I need to know how to handle my 10-year-old stepdaughter. I’m old school and she’s a hot mess. She’s so spoiled I want to choke her at times. She can be sweet as pie, but I can’t handle her attitude and laziness. Her mom is finally coming around to my way of thinking, but I need to know what to do to curb it all. On my end I know I need more patience because I did curse at her a couple of times in anger, but it’s hard, cause I’m so used to kids listening to their elders. And the bad part is, she only does it to the people in our house … NO ONE ELSE!!
– Frustrated Philly Step Dad
In the words of former President Bill Clinton, “I feel your pain!” My first recommendation is for you to find a really potent sleep medication that can knock you out for about 10 years and allow you to awaken refreshed—when your step-daughter is off to college! But seriously, have a heart-to-heart talk with your wife. You are an outsider with no biological connection with the child. You are not in a position to discipline her. Explain to your wife the seriousness of her daughter’s behavior and its potential to divide your marriage and home. You may also want to explain that the child’s behavior will eventually begin to manifest itself outside the home. After all, if she disrespects the two of you she will disrespect other authority figures. This could be deadly. Next, if your wife is receptive to your input, the two of you should work together to come up with a list of disciplinary actions. Your wife then needs to have a talk with her daughter and show her a list of expectations and consequences (negative and positive). This should be posted so that everyone is clear about the rules. If the child violates the expectations, follow through swiftly on the consequences. If she shows improvement, affirm it and reward her. Good luck, and remember, if all else fails, the ten year nap is still an option.
(Featured illustration by Jim McHugh)