Stepchildren are often the forgotten members of a blended family. While everyone else may be getting along, stepchildren can feel like outsiders. They may also be struggling with their issues, such as grief over their biological parents’ divorce, resentment toward their stepparents, and other emotions.
However, the problem with dealing with an entitled stepchild is that many parents fear that if they set boundaries or hold them accountable for their actions, they’ll alienate themselves from the child forever and possibly harm their marriages. Yet there’s an effective way to discipline a stepchild without affecting your relationship.
For instance, the best thing you can do is understand and treat them equally as your bloody children without discrimination. In the end, you can’t force these children to accept your presence in their lives — but you can make them come around by treating them with the utmost respect and expressing gratitude.
Tips on How to Deal With Entitles Stepchildren
Listen To Their Concerns
When your stepchildren come to you with complaints about their parents, listen carefully and try not to judge them for speaking profanity about another adult. Understand that this is a way of venting what’s in their mind and expressing feelings to a caring adult.
You should not take sides or criticize any of the parties involved — including yourself — when listening to these complaints because it will make your stepchildren feel embarrassed and lose trust in you.
Spend Quality Time As a Family
Whether going out for dinner or cooking together at home, make sure that you spend quality time together. This will help develop a sense of belonging among your stepchildren and make them feel part of the family.
The more often you hang out together, the more likely you will bond.
Always Read the Same Page As Your Husband
You need to be on the same page as your husband when dealing with your stepchildren. If you’re not on the same page, you’ll find yourself arguing over minor issues. Even if you disagree with the way he handles situations — or even if you agree but wish he’d handle them differently — you should read from the same page about your stepchildren’s matters.
It means deciding what needs to be done (or not done) about discipline and punishment, communication styles, and expectations.
Let Go of Your Expectations
Your stepdaughter may not be affectionate toward you or even like you much. That’s okay because you can’t change people; they have to change themselves. So instead of focusing on what she does or doesn’t do, focus on what you can do: love her unconditionally no matter what happens and grace her in all situations (even if she doesn’t reciprocate).
Next, remember that your primary goal as a parent should be to help raise kind, well-adjusted adults who will make good choices in life. So if your stepdaughter is rude or disrespectful toward you or anyone else, she needs guidance on treating others — not punishment for misbehaving.
Your stepchildren may be used to your ex-wife taking care of them. Now that you’re in charge, you will make some adjustments. Set clear rules and boundaries for your stepchildren. If they are over 17, you can allow them to decide what to do on the weekend and still impose curfews, especially if you have younger children in the house.
Let them know what is expected of them and when they can expect to see their mother. It will help alleviate some of the tension that may arise when a child feels like they don’t have enough time with their mother.
If something is off-limits for your stepchild, make sure he knows before it happens. Don’t let him get away with one thing today because he’s upset that he can’t have something else tomorrow.
If there’s going to be an exception made for him, make sure everyone else in the family knows so there aren’t any surprises down the road when he tries to pull another stunt.
Express Gratitude for Their Efforts
When dealing with entitled children, it’s easy to get caught up in negative emotions that are likely welling up inside of you. But as a parent, you should always remember that even though the stepchildren may be acting out, it’s not because they want to hurt you. They’re just struggling with their feelings of insecurity and uncertainty.
So while it’s okay to express your disappointment when they don’t live up to your expectations, try not to let those feelings spill over into resentment. Instead, find ways to express gratitude for any effort they put into the relationship — even if it isn’t worth the praise.
Let Them Know You’re Not Trying to Replace Their Mom or Dad
Stepchildren should know that there will never be a replacement for their biological mom or dad even if that person remarries after a spouse’s divorce or death. So they should never be made to feel like an obligation by either parent; instead, both should make it clear that the child is much wanted in the new family dynamic.
Don’t Give in Right Away
Lastly, if your stepchild comes to you and says, “I want this,” resist the urge to say yes immediately. Wait a few minutes before responding and ask yourself if you’re really prepared to buy whatever they are asking for. If there’s a specific reason why you don’t want to buy it — it costs too much money or isn’t age-appropriate — explain this to them and see if it changes their mind.
If your stepchild insists on getting something that doesn’t seem reasonable, explain that you need time to think about it. Say something polite like, “I’m sorry, but I need some time before I can decide on this.”
Then give yourself about five minutes before answering even if they continue pestering you during that time.
It may seem obvious to treat your stepchildren as you would treat your other kids, but sometimes that may not be the easiest thing to do. If you find difficulty interacting with them or feel like they’re putting too much strain on your family unit, follow these tips above and remember the golden rule: they are kids.
They are young, don’t know any better, and have their baggage. At the end of the day, the entitled stepchildren aren’t going away. They’re not getting any better; all we can do is try to make ourselves better at dealing with them.