Balancing Discipline and Friendship as a Stepparent
One of the responsibilities of every parent is to provide consistent discipline, but for stepparents, who may hope to become a friend to the child as well as a parental figure, finding balance can take some time. It is important that stepparents take some role in discipline, especially if the stepchildren live with them the majority of the time, but forgetting to make time for fun can give real-life stepparents the reputation that matches what they often have in fairy-tales.
Defining the Role of a Stepparent in the HouseholdEach family has its own way of dividing responsibilities and filling assorted roles, so when someone plans to take on step-parenting responsibilities, they should first be sure that they are on the same page as their spouse in outlining what role they are to take in household discipline. One cannot assume that their vision of the family matches that of their partner unless it has been discussed and some specific guidelines have been established.
Making Time for Fun and GamesAll families need to make time to have fun together, but new stepfamilies may find this especially important. Kids, especially those school-aged and older can take a bit of time to accept a stepparent into their homes and hearts, but once they’ve had the chance to get to know their stepparent on a personal level, they may be more inclined to see and appreciate their positive traits. No one is likely to feel much fondness for someone who always seems to be focused on enforcing the rules, so stepparents who balance discipline with plenty of more pleasant interaction are helping to assure that their stepchildren will feel warmly toward them.
Earning the Respect of StepchildrenIt takes time to establish trust and respect, but stepparents who prove themselves worthy of their stepchildren’s admiration will have accomplished something truly valuable. In order for a child to view their stepparents as trusted friends, they need to feel comfortable in expressing themselves openly and be secure in the knowledge that their stepparent will not betray their trust. Like all friendships, this relationship needs to be built on a solid base of genuine affection teamed with consistent trustworthiness. Gaining the respect of stepchildren not only helps them to establish a friendship with their stepparents, it also makes it easier for the stepparent to discipline since kids are more likely to obey when they trust and respect the person who is requesting something of them.
Partnering in Discipline with Natural ParentsWhile stepparents commonly take on a great deal of everyday parental responsibility, they typically do not have the authority to make sweeping changes to the children’s lives – those decisions are usually made by the kids’ natural parents. Many stepparents find themselves the brunt of the unresolved feelings that their spouse’s ex may hold, but kids benefit when all of the adults in a family work together in a peaceful and respectful manner.
Children can be expert manipulators and are likely to take advantage of the differences of opinion between their parents and stepparents, so working together to establish basic rules of behaviour that are to be obeyed at all times can help kids to understand that discipline will be steady and consistent. When natural parents and stepparents are able to put aside their personal feelings and focus their attention on raising kids who are confident, happy, and self-controlled, the resulting family dynamic allows everyone to be proud of the way that they can balance friendship and discipline.