Blending two families into one new family can be very rewarding for parents and stepparents, and very constructive for kids swept up in painful circumstances. But it is also fraught with challenges that can not only foster conflict and trust issues with kids, but also can hurt the blended family marriage as well. One of those issues is how to discipline stepkids.
A friend of mine, now 44, shared with me that when his mom remarried when he was 13, he was frightened about how his new stepdad would discipline him. Now decades later, he is still grateful that, to his surprise, his stepdad sat him down and talked with him about all his fears and about the need to figure out how to discipline because he cared for him. Over time, that stepdad became “Dad.” Not as a substitute for his biological dad, but as a man, my friend learned he could trust to have his best interests at heart, even when discipline was needed. He appreciated that his stepdad developed a relationship, one that stands strong over 30 years later.
You may have heard it said: “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” This truth is especially significant when stepparents are involved. So a stepparent must strive to develop a strong relationship with his stepchild; otherwise, the rules will be tough to enforce. Also, the biological parent and stepparent must work in unity through the disciplinary process. Without unity in your parenting approach, effective discipline will be difficult.
Here’s a summary of some other quick tips stepparenting expert and author Ron Deal offers:
- Make sure the biological parent of the two parents has the back of the stepparent.
- Don’t be inconsistent with the biological parent’s discipline.
- Don’t change the rules on your own.
- Engage with and listen to the child. It’s part of the building of a relationship.
- Be patient…it takes years to build a relationship and a bond.
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Have you had to figure out some sticky discipline issues within a blended family? Share your insights in a comment below.