My step-children don’t like me

Dear Counsellor,

I’m raising three step children but please advise me on how I can do it  well.  I think if you are to raise children like your own, then ‘beating’ and talking to them is necessary.  But these kids cannot be beaten or talked to.  Yes I love them, but how can I go on with kids who disrespect me? They don’t even greet me and their dad just looks on.  Also, they don’t like my two kids.  There is a lot going on in my house and I’m losing my mind. My husband doesn’t seem to think it is an issue, claiming ‘they are just kids, they will grow out of it’. But I don’t think so? How can children be so mean? Please, how can I handle this situation?






Dear Janine,

I truly understand the challenge, especially considering the emotional demands involved in raising ill-mannered step-children. It appears you’re overwhelmed with these bad-mannered kids yet your husband takes the backseat which renders you powerless. Something must be done to fix the children’s behaviour and protect your own. Although parents are supposed to instil a sense of wrong and right in their children, so that they don’t veer off the right path, beating up these children isn’t ideal, and will be categorised as child abuse, which is against the child protection laws of Rwanda. Beating children can turn them into angry and resentful young adults with psychological and emotional problems.

Your husband is the common denominator and his intervention is key to settling this entire saga. It all begins with strengthening your relationship with your husband, to love and respect one another and present a united front regarding the children’s behaviour.  As parents, you should know that children’s minds go through rapid and disorderly changes, often marked by uncontrollable ill-manners and tendency to defy authority. This stage necessitates parental guidance albeit with calmness because harsh or angry responses tend to escalate aggression and defensiveness. The first thing you should do is to prove to your husband that the children’s behaviour has surpassed what normal teenagers do, and warrants his intervention at an early age. If your husband notices this, then figure out exactly what to do to get these children to behave. 

Discuss authority-sharing and co-parenting strategies for disciplining the children and decide collectively what kind of rules you want to establish for all of them to adhere to. Make it clear before the children that the two of you are equal and have authority over them. Finally, involve these children in the discussion and ask them to suggest ways of living peacefully with mutual love and respect for each other, possibly during a day out. Don’t hold arguments with the children, you’ll be displaying a sign of defeat, instead, stick to established rules so that when these kids revolt, you handle it as a couple. 

Sometimes, try to ignore certain trivial negative behaviour and reward only behaviour you want to encourage. You should also provide some degree of independence for them to decide what they want; be ready to listen to their ideas and motivate them towards healthy adult independence. If you squash their dreams or always shut them down, they’ll turn out even more rebellious. Be patient and understanding because all children change gradually as they step out of adolescence. Keep on nurturing and encouraging them to be problem solvers, not makers, and they’ll be thankful to you when they grow up.

Your feedback

Work as a team

As a couple, you should work together to ensure that all children behave well. If your husband loves you, he should stop ignoring your concerns and listen to you.

Claudine Urujeni, Parent

Set strict rules to follow

Sit down with your husband and the children, come up with rules that each member should abide to. Failure to do so, punishment should be given. However, your husband should be more supportive as well.

Yvette Mutamba, University student

Why don’t they like you?

Find out why the children are acting this way, it could be that they don’t like something about you. Working on how to improve your relationship with your husband’s kids is important.

Didace Hirwa, Kigali resident

Talk to the children

Work closely with your husband to solve any issues with these kids. Alternatively, you can give these children the opportunity to express themselves and tell you why they act this way.

Solange Uwizeyeyezu, Stylist

Your husband should be more supportive

Tell your husband what you think needs to be changed or worked on, if he ignores you, I advise you to reconsider settling down as a family.

Pascal Niyongabo, Farmer

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