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Is is Normal to Dislike Your Stepchild for Behavior Problems?

by Erin Schreiner, studioD

Pop-culture depictions of the relationships between stepchildren and their stepparents make settling in to blended family seem easy. By many fictional accounts, man meets woman, they fall in love, and they walk down the aisle with their children from previous unions in attendance, as the audience looks on misty-eyed. In reality, however, the formation of a blended family is rarely this picture perfect. If you find yourself feeling less-than-loving toward your stepchild from time-to-time, it is important to remember that these feelings aren’t unique to you.

Short Answer – Yes

Forming a blended family is difficult, reminds Dr. Marie Hartwell Walker. Change is challenging, particularly for potentially set-in-their-ways adults. By taking on not just a new spouse but also the stepchildren he brings with him, you are willingly turning your life upside-down. You are human and as you experience all of this change you will, at times, experience feelings of dislike, especially when your stepchild misbehaves, giving you reason to dislike him.

Reasons for Misbehavior

You may be able to lessen your feelings of dislike if work to understanding why your stepchild is misbehaving. Forming a blended family is especially difficult for children who are not yet capable of truly processing their emotions. To your stepchild, you may seem like an interloper, trying to take the place of a beloved parent. He may act out more than he normally would because he doesn’t know what else to do with his emotions. Keep this in mind every time you find your patience at its breaking point.

Bond Building

As you build a bond with your stepchild, you will likely find more about him to love and see your feelings of dislike disappear. While you may be in a rush to form this bond, allow it develop at a rate determined by the child. Foster this bond by expressing interest in the things your stepchild enjoys. The more common ground you can create, the easier it will be for you to find reasons to feel affection for this new child in your life.

Defer the Discipline

As a stepparent, you have the right to discipline your stepchild. You should, however, consider whether choosing to discipline is the right option. Particularly if you are feeling acute stress in your relationship with your misbehaving stepchild, you may benefit from deferring the task of disciplining to the child’s biological parents. While this may seem counter-intuitive at first, it can do much to relieve your stress, suggests Carri and Gordon Taylor for EmpoweringParents.com. If you bow out of discipline, stop handing out punishments but don’t cease monitoring his behavior. When he misbehaves, make note and share anecdotal information about the misbehavior with his biological parent so the parent can dispense appropriate consequences.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

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