Many step parents hear this refrain, or another version of it, from time to time: You can’t tell me what to do! You are not the boss of me! Yikes. Such indignation! Such bravado! Such significance!
Preparing for blended family step parenthood
When you and your new spouse formed your blended family, you presumably talked about child rearing philosophies and the similarities and differences in your parenting styles; you gave thoughtful consideration to as many aspects of how you would manage your blended family as you could anticipate. You knew that a child is more likely to accept discipline or consequences from his or her own parent than from a step parent, so you discussed who would take the lead in which circumstances, especially when it came to disciplining your own bio kids.
The best laid plans of mice and men….
You agreed that as a couple, you would be the leaders of your blended family, understanding that without your strong, loving and trusting relationship as its foundation, managing a step family in a way that supports shared goals and mutual respect could be very difficult indeed, if not impossible. Your assertion that step kids dislike being corrected or disciplined by a step parent was right on. However, the step family that divides all parenting responsibilities between the partners according to which kid belongs to whom, is certainly giving their children mixed messages. One likely message may be that the step parent is neither capable nor allowed to be a real parent.
I trust you with my kid
A trusting relationship requires that each parent knows their partner is capable of parenting a step child. Your child. If, for some reason, either of you are afraid the other might not measure up to the needs of a child, it is time to talk about it. Dialogue about such pressing matters need to be undertaken in a serious way, with both partners open to the discussion and able to put the focus where it belongs: on the welfare of the child. If you believe your partner uses a heavy hand, or seems unsympathetic or uncaring when dealing with a child, you need to be able to convey that feeling without fear of repercussion. On the other hand, if you believe your child is the one having difficulty, refusing to accept parenting from your partner, the issue is with the child, not the step parent. Perhaps the only problem you have is a failure to communicate.
Revisit the house rules
When a failure to communicate makes itself known, it is time to go back to the house rules: Mutual respect; caring and considerate; everyone being treated equally; everyone having an important role in the blended family. The roles of the children, step kids and bio kids alike, are to grow and to learn. Your roles as parents are to lead by loving example, lead by direction, and lead by consistency. If your combined children do not know beyond any doubt that you two are in charge, together, unified, and indivisible, you need to correct the misunderstanding.
How can you respond the next time your step kid hits you with you are not the boss of me? Say, well, yes I am. And I am happy to be one of the people in charge in your life because I care about you and because I care about this family. For more information, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.