Getting along with a bratty stepdaughter isn't easy. Blended families often present a host of difficulties that can stem from issues like resentment, anger and fear. There's an inevitable period of adjustment that blended families need to undergo before they can successfully learn to live together, and even then, the situation might not be ideal. The first step might be to re-frame the way you see your stepdaughter and stop defining her as "bratty." While it's not easy, trying to see the world through her eyes might help you relate to her on a different -- and hopefully improved -- level.
Lay down basic family ground rules. Whether you've inherited multiple stepchildren or you're just dealing with your stepdaughter, it's important to establish rules for what constitutes acceptable behavior, says social worker James Lehman in an article for Empowering Parents. Sit down with your spouse and your stepdaughter during a calm moment and explain that you won't tolerate disrespectful behavior. She doesn't have to like you, but she does need to respect you.
Change your expectations for your relationship with your stepdaughter. Perhaps you came into the situation expecting that you'd all get along like one big happy family -- but it's important to realize that your stepdaughter might have had completely different expectations. She might not have wanted to be involved in the situation from the get-go. You might need to give a lot of love and affection that won't be returned immediately, advises Gina Kemp, M.A., et al., writing for Help Guide.
Set aside alone time to get to know your stepdaughter. She might not respond and in all likelihood, she'll push you away, especially in the beginning phases of your relationship. But showing her that you're invested in your relationship, despite how she might act, might help her let down her guard and become more accepting of you. Allow adequate time for bonds to form, suggests Stephen F. Duncan, professor at the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University.
Invite a sense of humor into your relationship with your bratty stepdaughter. Share a joke or a funny story at an appropriate moment. Humor can help diffuse tense situations and help your stepdaughter see you as a human being instead of as a wicked stepparent.
Stick to verbal compliments and praise, and avoid physical contact with your stepdaughter unless she invites it first. Both boys and girls report that they prefer verbal over physical affection from stepparents, according to the American Psychological Association. Almost all girls enjoy hearing compliments, even if they pretend they don't -- just make sure you are sincere. Offer a compliment on her appearance, praise her for a job well done in school or express gratitude when she offers to help with household chores.
- Blended Family Support Network: Blending: Is There a Right Way?
- Empowering Parents: “My Blended Family Won’t Blend!” Part II: What to Do When Your Stepkids Disrespect You
- Help Guide: Guide to Step-parenting & Blended Families
- Forever Families: A Stepparent's Role
- American Psychological Association: Making Stepfamilies Work
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