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How to Handle Stepchildren Who Do Not Respect You

by Ashley Miller, studioD

It's not always easy to handle the issues that come from trying to establish bonds in a blended family. Despite your best efforts, your stepchildren may have difficulty dealing with change and adjusting to your presence. They may exhibit a wide range of emotions, such as resentment, anger or hostility. While it's not unusual if your stepchildren don't immediately fall in love with you, they will eventually need to accept the reality that you're here to stay. Although it takes time and effort, you can handle stepchildren who do not respect you and promote more amicable and loving relationships.

Examine the underlying motivations behind your stepchildren's behaviors and emotions. Perhaps they feel concerned that you are trying to take the place of their biological parent or they are experiencing feelings of guilt or divided loyalties. Talk to your stepchildren and let them know that there's no need to choose sides -- there's plenty of room for everyone in their lives.

Demand respectful behavior, suggests Help Guide. Your stepchildren don't have to like you or agree with you, but they do need to treat you, your partner and other family members with respect. Don't be intimidated by demands or outbursts and avoid becoming involved in situations that involve ultimatums.

Establish clear boundaries. Explain that while you understand their difficulties with the situation, you will not tolerate certain types of behaviors. The Children's Trust notes that you should let the biological parent take responsibility for establishing rules until you have developed a better relationship. Ensure that you and your spouse are on the same page so that you can consistently and appropriately handle issues regarding discipline.

Spend time with your stepchildren. You don't need to go -- and shouldn't -- go overboard with gifts or extravagant outings. However, enjoying family time together through simple activities like sports or game nights can help stepchildren feel more comfortable viewing you as an ally and not as a threat.

Praise your stepchild, show encouragement and display affection when appropriate. All children want to feel valued, loved, safe and secure, says Help Guide. Be a positive influence in their lives. This can help your stepchildren develop a more respectful attitude and promote feelings of emotional connectedness and trust.


  • Children adjust to newcomers at their own pace, based on their own unique personality and temperament traits. Give children enough time to adjust and become comfortable before you start to panic about the situation. Consult a qualified mental health professional if your efforts to promote respectful behaviors are unsuccessful. Counseling may help open up communication between family members, resolve conflicts and promote a sense of family cohesion.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

Photo Credits

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