Discipline is a problem in most stepfamilies.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Discipline in Stepfamilies
Blending adults and children from different backgrounds often brings up problems with discipline due to the idea that people have different lifestyles and different philosophies of childrearing.
Children often resent direction from a stepparent, particularly if they have enjoyed greater freedom when their biological parent was single. Sometimes children who live between homes are not around long enough to receive discipline.
Therefore, it is important that parents provide a structure for the children which is consistent and firm and also fair and that the structure apply to ALL the children whether they live with or visit the family.
Parents need to spend time talking with each other without the kids in order to iron out their differences about parenting so that they can be a team with the children. It is important that parents not interfere with each other where the children are concerned.
It is also very important that the biological parent support the authority of the stepparent when it is so delegated–and it must be delegated in the first couple of years of the new marriage. The child may resent the authority of the stepparent and must know that that authority comes from the biological parent.
Children and stepchildren should follow the same rules and have the same privileges.
Scheduling regular family meetings–usually weekly–is a good way to let children, both visiting and those who live in the home, feel that they are participating in family decisions.
The meetings are a time for parents, biological and step, to pass on requests, ideas, and information as the leaders and executive function of the family. It is a time for children to give their input and vote on issues that they can have a role in deciding.