Knowledgeability Clarity of Response Timeliness Politeness
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Comment: Thank you! I really appreciate your wisdom! You have given us a lot to think about! Thank you!
Subject: disrespectful teenage stepdaughter
Question: My husband is having a very hard time with his 13 year old daughter being disrespectful/sassy/and mean to him. They use to be very close (and she was always on restriction for defending him when his ex wife would badmouthing him). Now, she is acting just like his ex!!
We think it's just that she has figured out "how to survive" with her mother, so she has started acting just like her. It's very sad and it is affecting their relationship. They are not close anymore, and it breaks my husband's heart. We try to make sure we go out of our way to do everything we can to make her feel loved and nurtured (verging on spoiling with vacations and extras..not TOO much, but trying to at least make her feel loved and cared for.
We DO correct her sassy and disrespectful attitude, like any parent should. (You should know that she doesn't have a lot of friends anymore either because of the way she acts.) Her mother has 75% custody because my husband travels a lot and our stepdaughter is allowed to be sassy/mean towards her mother and stays on the computer and phone 24/7. We don't allow all of the "screen time either and think it's very unhealthy. We have found some VERY inappropriate sites that she has info. on, with f-words all over it and inappropriate attitudes, not like typical 13 year-olds, but have NO support from her mother, who is also on the computer nonstop.)
My husband is ready to tell his daughter to not come over anymore. We feel like we can't win. We can't discipline since she's only here 25% of the time, and she tells her mother that we are "abusive" when we discipline her, because it "makes her feel bad". (We don't yell or hit, we just bring things to her attention, and she says" Am I suppose to care? because I don't!"
Answer: Dear Anonymous,
Parents whose children only come on the weekends have a hard time setting boundaries and earning respect because their time is so limited. You can discipline her. There is nothing wrong with letting a child/teen know that their behavior is rude and disrespectful.
What I suggest to parents of teens is this. When a teen gets rude and disrespectful. In a very firm voice tell them that you do not intend to be treated like this. Do not anticipate what their response will be. If they say they do not care, tell them you do not need them to care as you care about how you are treated and that they are not at their best when they act that way. Do not turn it into a debate. You can have the last word by ignoring their next behavior and walking away from them. Tell them you will be glad to hold a conversation when they can use their adult voice. Detach with your eye contact, body language and remove yourself from their space.
DO NOT spoil visiting children. Acts of generosity are not to be taken so lightly. You want their respect then earn it! You do this by not giving too much materially and alot more one on one time and attention. With this combination it may take some time however the long term relationship will prosper. And lastly, do not compare her to her mother, even if she reminds you of her parent. It is common to blame the other behavior on the custodial parent and even if it were true, what control do you have over another person or their home?
M Kay Keller