Step Family Discipline
The thing about guilt is that it makes you focus on the past. It is common for blended family parents who have been through a divorce or separation to feel guilty about the pain it has brought their children. Sometimes we are so busy trying to make up for our mistakes that we miss out on important opportunities to create a better future for us and our kids.
Blended family parenting
When you choose a partner who has children of their own, you make a conscious decision to accept that these children will become a significant part of your new step family. As a blended family couple, create rules and responsibilities for the management of our home, and present a united front to your children. If you want your children to grow into independent and responsible adults, you must provide a blended family environment that fosters independence and responsibility.
Blended family discipline by guilt
Feelings of guilt make it easy to overlook behavior we would not normally tolerate in a child. We do not want to cause them any more upset. If you have this tendency when your child misbehaves, ask yourself: Is this particular behavior something I want to encourage or discourage? When we ignore negative behavior, we tacitly encourage it. If we want to discourage unacceptable behavior, we need to be proactive with a consequence. Also ask yourself: would I tolerate this behavior from my step-kids?
Discipline by fear
Many parents in a step family report that, given the choice, they would parent their step kids differently from the way their spouses do. Disparities in parenting and discipline are often a by-product of a bio parent’s fear that strong disciplinary actions may drive their unhappy children away, toward the ex-spouse.
Bio parent responsibilities
Sometimes blended family couples simply cannot agree on disciplinary issues. Ultimately it is the bio parent who makes disciplinary decisions, especially if the children are older when you blend your families. As a caring step parent, you may see ways to make things easier or more effective, but in the end you cannot parent for your step family partner. Should you disagree with his or her methods, you can voice your views and suggestions, but he or she must have the final say and bear the consequences for their parenting decisions. Ultimately, your role is to support your spouse, and your realm of influence as step parent is often limited to a requirement that your step kids treat you with respect. It takes effort to be a co-parent under these circumstances, but you can make this work! Vital to this arrangement, however, is the clear and incontrovertible truth that you and your spouse are equal partners in running and managing your blended family home.
Leave the past behind in your step family
The painful losses you and your children have suffered through divorce, separation or other losses are in the past. Your children need you to be the best parent you can be, and so do your step kids. Your partner needs your unconditional support to parent his or her children well, and your unconditional love to establish and maintain a strong marital relationship for a stable blended family unit. Guard against allowing guilt to motivate parenting decisions. Choosing to let go of the past will gradually lead to wholeness for yourself and for your blended family members. If you need more assistance, we are here for you at The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.