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How to Handle a Disrespectful Stepdaughter

by Damon Verial

For many combined families, animosity often exists between stepchildren and parents. When you put yourself in your stepdaughter’s shoes, you can imagine how hard it is to suddenly have a new parental figure. But life’s challenges do not merit rudeness. When faced with a disrespectful stepdaughter, you should be direct in addressing that disrespect while at the same time showing your own respect for her.

Express your dissatisfaction. Avoid playing into her game in which she believes she can talk to you on an equal level. Respond to acts of disrespect by immediately addressing them, stressing how such actions make you feel. For example, if your stepdaughter changes the channel while you’re watching TV as an intentional act of rudeness, calmly express how you’re disappointed that she would not consider your feelings before she acts.

Address the cause of the disrespect. Bring up the issue that you believe is driving the disrespect or feelings of animosity between you and your stepdaughter. Young girls tend to act on their negative emotions via acts of passive aggression, such as hiding your things, ignoring your requests or making snide comments. Respond to such actions by asking why she’s doing it. If she feigns ignorance, articulate your own reasons in an inquisitive way and ask her if you’re right. By addressing the issue, you let your stepdaughter know you know she’s feeling bad and that she’s purposefully acting disrespectfully.

Use asking instead of telling. Always use eliciting instead of stating or judging when you have the options. Young girls might feel pushed in a corner when a non-blood relative levels accusations. Psychologist Michael Riera, the author of the book “Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers,” says that putting too many judgments on a child could backfire, leading your stepdaughter to develop the belief that you’re against her. So next time you feel the urge to say, “You’re being difficult just to bother me,” instead ask, “Is there anything I did you make you upset?”

Directly express your expectations. Make it clear to your stepdaughter that while her feelings are important, you, as the adult, have expectations of her. Respectfully state those expectations, backing them up with reasons. When you give her reasons, you let her know that she’s mature enough to know why you have certain rules in place. Psychologist and author John Gottman wrote in his book “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child” that children tend to place the blame for their own problems on others, such as their step-parents, when they feel embarrassed. Let your stepdaughter know that sometimes it’s OK to make a mistake or two but that striving to meet family expectations should still be a main goal in the household.

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About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.