Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Accepting Discipline from the Stepparent

Any tips on how to help discipline by the stepparent (father in this case) go smoother or be more accepted by the children? (9 year old son and 8 year old daughter.)

It may never be accepted by the children. Remember, the step-relationship is a “baby” relationship (brand new). So the emotional connections are just beginning to build. I do not know how long you have been married and what your expectations were re: discipline. In addition, the stepparent has no biological or legal connections to the stepchildren.

First, the step-relationships need time to build – just like a friendship. Many bio-parents are looking for someone to help with the discipline and structure. And…many stepparents think they are coming in with parenting rights. However, this doesn’t work. The older the children the less this will work. Younger children bond easier. Older children have had a history with their original family and that’s now broken. There can be resentment toward the stepparent as an interloper and also for taking love and time away from them that they believe they received before there was a stepparent.

More on Step-Discipline

I hear you say that the biological parent does the discipline. What if both sides are in the home and fighting (my kids and the stepkids)? Who does the discipline? What discipline do we give my child who does not live with us?

Yes – the bio-parent does the disciplining. You take yours aside and your spouse takes theirs. Hopefully you’ve established “house rules” so the children know what’s expected. If not, it’s past time to do so. At the same time, the consequences of breaking the house rules should be established. That gives children a choice to enjoy the benefits, or receive the consequences. That eliminates the urge to get angry when they disobey and either inflict a consequence on the spur of the moment or….be rendered incapable of coming up with something.

A child coming in and out of the home still needs structure. It can be difficult to administer discipline if the parent is holding on to guilt from the divorce, remarriage and custody arrangements that don’t allow for significant time with the child. Children want to know what’s expected of them and are much more secure when the parent creates appropriate boundaries and isn’t fearful of implementing them.

Don’t worry about “fair” or “equal” consequences. The punishment should fit the crime. Many times we’ve found when children are asked what they think the consequence should be, they come up with tougher stuff than the parents. You might try it some time. Do this when the “house rules” discussion takes place.

Living together with his kids

My fiancé has kids and has been previously married. I have no kids or ex-spouses. We also are living together before marriage so the odds are against us. What can we do to make this better?

Move out or get married with a commitment to seek remarriage and stepfamily counseling (workshops, books, and DVD’s can provide resource information also). Stepfamily education is crucial so you know what to expect with the particulars you are bringing to this remarriage. Also, finding a communication course will go a LONG way to giving you the skills to address the issues as they arise – and they WILL!

Moving out will give you both an opportunity to see things more clearly and determine an appropriate course of action – particularly getting the preparation needed to establish a successful stepfamily. Right now the everyday pressures of living are interfering with building a solid foundation for the future.

Stepparent blocked from Stepkid

How does a stepparent invest in their stepchild when the biological parent does everything in their power to keep them from doing so?
If the bio-parent is your spouse, this sounds like a serious marital problem and misunderstanding of how a stepfamily develops. If the bio-parent is your spouse’s ex, that may be more hopeful. If this is your spouse it could be helpful to have a conversation as to what the fear is if you do establish a relationship with the stepchild. If it’s your spouse’s ex, I would suggest a conversation between the two bio-parents so any fears (insecurities, jealousies, etc.) can be addressed and put to rest. Eventually you could initiate contact with the ex-spouse if you know it will be received.

Something else that might be helpful is counseling with someone who understands stepfamily dynamics. Otherwise, the wrong template will be laid on this situation and cause more trouble. Bottom line: your presence alone over time, can be your investment. Your attitudes and behaviors will definitely influence the stepchild. Your value will be “caught.”

About Me

Carri is a documentary film producer and communication skills trainer. She and her husband speak nationally on relationships, communication and stepfamily development.