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Friday, June 25, 2010

Creating A Stable Stepfamily: Be a Friend First

It's not uncommon for a new stepparent to attempt a disciplinarian role before a relationship is formed with his/her stepchild. However, it is one of the most damaging mistakes a stepparent can make. Without a relationship, disciplining a stepchild will create anger and resentment toward his/her stepparent.

When a child's biological parent takes the lead in disciplining his/her children, it allows the stepparent a chance to naturally bond with the children. As a friend, a stepparent can build trust and understanding of each other.

On occasion, the stepparent might even take the "good guy" role. When there is positive news to share with the stepfamily, let the stepparent present it. When the family is planning a special trip, let the stepparent take part in soliciting ideas and suggestions from the kids on where to go and what to do. The more frequently a stepparent can be seen as someone making a positive offering to the family, the quicker a relationship can be formed with his/her stepchildren.

As trust and compatibility are established, a stepparent can slowly begin moving into a parental role. It usually happens quicker with younger children and may not ever happen with older children. But it's important for a stepparent to always consider how well the relationship is developing before attempting parental discipline. It's easier to continue the "friend role" for a longer period than undo the damage of a "parental role" taken too soon.

Have you sought to offer friendship with your stepchildren first?

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At June 28, 2010 at 10:58 AM , Anonymous Alexandra said...

This is so true. We had so many issues with our mutual stepchildren, me and my husband and as soon as we let go of the discipline, it helped immensely. Every time my husband disciplines my child she retreats further and further away from him.

She told me the other day that when he disciplines her, she feels like he won't love her anymore. She says when I do it, she knows I will always love her because she is my daughter. He is trying really hard to let go of disciplining her and letting that up to me. I have already seen major changes and they are now closer than ever!

At July 9, 2010 at 11:44 AM , Anonymous sue said...

My husband is a bit of a free spirit and is not good at establishing rules or following through with consequences or rewards. He also had his hands full trying to raise nine kids single-handedly, so the older kids had a lot of freedom, and a lot of things just didn't get done. On the other hand, I was raised in a large military family and had a dad who did not like chaos, so I couldn't handle an environment where there were no rules, no boundaries, no expectations--nothing.

I know we are an exception, but because of this, I took on a disciplinarian role almost immediately when we got married. I meted out the discipline with lots of love, and I never caught any flack from the kids. They were hungry for someone to come in and mother them, organize things, and take care of all the details to help make their lives run more smoothly. They appreciated having someone establish expectations, set boundaries, outline consequences, etc.

I even had one of the older kids, who was finishing his senior year in high school when we got married, thank me after I got on him for not coming home one night and not telling us that he was staying with a friend. He told me that he didn't think anyone cared.

I know that God had a hand in making this work for us; there is no other explanation.

At July 11, 2010 at 10:08 PM , Blogger Step Parenting with Grace said...

Every family is different but for most stepfamilies, it takes time to form a solid relationship that will allow the stepparent to take the disciplinarian role. If you're intuitive with your stepchild, you can discern the appropriate time to take on a parenting role.


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