When I’m working with blended families, the topic of discipline comes up frequently. The biological parent and the stepparent have disagreements over types of discipline, frequency of discipline, length of a consequence, or any one of a dozen other characteristics of a discipline technique. Most of the time, the stepparent presents as the frustrated partner who would like the discipline to be quicker, harsher, longer, or more pronounced in some way.
I have three basic principles I try to use in my own stepparenting, and I encourage blended families I work with to try them as well:
- Talk about the differences in your parenting style. There are four basic parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful. Know which one you lean toward, know which one your co-parent leans toward, and work to find middle ground.
- Let the biological parent do most of the discipline. They’ve been doing it since the child was born. As a stepparent, even if you have the most fantastic ideas on the planet, your interference may be interrupting long-established discipline routines. If you interrupt these routines, you risk causing harm to your marriage, and your relationship with your step-child.
- Spend positive time with your step child. One of the reasons discipline works is that there is a long-standing, stable, trusting relationship between a parent and child. If you as a stepparent do too much discipline and not enough positive time, the discipline you’re trying to enforce won’t carry much weight.
These are tough things to do. And they are tough things for a biological parent and a step parent to negotiate. If you’re having difficulty negotiating this issue as a blended family, please find assistance. Everyone in the family will be happier if the discipline can be negotiated effectively.
Meanwhile, here is another article that discusses the same issues.