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Twenty Rules for Being a Good Stepparent

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 4 Dec 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Twenty Rules For Being A Good Stepparent

Good stepparents are treasured family members, offering children a great deal of love and support without infringing on their existing relationships with their natural parents. While each person’s definition of a good stepparent is bound to be unique, there are some basic rules that stepparents can follow that will help endear them to the children of their spouse.

  1. Get to know the children before you take your vows. Becoming a stepfamily can be a difficult transition for everyone, but it helps a great deal if potential stepparents have the opportunity to form affectionate connections with their partner’s children before they unite as a family.
  2. Understand that the children are a permanent part of your life. Children, and the complications that come along with them, are never a “sometimes” proposition. No matter where the children call home, parents and stepparents must be prepared to make many of their life choices based on the needs of the children.
  3. Don’t expect instant love. Caring relationships take time to develop, so good stepparents allow their stepchildren plenty of time to adjust to their presence in their family.
  4. Demand respect. While stepchildren should not be forced to feign love for a stepparent, they should be expected to behave in a respectful manner.
  5. Be kind and consistent. One of the most important rules of being a parent is to practice kindness and consistency. Good parents (and stepparents, too) understand the value of providing kids with a solid home base.
  6. Accept your stepchildren for who they are. Parents do not get to choose the type of children that they get – so good stepparents learn to accept and appreciate their stepchildren for the exceptional individuals that they are and to celebrate each child’s unique gifts.
  7. Work with your spouse as a team. House rules can be difficult for children to accept, but when they are presented by both the children’s parent and stepparent, kids realise that they will be required to comply.
  8. Don’t compete with the children for your spouse’s love/time. A parent should always be allotted time to spend with their children, without it causing difficulty in their marriage. Confident stepparents realise that their spouse’s love for their children in no way diminishes their relationship.
  9. Nurture your marriage. In many cases, stepchildren have already had to endure the painful break-up of their parents’ relationship. They do not need to relive that pain by witnessing the demise of their parent and stepparent’s marriage.
  10. Never criticize your spouse in front of the children. This rule applies just as equally to natural children.
  11. Don’t discuss custody or child support in front of the children. Kids should not be subjected to disagreements between their parents and should be shielded as much as possible from adult problems.
  12. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Learning to choose battles wisely and to avoid petty arguments is a sure sign of a good stepparent.
  13. Be a grown-up. Childish or selfish behaviour has no place in parenting.
  14. Don’t be afraid to say no. Children need to live by a reasonable set of rules, so good stepparents find the strength to take a firm stand when the welfare of the children is at stake.
  15. Treat all of the children equally. Natural children and stepchildren should be expected to adhere to the same set of house rules and must be afforded the same privileges.
  16. Treat your spouse’s ex with respect. Treating the children’s other natural parent disrespectfully is hurtful to the kids and is never okay.
  17. Get used to sharing holidays and other special days. Kids have more family that only those who live in their household, so concessions must be made to see that the children have access to their other family members.
  18. Create a safe environment that allows the honest sharing of feelings. While kids should not be allowed to treat other family members unkindly, they should allowed and encouraged to express their emotions, knowing that their feelings will be taken seriously.
  19. Exercise patience. Being a good stepparent (or parent) often requires a great deal of patience. Kids, though wonderful, can be trying at times and smart stepparents know when to take a step back and a few deep breaths.
  20. Remember that biology isn’t the most important part about being a parent. The most important of all of the rules – this one is a gentle reminder about what is truly important in any family, and that is love. The most precious bonds are not those of matching strands of DNA, but of a life shared.

Whether you call them rules or guidelines, the above recommendations have been offered to help stepparents in their quest to form and maintain happy families. Children tend to grow close to the people who show them, day after day, that they are valued and appreciated. Good stepparents can help to give children happy childhoods and can also provide them with a solid base of confidence and self-esteem to help find success all throughout their lives.

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[Add a Comment]
@Nic - Thanks for the advice Nic. It is not easy, but I hope you get through it, especially as you have a real mix of ages. I struggle on a daily basis having just two step-kids, it will never ease up for me. Some days are better than others, but I just feel an underlying resentment exude from them 24/7. I can never do anything right and I just feel they look down their noses because I'm not their mum.
Jo82 - 5-Dec-16 @ 1:51 PM
My husband and I have been together 3yrs I have a 15yr old daughter he has an 13 and 9 yr old daughter and we have a 4 month old son together. The girls' mom has decided to step out of their lives and I am the full time mom now. My husband and I never get a break and are constantly fighting about the kids but we are now in family and couples therapy and are seeing a difference in our relationship. Blending families is tough and there is no book that is going to give you the right answer because every situation is different. No your limits, practice kindness and be patient. ??
Nic - 4-Dec-16 @ 10:34 PM
Liz - Your Question:
This sounds like it was written by a well-educated, yet ignorant, non-custodial parental figure. Do you really think loads of people decided to get married without firs considering that someone had kids? Usually there's a very strong bond between the kids and adults before the wedding, and it's a change in the authority the new step parents are required to hold, and unrealistic expectations from everyone's inexperience that leads to problems. Step parents need more support, not more condescending how-two lists. Most I've spoken with feel defensive and like failures, because they hear that following these "rules" is supposed to work after five years or more. When they revisit this, and realized they have done these things, and they haven't worked, they either blame themselves or the children. It's articles such as this one that give soon-to-be step parents the false hope that the union they plan to enter has a pretty good chance of success. Following these rules makes you a good step parent, yes. They may also be responsible for ending your marriage.

Our Response:
Of course there is always a variation to the 'rules' and these are laid out as a general 'guideline' giving hopefully helpful advice. Most people go into the marriage with the best intention that both the marriage and their relationship with their stepchildren is going to work. But everyone is aware that relationships aren't perfect and need to be worked upon. This is purely a guide to point people in the right direction to get the best from theirs. However, there are many great step-relationships that work very well and last the course, some don't, but that could be attributed to all relationships whatever the dynamic.
BeingAStepParent - 26-May-16 @ 2:13 PM
This sounds like it was written by a well-educated, yet ignorant, non-custodial parental figure. Do you really think loads of people decided to get married without firs considering that someone had kids? Usually there's a very strong bond between the kids and adults before the wedding, and it's a change in the authority the new step parents are required to hold, and unrealistic expectations from everyone's inexperience that leads to problems. Step parents need more support, not more condescending how-two lists. Most I've spoken with feel defensive and like failures, because they hear that following these "rules" is supposed to work after five years or more. When they revisit this, and realized they have done these things, and they haven't worked, they either blame themselves or the children. It's articles such as this one that give soon-to-be step parents the false hope that the union they plan to enter has a pretty good chance of success. Following these rules makes you a good step parent, yes. They may also be responsible for ending your marriage.
Liz - 26-May-16 @ 12:04 AM
I have been with my partner now for just over 3 years. He has 3 children age 16. 11 and 7. I have 2 children age 10 and 5. We share custody with out ex's and the children spend most weekends together. They fall out and bicker all the time..none stop moaning. The 2 girls age 7 and 5 or the worst. And now I'm finding it hard and stressful. Me and my partner never get anytime to ourselves and we argue about the kids as my way isn't the same as his. I'm quite stricked but my partner is very laid back. I'm worried this will split us up as we both get irritated by each others children
Frankie - 15-Aug-15 @ 6:12 PM
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