Being a step parent does not mean being stepped on or walked over like a doormat. It also does not have to be hard, frustrating and disruptive to daily life. Parenting is a challenge, even when you have known the children from birth. Blending families, past experiences, expectations, parenting styles and stages of growth can have an impact on relationships. It is easy to love someone else's children, not always easy to raise them.
Statistics say that half of all Americans will be in a step relationship at some period in their lives. By putting simple techniques and methods in place in your family, you can smooth the journey for everyone concerned.
1. Develop community by cooperation not competition: Determine to work together with the other adults in the child's life to support and encourage their endeavors. Vow to only say positive things about the other parent, and to remain impartial when you hear negative. If the new step dad wants to coach the little league team, then you find another way to share your love. Reinforce how fortunate the child is to have all these adults in life who love him. Put the child's welfare first.
2. Mutual respect with family meetings: Your family is an organization, and all high functioning organizations have planning meetings and an action plan to accomplish their goals. Set aside at least one hour every week to listen, talk and have some open dialog about how things are going in your home. This is not a time for criticism, lectures or threats.
3. Have a few firm and kind rules: Decide as a family what is important to you. Do you speak with respect to one another? Do you want homework done before dinner? Do you all have chores and work together to keep the house comfortable? You don't want a long detailed list, but rather some general areas, which you all agree are important to "this family."
4. Be the adult in charge. When a child says, "I hate you, you are not my mommy. I don't have to do what you say" it may hurt your feelings. This is pretty inevitable, so get over it and tell the child, "You are right, I am not your parent, but I do care about you and want what is best for all the members of the family. Right now, I am the adult in charge and this is the rule for this house."
5. Plan for transition time: Recognize that it is difficult and confusing for children to have a different set of rules at Mommy's house and Daddy's house. It is also hard for them to know who is in charge when the exchange of authority is made at child care. Be gentle as you remind them that you have confidence in their ability to remember how to act appropriately in all situations.
6. Discipline with dignity: Remember there is a big difference between the deed and the doer. It is the behavior that is irritating, not the child. When you correct, correct the behavior and express confidence in the child making better choices next time. The best teaching comes from using natural or logical consequences that are linked with the mistake.
7. Make a commitment to the marriage: Have a date night where the focus is not on the kids, bills, ex-partners or anything but each other. You need to establish a stable, loving partnership that will withstand all the little and big bumps in this journey. This is not about yours, mine, ours, theirs, who did what to who when. It is about climbing the steps to successful parenting together as a couple.
Artichoke Press is the home site of Judy H. Wright, family relationship coach and author. If your organization would like to schedule Auntie Artichoke, the storytelling trainer, for a workshop please call 406.549.9813.
You are also invited to visit our blog at http://www.AskAuntieArtichoke.com for answers and suggestions which will enhance your relationships. You will also find a full listing of tele-classes just for you.
Submitted by: Judy H. Wright *
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