Thu 27 May 2010
Now that’s a conversation starter. Yeah, I know. This is a blog not a book. Discipline in general has been the topic of thousands of parenting books. Throw in the divorce factor then add stepfamily dynamics and you’ve got enough stuff to write a book series on the topic of discipline. But today, I bring you a question that is burning in the heart of one mother.
I recently was in contact with a great single mom whose kids are about to get a stepmom. This mom really wants to work with her ex and his fiancé to put the kids first. She is meeting soon with both of them to “draw up plans” on how to handle discipline across both homes.
Her main question is “what role should a stepmom play in disciplining my kids?”
I asked her if I could throw it out to get comments from the great stepmoms who read my blog and she is happy to get your feedback. What a great person. She truly wants to work with the other home and keep things consistent. If I understand the situation correctly, the kids will be going between the two homes on a regular basis.
Is it possible to keep things consistent between the two homes? What can she expect? As stepmoms, what do you want her to know about how you feel your role is in discipline? What’s your current role? What do you wish it to be?
For me personally, I have to enforce consequences with my stepdaughters as I am a custodial stepmom and I am home with them more than their father is at home. Thankfully, my husband and I recognized that fact before we even got married and made sure we set rules and expectations ahead of time.
Our rules are clear and our consequences are clear so when one of our kids breaks a rule, we don’t even have to tell them the consequence they know it. Setting clear rules/consequences takes pressure off of me to be the heavy. We just need to say “you choose to have this consequence by your choice to do ____________. You know the rules of the house and you know the consequence for breaking them.”
I believe that every stepfamily is unique and that each couple has to agree on how they want discipline handled in their home. This can bring about so much stress for a stepmom. She may often feel disrespected when her stepkids purposely disobey what she says and feels she has no authority to correct the behavior.
The father is such an integral part of making this work. I believe that is why it’s so important for the couple to set up house rules and consequences for all the kids in the home. This takes pressure off the stepmom and also doesn’t make her the “bad guy” with the kids.
In my humble opinion, if the father is home, he should handle the discipline. But if the stepmom is the only parent home, she should have the authority to enforce already established consequences.
There are many situations where the dad travels for work and/or the stepmom is custodial. Stepmoms need the authority from their husband’s to enforce set house rules and consequences.
I know many people cringe at the idea of family meetings but they are so vital in creating an environment where the kids see both dad and stepmom as a team. They can be used for the dad to share the house rules and consequences with the kids (with the stepmom present). It’s important for the dad to say that these are rules we came up with together and together we will enforce them. You will have to respect me and your stepmom’s authority.
And wow! What a great opportunity for this mom. Would it be possible to have a family meeting with she, her ex and the stepmom present to say these are the rules we ALL set up and these are how they will be enforced. How cool would that be for all the kids to see all the parents are on the same page?
This can be such a hot topic. I reached out to my twitter community to see if they wanted to share any words of wisdom as I was writing. These are some of the great comments I received:
- We have a “our home, our rules” situation because we highly disagree with BMs parenting. Also can’t have separate rules for ours than SS.
- At least be consistent in your home even if the rules are different between homes.
- Smooth here…they all seem to know the rules upon arrival & knock on wood we have yet to hear but mommy lets me or daddy lets me. (Yeah, for you!!!)
- Had more trouble blending “our” rules… no more climbing walls, jumpin on furniture, coloring everything, or ham sandwiches for dinner.
One stepmom wrote “2 add he’s taught me many things as well, like patience and lowering my voice-brought just as much to the table, we r a good team.”
I heard from quite a few stepmoms who say that their husband has a volatile relationship with their ex-wife and rules don’t really apply because the mom seems to do the opposite of what the dad says and/or rewards the kids when they are with her.
Whether we are discussing discipline or co-parenting in general, the parent’s unwillingness or shear inability to separate their role as parent from the conflict they experienced in their previous marriage and through divorce make it extremely difficult for them to make decisions with the kids’ best interest at heart.
So let’s hear it. What is your advice for this mom as she prepares to meet with her ex and his fiancé to put a plan in place? Let’s help her out! Thanks!!!