When you are on the receiving end of a tirade blasted from one of your step kids, you may wonder what you did to deserve such anger and disrespect. Maybe nothing. The fact is, being a child in a blended family is hard and it is difficult for many kids to know how to deal with the struggle. They often do not understand feelings of being overwhelmed, unstable or insecure, and cannot verbalize their feelings in useful ways. As the designated step parent in your blended family, you wear an easy target on your back. It helps to remember to not take the attacks personally.

Reacting to angry and disrespectful words

It is a challenge, but step parents who try to listen with ears, eyes, and hearts to angry words hurled by petulant step kids usually manage to keep their cool long enough to get to the crux of the anger. Mining for deeper meaning is a skill worth developing, and if one approach fails, try another.  Here are some suggested strategies for getting to the bottom of things:

  • Keep your temper under quiet control; do not escalate
  • Follow after a few minutes, if he or she has left the room
  • Patiently listen for a more moderate follow-up statement
  • Coax moderation by asking if he or she would like to re-word what they just said
  • Acknowledge their anger, and ask what might make them feel happier
  • Ask what you can do to help
  • Remind him or her about blended family rules of mutual respect
  • Remind him or her that you care about them

Outside counseling

Zero tolerance for any kind of abuse is always appropriate, and verbal abuse should never be tolerated. Counseling may be in order when step kids resort to attacking step parents, or even stepsiblings, with especially vile or hurtful words. Counseling is always in order when physical aggression or other violence occurs. Each and every member of your blended family, including you, deserves to live in a household where they feel safe.

Bio parent involvement

If angry words and disrespectful behavior is an ongoing issue with you and your step kids, talk with your blended family partner about it. As biological parent, they should reinforce household rules while demonstrating support for you, an equal partner in all aspects of blended family life. A united stand helps to underscore the resolve you hold for mutual respect and tolerance.

Every action your step kids take says something: How they feel about themselves, about you, about their bio parents, about the blended family, about something. If you are observant, you may be able to glean the deeper meaning of what your step kids are saying with angry words or inappropriate actions. Try to help them know what they are feeling and know how to verbalize those feelings in more useful ways.