Dealing with difficult children

28 10 2008

1) Stay calm, cool, and collected. There’s no point in blowing up at a kid, especially as a stepparent. It will only add tension to your relationship. Instead, stay cool when a kid deliberate tries to provoke you. It’s only fun for them when they can get a rise out of you and attract the negative attention.

2) Avoid power struggles. One of my stepdaughters recently complained about how her parents both biological and step are always telling her what to do. I pointed out that it’s not that we enjoy bossing her around but it’s our job as her parents to teach her how to become a successful adult. Because there wasn’t emotional baggage attached there was no power struggle. And instead of arguing with me, she shrugged and did what I asked her to do.

3) Understand what’s really happening. When a kid is acting out it’s important to know why they are behaving badly because there is always a reason. Last week my nearly eleven-year-old stepdaughter was fighting over the television remote control with her eight-year-old sister. We’d had a long, tiring week with a funeral and a wedding within days of each other. When we finally arrived home and settled in to take a night off, the girls started fighting over the remote when the younger wouldn’t give it to the older. The older girl bit her younger sister on the arm in a complete act of regression. Though she was punished for her behavior by getting a week with no screen time, her father and I understood that she was exhausted and not her usual self.

4) Blow off steam. There aren’t very many people stepmoms can vent to without getting an earful back about how you “should” be the adult, etc. etc. etc. Find at least one other pal who you can talk to if you’re feeling like you wish those kids wouldn’t be coming over this week. Make sure it’s a pal who understands how you feel and doesn’t think you’re a major jerk.

5) Don’t take things personally. It’s good advice but it’s easier said than done. How can you practice non-attachment? How can you keep your feelings safe when a kid calls you names, yells at you, or steals your things? Come up with several strategies to help you remember that a child’s behavior is usually not about you. It’s more often fueled by pain from the divorce, or anger at a biological parent.

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