which was completely ruined by the last paragraph. I was seeking legitimate advice on how to best discipline a child in order to get results and not scar them for life. Instead the article, like many, went straight to disorders. Labels are quickly given in today's society, which more often than not, leave the parents with an excuse for their unruly children and a packet of drugs to calm them. This cannot be the answer!
Rob - 10-Dec-17 @ 9:09 AM
@JMcM.Yes you are right. Sometimes I am not sure if his love for me.Sometimes he seems jealous of me having fun w boys. Sometimes he keeps plivilledge of him owing houses.I really hate when he does.But I think I have some faulty parts too allowing him to be like that.I fight but I do not win.Sometimes I want to leave this place and find a new partner. A whole new relationship where there is no kid.But I also know many thought about such once or twice in their marriages.I want to walk away from this relationship time to time. But I am not sure if I do.And life goes on.
Megan - 9-Dec-17 @ 2:27 AM
@Disrespected - you have a marriage of 33 years though. It would be difficult to throw all this past away, to what? Be on your own. Sometimes being on your own seems a lovely thought in principle, but when you're there with no one next to you at night, it is tough. It's something I keep weighing up as I don't know how I continue now my man's kids are 14 and 12 and just going into their teenage years. I keep thinking how can I keep going with them looking down at my nose at me. But somehow I do as the alternative of being on my own is scarier. I never had my own kids and I wanted so much for this to work as it was my chance but it just doesn't.
JMcM - 7-Dec-17 @ 12:59 PM
@Megan - this sounds more like a problem with their dad than the kids. It seems you need more reassurance and love from him. If you feel like you are there only as a person to look after his kids then you're going to feel undervalued and unloved. If their dad values your input and shows he loves you then I'm sure that would give you the strength to get through this tough time. You as well as your kids need to feel loved and valued, we all do, it's the single thing that leads to the most unhappiness when we don't. You need to sort this out with their dad first.
JMcM - 7-Dec-17 @ 12:52 PM
@desrespectedI see your pain and I share.My stepkids are still small but sometimes I think about future. What I am worried about is your story. That can be very much mine. Right now their dad is with me so I feel somewhat protected. But if he is gone, I am not sure what I suppose to do.I think many times if I can continue this or not. It is hard to think like this as I love him. But I am not sure if he does as much as I do. Men like him need someone to take care of him and his kids. And there I am. But often it makes me think if this is my happiness. I think about leaving many times too. But when one of the step kid shows his affection to me, I just hold him and stop thinking negatively. But the thought comes back again. Even I feel some people are not so respectful to me in this relationship. It is hard. I feel so me when I am with my own friends. I can say anything I want to and they still support me and love me. I wish I have that in this relationship but that is not the case.
Megan - 7-Dec-17 @ 9:59 AM
@sandra, your right about his son , and i keep thinking how he will love this! But i don't know what else i can do.??
Disrespected - 5-Dec-17 @ 4:09 PM
@Disrespected:( That's sad. It may make your husband sit up and realise if you do. On the other hand, it will play straight into the hands of his son. I know what you mean though, I've had to offload the whole family because of the disrespectfulness of my ex's kids. In the end they all seemed tarred with the same brush. I have even deleted all the photos as I can't bear to see their faces. Awful. The whole business. I had 10 years of it.
Sandra - 5-Dec-17 @ 3:57 PM
My husband of 33yrs used to have my back on this situation. My stepson now 37 with 2 kids of his own is very rude and always was to me. My husband and i were never invited to the kids birthday parties, he says his moms going to be there and he didnt want any problems. He knows his mother will start, she always does if i see her anywhere. The kids are now 10 and 8. He is and always was jealous of me, my stepson was 3 when we started dating. His mother always talked bad about me, she is no doubt a sociopath. My husband always said when his son grows up he will see who the problem is. Well my friends, my husband was wrong, infact, his son is more rude then he has ever been to me. He now invites just my husband to do things with his family and my husband as far as I'm concerned is very disrespectful to me for doing these things with them. I do not expect my spouse to not see his son and grandkids but I feel totally disrespected for my husband allows his son to treat me this way. There was a time his son kept the grandchildren away from us for 3 years because my stepson ask to borrow money for his second home because his mom lived with them and could not live together anymore my husband told him no so he kept the kids away. I feel my husband is afraid he will do it again. My husband never reprimands or even disagrees with his son I believe it's because he'll take the kids away again. I cannot and will not live like this anymore. My husband and I have been arguing for quite a few years because of all this and I can no longer take the stress it has caused to me and I cannot live like this anymore I believe the only solution in my case is a divorce. His son makes it so my husband has to make a choice, but I will make it for him because I know he will not choose me.
Disrespected - 5-Dec-17 @ 3:41 PM
@Kiki - it's never easy with blended families. I don't understand why you can get on with someone better if they are genetically yours. But blood is thicker than water, so they say and it seems that this is quite often sad but true :(
MistyI - 1-Dec-17 @ 4:09 PM
@Blessed Mom - he must find it difficult, especially as it's three siblings against one when they come. He's being territorial, and it's understandable if the kids are very different and there is a natural clash of personalities. This sounds as though it's something you will have to muddle on through with. Perhaps you could try and take him elsewhere when they come and spend time and you and he have some quality mother and son time. Perhaps if he was forced to keep away from the kids, he might actually want to see them. You're gonna have to try every which way you can.
Wendy - 30-Nov-17 @ 2:38 PM
HELP!! I have a son that will be 12 in a few weeks. Up until the time he was 9 1/2 he and I were on our own. We did live with my parents a few times as I could not financially make it. Since then we have lived with my boyfriend and his 3 children. When we moved in everyone was together every other week for a week at a time. Unfortunately their visitation changed as they moved and we now only have every other week. On this schedule all of the kids are completely opposite of each other so they see each other very little. My boyfriend has given us a life we would never have had on our own. We live on 20 gorgeous acres with a beautiful home. He has also in the past two years been able to join the 4H Clubs and show animals (this is a big thing in Texas) and has done so well with them. Our struggle is with his attitude, smart mouth and cannot seem to get along with the other kids. They do get along at times and have a great time together. He does not have behavior problems at school or anywhere else. In fact parents always tell me he is the most polite and respectful child that has been to their house. He admits to me that he does not do this at his dads. He goes to his dads on a regular schedule however often times his dad is not there, he is with his grandparents and great grandparents who also say they have absolutely no problem. I have tried everything I know of. I have talked to him so many times, I have taken things away, not allowed him to attend things and still we are in the same place. For about 3 weeks last month he did amazing. Ipraised him for the behavior as often as I felt I should. I am not sure what happens. My boyfriend is at his witts end with it and I somewhat understand. It is so incredibly frustrating. On the other hand I get upset that he gets frustrated with him. I am so worried about him and only want whats best for him!
Blessed Mom - 28-Nov-17 @ 8:38 PM
@CrysII ET all stepparents who read this Thank you. This community is great. Many of you seem having your own as well as stepkids. Sometimes being a real parent is not so rewarding...I know so as I was once a kid also. But I felt having your own kids help you as they hug you no matter what at the end. I do not have any kid and do not plan as I am bit too old for that. Sometimes I feel like the World is 3 (my partner and 2 kids) vs me.I can not describe everything how I feel. But I feel sometimes they blame me on things and continue blaming on things. I just want to exit and have a fresh air. Then he threads our relationship when I try to take a little break on couple days. Sometimes having dinner w my friend is ten times better than staying in this family. Today my partner yelled at me so loud in front of boys as he got frustrated. I clearly told him yelling women is not allowed no matter who she is. That is a harassment. I made sure that he apologized me in front of boys. Look I am not weak. I stand up for me when I have to. But it is not easy.
Kiki - 24-Nov-17 @ 1:42 AM
@Kiki - ......I feel your pain. But it doesn't mean they don't love you, they just not be able to express it to you specifically. I have two stepkids and one of my own. My own kid can say he loves his dad, even though he has been a rubbish influence in his life and he is never around and contacts him only now and again. Plus, he can say he loves his aunty, his dad's sister, who is again a bit of a nightmare. But me, who is with him all the time and have done everything for him and we actually have a really good relationship, can't say the words, unless I say them first. So that is quite painful too as he'll never be spontaneous and say it. I know he does, so I have to make do with that. Your SK's may really value your imput into their lives, but might feel they are betraying their mum, or there is just a mental block. I couldn't say I loved my dad all through my life, although I loved him massively. I said it once before he died, I was 38! But, I was so, so glad I did because I know it resonated deeply. Constant overuse of the 'love' word can make it mean less the more it is said. Plus, some people are good at extracting such declarations. I'm a bit more reserved so it makes it more difficult for me to say and receive such things. Just once is enough! I know I will never get it from my SK's though - they are just hard work and selfish I'm sorry to say. So I know what the uphill struggle feels like too @Fedup.
ChrysII - 17-Nov-17 @ 9:56 AM
@Fedup Wow. That must be tough. You sound like even do not have time to think and doing what you have to do. It is tough especially your partner is not there to support. Kids are kids and we cannot expect too much out of them. I agree with PipG. You want to sit down and listen to him. He may not know how to express everything. But as long as you are there for him, he will start to share. I feel sometimes shellfish to think that my situation is tough. I feel lately sad as my step kids never say they love me while they say they love daddy 4-5 times a day. I do everything for them. I feel because they have their mother and father. I am extra... any kids can say I love such and such. But somehow my stepkids have this rule not to say they love me....and sometimes it breaks my heart as I love them..well. My issue is such a small thing and this community of step parenting truly helps me to understand how to coop situations.
Kiki - 17-Nov-17 @ 2:00 AM
@Fedup - wow that's a tricky situation. I wonder too if it is as difficult for your SS as it is for you? Being in a family that no one is blood related and with another man where his father once was must be massively difficult for him. I know he should be grateful that you have chosen not to abandon him, but he might also feel unworthy and unloved underneath it all. You really need to sit down and speak to him one-to-one and try and try to iron out your issues with love and understanding. He is 11, it is such a tragic story, but somehow you need to agree to get through it together. Ask what he would like and what his desires are. You really need to get to the bottom of his issues and then perhaps it will ease up for yourself. It's a big undertaking, but what is the alternative, abandon him?
PipG - 16-Nov-17 @ 11:16 AM
I have three kids, two with my partner and have had full custody of my step son (11) for 4 years as his mother passed . My partner is only home 1-2 nights a week. The situation is increasingly unmanageable... Four kids is hard work but I can't deal with the seething resentment my SS has for me... I do everything for him, have supported him in every possible way and ensured an unexpected level of progress for him academically / emotionally. He goes out of his way to cause problems for me / his siblings... Lots of Stealing and very underhand, hidden behaviours. Nothing too overt and behaves well at school, which is really pushing me to breaking point. Except he has noone else to take my place and would be with family who are unhelpful for him in many ways. So do I prioritise one child over my own mental health and relationship with my other kids...or prioritise him due to his tragic history? My partner is not helpful and unable / unwilling to be a present parent figure due to work.
Fedup - 15-Nov-17 @ 5:49 PM
Thanks. I also want to share another experience. So basically I am a stepmother (not legally) for two boys. It is a part time but when we are w boys, it is a full time mother job besides my real job. A friend of ours wanted to make a plan w boys. She presents to be our friend but really my partner's friend and planned only w him. We showed up and I basically told her that it is not nice to exclude me like that from the planning. And she basically is saying that because boys are not mine but his. I truly felt insulted. We stepparents put so much effort parenting kids at our best. She herself has two kids. I honestly feel she does not understand how we feel being treated like that. Another point I want to share is that if we treat stepkids as real kids, they will show their affections. It may not be perfect but certainly a better outcome. I do that and enjoy taking shower w a boy!
Wonder - 10-Oct-17 @ 12:37 PM
@Wonder - absolutely! You've hit the nail on the head here. You sound like you have great juggling skills and its nice that you an the younger boy get on. But.....we also have ourselves and our own happiness to consider in this equation. I suppose kids don't really recognise this as they are generally don't see beyond me, myself and I. Some education in schools on how to deal with step-parents and to look at it from their point of view would help.
Nessa - 9-Oct-17 @ 10:08 AM
I have two stepchildren. Older one fakes being a good boy in front of his dad but not very nice to me in general. I wanted almost saying I am sorry it is not my fault that your real parents are no longer together. Dad and I love each other so we are together and you are in it.But sometimes I am tired and just want to leave. Have a life w no step kids like him. On the other hand, younger one is quite attached to me and we have fun together. My partner he supports sometimes and sometimes he opposes. I feel he especially cares about the older one. So these days I think a lot if I want to stay or not.Sometimes I want to do nothing for them and make them think why things are clean and organized in the house usually. We stepparents put extra effort to stay especially emotionally. We need a lot more appreciations to continue. Otherwise good bye and good luck.
Wonder - 8-Oct-17 @ 10:43 AM
@Feel Empty - don't beat yourself up about this. You needed support from your ex and you weren't getting it - so you have every right to regain control, none of us want to be taken advantage of. When stepkids behave disrespectfully we expect our partner to support us, at least in front of the child, if the child is out of order. You are going to feel a sense of emptiness as you have been part of a family with four females (that's tough and hard going and very noisy I suspect). Plus, you're leaving your own two girls behind. It sounds like Millie is a nightmare and once a child like that finds a weakness, then they are in there like a shot. Take some time out to be kind to yourself, it may work out better this way. You want some respect and you deserve it.
Nessa - 3-Oct-17 @ 3:49 PM
@Coozey - You have to do what feels right for you. If you are unhappy in the situation, then moveaway from it. But you also have to think what your life would be like away from your partner, would it be better or worse. Some men can't handle being on their own and so they put up and shut up. But if you're a man that doesn't mind his own company and think it is preferable than living in an environment where you aren't appreciated, then.......I'm sure your stepson will come round - but you have to decide what is better for you. It does sound like you are being taken advantage of though. I hope you manage to sort it out.
Nessa - 3-Oct-17 @ 1:54 PM
Hi Well me and my wife of 5 years are divorcing. She has 2 girls aged 9 and 7 and we have 2 girls together aged 4 and 2. The problem was her eldest , she started to be very awkward with me. Her name is Millie and she bullies her younger sister by scratching and biting her and her mum would say nothing. She spoilt our recent holiday in which her mum smacked her for her behaviour as well as going home early for 2 nights again because of her behaviour. Millie said “ I don’t have to do what ‘ he ‘ says he not my dad. Millie offered no apology for saying it. Millie recently told me your dumb! Why don’t you pack your bags and leave elsewhere! Again her mum said nothing! I would ask her kindly to do things to help around house she refuses so her younger sister would do it instead but their mum would give equal pocket money at the end of the week even though younger sister did more. I would question the mum and she would say I can treat them unfairly they get paid the same. I looked after the 4 kids for 3 days whilst wife worked away every week including between my shifts. Millie just made it hard work I tried everything but it would end in an argument to which mum defended Millie all the time and make me apologise to Millie. I really did try but her ex Millie’s dad was hopelessly unreliable at having kids and hardly had them . One night a week if lucky and my Mrs would pay his rent, bought a car for him , bailed him out loads of times, lent him money so he could see kids on numerous occasions. We ve now split and I feel lonely and down. Mrs told Millie that I wasn’t happy with her and the way that she talked to me and her mum was not nice. Her behaviour definitely affected the relationship but I wasn’t happy going home. I cooked, cleaned, washed, dried, dog walking , house fixing etc etc and got no thanks. Friends would say to wife you look soooo well how do you manage with 4 kids? Her reply would never mention me even though I did a lot whilst she worked away earning a very good salary. I know Millie is 9 and she’s very academically clever but I found it hard work ?? Am I out of order for leaving? I just thought the marriage could go no further..
Feel Empty - 3-Oct-17 @ 10:11 AM
I have been with my partner for5 years she has 5 children 4boys 1girl ages 17 15 boys 10girl 9+8 boys . My problem lies with the 2oldi ones . Both of them show 0 respect both have stolen from us and the 17yr old is now taking drugsand pays no rent . And will not do anything in the house to help. . I do everything in the home clean cook wash take kids to school shoppingeverythingyou name it I doit apart from the ironing.My partner works 20 hours Aweek. But when she is at home dose very little . Also for most of 2016 she was.nt able to walk due to a bad hip I also looked after her and happily so. A few days go I ended up having yet another argument with stepson and after he told what a bad person and how I cook rubbish etcI pushed him . He stromed out and now we are not talking . Of course I know I was wrong100% I let him get to me and I should never of pushed him. Now am at the end of the line . I have tried talking to my partner but she just refuses to say what she wants. I love her but i don't know if I can stay and keep feeling the way I do i have asked her to put herself in my shoes and how she would feel .but she says 1 of 2 things I concertraon the bad 2much or if I don't like it go. I feel she and the kids would be better of if I did leave .i just don t know now what I should do for the best.Do i just ealk away?? Any advice would h5lp. And yes I no I was in the wrong as well.
Coozey - 29-Sep-17 @ 10:24 PM
@Smurfette - thankfully they don't live with you and they live in a different state. I think I'd keep out of their way too. However, it's not easy if you see them and it's still not easy if you don't. I can understand resentment must still be flowing even when they are not in your life purely because of the fact you are not accepted :(
Jules&* - 25-Sep-17 @ 12:22 PM
I have 3 step children ages 12,10,8 and have been in their lives for 5 years. They still treat me like dirt. No matter how nice I am to them. I tried this summer when each one was here for their one on one weekend to enter act and do things with them but was told no I don't want to. Then my husband was like it's ok if you don't want to. It's your weekend so we will just do something without her. But yet he gets mad because I refuse to go visit them with him. They live in a different state so he stays at a family members house to visit his kids. The ex wife strongly encourages the kids to be rude towards me. I'm on the verge of calling my marriage quits because the stress is too much.
Smurfette - 24-Sep-17 @ 5:26 PM
MY stepson is ten he Came to live with us 5 years ago and he is so rude and disrespectfulI've tryedeverythinghe's aggresive hurts his little sisteram in tearsmost days has really don't I know wat to do
Tam - 24-Sep-17 @ 10:07 AM
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