“Objects may be closer than they appear.” We have seen this so many times, that it has just become common knowledge. Most of the time we don’t even notice it anymore. It’s actually there to warn us about things we may not see-even our own perception of what we think we see-that could pose a potential danger while driving. This warning on the mirror assists us in knowing when it is safe to move into the lane we would like to be in. I can’t help but wonder how helpful something like this would be when it comes to our family.
As many of you “blended” folks know, it would serve quite useful if each person in our family had something on them, maybe some kind of warning label visible on their person, to remind us of the potential dangers of not building a relationship before trying to establish rules with our stepchildren. Many attempt to swerve right into the parenting lane without first establishing that it is safe to move into that lane. They assume this position based on their own perception of what they have seen or what they think this role should look like.
When it comes to disciplining stepchildren, we should tread lightly and do our due diligence before we do more harm than good. I know when we have children, many of us have said, “I wish they came with a manual.” Well, when it comes to stepchildren, many have gone before us and have laid out great wisdom for us to glean from, a sort of “manual” we can educate ourselves with. The problem is many skip this step thinking they know better.
Many stepparents make a huge mistake right from the start by trying to discipline too soon and, often times, too harshly. To provide you with another visual, it’s like a drill sergeant busting through the front door…”alright, these are the rules and you better obey or there will be consequences.” That may work pretty well in the military, but it rarely works in a blended family, and it makes building relationship with the children much more difficult. Establishing rules before relationship will lead to rebellion, which is what many blended families are dealing with and what causes so much discourse within the “husband and wife” relationship, as well. This is typically when many hear something like, “You’re not my mom”, or “You’re not my dad,” which leads to the dark road of bitterness and resentment. This is the place where couples begin to contemplate divorce, which will eventually lead back to where they started.
So, how can a stepparent set the family up for success in the area of discipline? We thought we’d share some wisdom we’ve gleaned from some of those that have gone before us, that we have applied and have proven quite successful:
- Rules – Relationship = Rebellion
- Relationship – Rules = Chaos
- Relationship + Rules = Respect & Responsibility
To sum this all up, love first. After all, this is the example that Jesus gave us. This is what attracted so many to Him, and still does today. As a stepparent, it’s more important to build a healthy loving relationship with the children than to focus on fighting every battle. Though husband and wife should make these decisions together beforehand, allow the biological parent to dish out the discipline. The children will receive it better from them while still allowing the stepparent room to grow their relationship with the child. When the time comes, this will allow the stepparent to merge into the “parenting lane,” with less bumps while forging a smoother path for years to come.