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Time4change
Time4change asks:
Q:

How much should a step-mom discipline?

I came into my step-daughter's life when she was 2 going on 3 and she does not recall me not being around. She is now 11. Up until last year I played nice with her mom who is a nightmare. We had a falling out that will not be repaired and since then I have become the evil step-mom. Too mean, too strict, etc. My SD complains to her, she calls my husband and it hits the fan. He has asked me to let him handle "big" stuff but told the mom that our house has our rules and I will be allowed to enforce them. Before this I had a lot of discipline control (timeouts, etc) and a hand in carving out chores, etc. Everything seems to keep going downhill though. Fight after fight, talking back and now we find out that moms "counselor" suggested that her current boyfriend and I leave the discipline to the bioparents. He disciplines her other daughter though since that dad is not in the picture. We also have the problem of a 3 yo son between me and my husband. I don't want him to think mommy has no control so... How much should I discipline?
In Topics: Blended families
> 60 days ago

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Expert

ShirleyCressDudley
Nov 6, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

It's very tough to be in a blended family, and there are no easy answers. Ideally, It is best for the biological parents to do the discipline.  If that's not possible, then the biological parent should support the step parent (if they are at work, or out of town, when something like disrespect, disobedience- occurs.)

Talk with your husband and create a set of houserules for your children (bio and step.) Explain the rules to the kids and also the consequences if they do not adhere to the family rules.  This will make it clear that the adults are in charge in your house.
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Additional Answers (5)

aqblickley
aqblickley writes:
Hi Time4change,

I'm so sorry to hear that you're in this frustrating situation. On the bright side, it sounds like you're very level-headed about everything, and not taking the matter too personally. It is very difficult to be a stepparent and stepkids can be just plain mean (I know from experience - I was one myself).

Try to remind yourself that this issue between you and your stepdaughter is not necessarily something you are to blame for. It sounds like you are doing your best to be an involved stepmother who is simply looking out for your stepdaughter's well-being. That said, you still are forced to deal with the (often) negative repercussions of being a member of a blended family.

In my opinion, it is best for only the biological parents to be in charge of the major disciplinary actions. Many stepkids tend to rebel when they think that someone is trying to take over their Mom or Dad's role. However, if you are ever alone with your stepdaughter, I think it is completely acceptable (and necessary) for you to take on a disciplinary role. Additionally, I think it is important for you to make sure you have alone, one-on-one time with your stepdaughter. It will be good for her to see that you're not just "being nice" when her father is around - you genuinely love and respect her.

Do make sure that you and your husband are keeping a united front when it comes to interacting with her. It sounds like the way you previously handled discipline was working for you. There is no reason for your stepdaughter to know that only her dad is in charge of discipline - that can be an agreement that you and your husband have together.

Above all, try to keep a positive attitude! As tough as it sometimes may be to maintain an optimistic outlook, she will pick up on any negativity.

I'm including a link to an article about stepparent strategies that may be helpful to you.

Good luck!

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Time4change
Time4change writes:
I appreciate the advise from you both but I'd like to expound further.  Since my Sd was 3 we've been living in the same home so almost 9 years now.  We have had her in our home every school night and every other weekend and before she started school we saw her about 4-5 days each week.  We tend to be her main home even though it's joint custody with her mother.  Up until the falling out with the mother I was encouraged by my husband to treat her as my own and discipline was a natural inclusion and was not a problem.  I'm sure we would have eventually had some issues with her trying to play people off each other but it seems to be more so since her mother and I had the falling out.  Almost like her mom is saying, "yeah, what did she try to say to you today, I'll call your dad and fix it"  I'm more confused by the fact that the right to discipline her has been mine for 9 years and is being taken away.  I feel like this is adding strain to our relationship.  It's not just being hurt that she's trying to manipulate but I'm constantly being disciplined for running my house.  It's weird too because if I tell her it's not okay to talk back to me, she says okay, no friction or anger, and the next thing I here is that I can't discipline her.  I'm yelling at her?
> 60 days ago

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ShirleyCressDudley
ShirleyCres... , Teacher, Child Professional, Parent writes:
You've got some good support- your husband is willing to handle the "big stuff" and he talks with your ex when she calls to complain. I don't see where you need to do anything differently.

House rules can be different at each house- your stepdaughter will learn the difference. You don't have to change your house rules based on what the other home does.

Normally, I would agree with the counselor's advice about the bio parents doing the majority of the discipline, if possible- but it seems that you and your husband have had primary custody of her for years and your system of discipline is working.

Work as a team with your husband. Discuss your family goals and how you want to raise your children.  When the ex-wife calls, be supportive to your husband, as he listens to her.  It's possible for him to listen to his ex, and not make any changes after the phone call.  He can also request that she limit her conversations to emails, instead of phone calls. (Less stress, and you have everything in writing.)  Encourage him to think over his response, before emailing back.

Keep doing what you're doing, and raise all of your children in an environment of love- one with boundaries and guidance.
> 60 days ago

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natedog138
natedog138 writes:
Time4change - I am no expert, but I have been in a blended family going on 4 years, total of 6 children.  The best approach for us is similar to how a parent would hand over discipline to another caregiver.  We regularly sit all our children down and talk about the guidelines of living in our house, respectfulness, how you talk to people, chores and what the consequences are if these guidelines are compromised.  We never use wording like "Its not ok to talk to Sally (StepMom) like that, instead we use wording like, "Its not OK to talk to ANYONE like that."  I also see conflict in Children when the Step Parent is trying to discipline when the Bio-Parent at home or in the room...very conflicting to children when this occurs.  It FEELS like the other Step Parent IS trying to be the Bio-Parent...creates a lot of animosity.
Also, it is important to let the child have their emotion...its OK for them to get mad and angry as long as they display some level of self-control.  As parents (either flavor) we need to be adults and not take that emotion on, acknowledge the emotion, but stand firm in your position.  Certainly its never healthy to meet your children at the level of emotion they might be displaying...we must prevail with calmness and self-control...something I pray for on a regular basis, I need it!!
Lastly, think of ways to give her some freedom's.  Maybe she doesn't like a clean room, so find ways to compromise.  Maybe she can begin to stay up a little later, this is hard stuff.  Best of luck!
Nathan
> 60 days ago

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CookieClaus
CookieClaus writes:
If you drop off your kids at their grandparents house, do you expect them to follow the rules at grandma & grandpa's house? Yes.

If your kids have friends over and those friends are jumping on the couch, wouldn't the visitors have to follow the rules in your house? (assuming kids can't jump on the couch in your house)

Why are we making different rules for a stepparent? If it's your house, it's your rules. Period. The rules apply to everyone who steps through the door.

With my ex I do not discipline our child for things done wrong at dad's house. We have had an incident where we found out my child did something at dad's that was wrong, but dad was out of town (when we discovered it). Though my child was with me, the issue waited until my ex got back and he made the decision about any discipline. Though I wanted to, I knew it wasn't my place.

I expect (but am not getting) the same respect from my husband's ex wife. I expect my husband to respect my parenting in front of the kids, all of the kids. And I respect his. If we have issues, we should talk about them away from the kids...just like "regular" parents. Because we are regular parents. We are the parents in the house. Period.

But in my stepchildren's mother's eyes, I do not and should not exist. I am not supposed to discipline them, run them to events, spend time alone with them, or help them.

(For those of you who wonder, my husband and I did not meet until two years after his divorce and five years after mine. So, there is no back-story here.)

There is one additional wrinkle in my situation. I am having trouble getting my husband to take the initiative to call out my child for issues, too. It still feels like we are running two families under one roof.

And, regarding the expert advice: I only agree with the expert regarding large decisions...that the biological parents decide...like allowing the child to get a tattoo, a car, when to begin dating, if they go to a private school. HOWEVER, if any large decision will affect the stepparent, that stepparent's opinion should be solicted.
> 60 days ago

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