Q:

I have a 14-year-old stepdaughter who lacks respect for us, teachers and most adults. She continuously gets N (needs improvement) and U (unsatisfactory) for citizenship on her report card. We have spoken to three of her teachers this year, and it is obvious that they dislike her because of her disruptive classroom behavior (talking, giggling, lying, not listening).

My husband and I have taken on 50 percent of the responsibility of trying to get her on track. She has excuses for everything and is a constant liar. We know the importance of positive reinforcement and do try to encourage her in a positive way. We also have expressed our disappointment in her lack of respect for adults. How do we help her learn to respect adults? We know that counseling will not help if she does not accept culpability and want to understand her actions. -- Stepmom

A:

Since your step daughter is in high school, start by talking to her guidance counselor and discuss your concerns. The counselor should be able to give you some guidance and also the names of counselors that might provide some help.

A conference with all her teachers and the counselor could be a good starting point in improving her behavior at school. She should be part of making a plan to improve her behavior in the classroom.

Divorce is harder on some kids than others, and your stepdaughter's behavior is telling you that she has issues that she needs help working through. Don't give up. Insist that she attend counseling sessions with all the adults in her family. She may be more receptive to this help than you think, especially if you describe it as a way for all of you to learn how to get along with her each other. The problem is not just her lack of respect for adults.