Lucky Seven Family

Category Archives: Discipline

Step-Momming — please remember you are the adult!

When my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer, my family was told she had six months to live .  She came home from the hospital and chemotherapy ensued.  Given my parent’s expectations, they identified a home health aid to be available for my mother.  Given her strength, fortitude, and the loving care of her friends and family, Momma defied the odds; she managed the chemotherapy like a champ. Given how well Momma was fighting, after about six months, the home health aid was helping more with household items like laundry and groceries than taking care of Momma’s health needs (so lucky we had some healthy times with her!).  I was 18 years old at the time; a freshman in college.  I took my second semester of my freshman year off to be at home given the prognosis we initially received.  During this time, I was a complete brat (or substitute some other word here) to Lillie Mae, the home health aid.  In all honesty, I was just plain MEAN.  She didn’t do the laundry like my mom did.  She didn’t buy the same brands at the grocery store that my mom did.  So, what did I do – gave her the cold shoulder and talked ugly about her to anyone that would listen, including my mom.

Why I am telling you this?  To get your attention! And…

Because I think this relationship is analogous to the step-mom/step-child relationship in many ways…

Lillie Mae was the target of my anger and frustration.  Any sane person can quickly see though, that Lillie Mae was not whom I was really angry or frustrated with, right? I was angry and frustrated that my mom had cancer! And, that I had no control over what was happening.  Lillie Mae was the easiest target… she was new to our family and I didn’t have a personal relationship with her.

Think about it!  What does a child go through when their parents split up? when someone new shows up in their home?  They are angry, frustrated, and realize they don’t have control over what is happening.  A new person  in the home is the perfect target.  That new person is often the new partner of either parent.  This does not make bad behavior excusable; it still has to be dealt with.  However, I hope this analogy will help you think about HOW you deal with it.  Perhaps your first step will be considering where the child is coming from; their life has been significantly impacted.  Also, I’ll make the point that I was not a five year old when I was so difficult with Lillie Mae; I was 18 years old!  So, this pertains to teenagers as well, maybe even more so.

As the adult in the relationship, we have to put the child’s feelings first. It isn’t easy.  When you aren’t being treated with respect, you get an eye roll, or the cold shoulder, just put yourself in the child’s (or teen’s) shoes and remember that as the new person, you are their easiest target.  Take a deep breath, count to 10, and don’t take it personally.

stepmomwithlove2

Discipline – Consistency & Expectations

Following up on the discipline posts from March, I had a few other thoughts on consistency in your blended family’s approach to discipline:

Once you and your partner have agreed on basic discipline rules for the blended family, both of you must be consistent in your approach to disciplining the children.  Children can easily discern when adults aren’t in tune with one another and will use this knowledge to avoid conceding to rules that have been agreed upon. 

A family meeting to discuss discipline may be helpful.  Communicating with children about how your family will deal with issues requiring discipline prior to an issue occurring is more effective than initiating a new mode of discipline when there is a problem to be dealt with.

 

Discipline Discrepancies!

As parents, coming to an agreement on how and when children will be disciplined is important for the blended family; especially if your discipline styles are different or applied for varying reasons. 

One of the issues we dealt with early on was consistently disciplining all of the children.  Different ages, genders, maturity levels and of course, whether they are step-children or biological children can influence how we discipline our children.  Recognizing these differences and bringing them to one another’s attention is an important step in dealing with discipline discrepancies.

When we first met, we had children spanning 3 to 9 years old.  Clearly, our expectations of the older children (7, 8 and 9 years old) were different than the 3 and 5 year old.  One of the issues we had to deal with was applying discipline at bedtime.  The youngest two girls would often find reasons to not want to go to sleep in the bedroom they shared when we were all together.  Crying, repeatedly getting out of bed, asking for water or snack, were some of the behaviors we had to address.  My expectations of bedtime behavior were more structured and firm than were Russell’s at the time.  In this situation, we both had to be consistent and gently firm in our approach.  Showing both of the girls that each would get the same response, regardless of which parent responded, allowed them to learn that we were united in our expectations of their behavior.  This was not always easy!! It required patience and endurance!  However, being able to apply these techniques when we were together also made it easier for us to apply throughout the week; ultimately allowing everyone to get more, much needed sleep!

Working together as a family to set the “family rules” will allow parents to apply discipline for similar situations and behaviors.  Children in a blended family need to believe, and see evidence, that they are being treated as equals; thus, similar rules and repercussions for behaviors that are not acceptable are important to the sense of equality amongst all of the children.  To be clear, I am not saying every child must equally receive everything that another child receives; that decision must be based upon age, maturity, and potentially other circumstances.  However, making sure that they all received some form of discipline for similar issues/behaviors is important for successfully uniting a family.

** One of my favorite books about discipline is 1-2-3 Magic (www.123Magic.com) – this book (now a large series of books) was recommended to me by a dear friend and Pediatrician.  As we brought our blended family together, it gave Russell and me a common guide to utilize to help with discipline issues we encountered. 

What are examples of discipline discrepancies you have had to deal with and what successful solutions did you find?

Discipline: Starting the conversation…

Applying discipline in any family, blended family or not, can be difficult.  We all come into parent-hood with concepts about discipline based upon how we were raised and other experiences we had along the path to becoming a parent.  In addition to our beliefs about discipline, in a blended family, we may also bring other issues that affect our ability to discipline such as feelings of guilt or concerns that our children will “choose” the other parent if we expect certain behaviors from them.  Major issues can certainly arise when trying to blend a family where the parents and/or the children have different expectations of how discipline will occur.

Once you and your significant other have made the decision to introduce your respective families to one another (however that combination of parents and children may look – one parent with children, the other without or both parents with children) – And, may I just note, this is an entirely different conversation – when is your adult relationship strong enough to introduce the children involved?! – I’ll address this topic in another post!  Back to the topic at hand… discipline.

Prior to the introduction of your families to one another, it is ideal to have a brief conversation about discipline just to start the dialogue between the two adults in your blended family.  This dialogue will help you begin to understand one another’s beliefs about behavioral expectations and discipline techniques.  Keep the conversation light and work to learn about one another.  Ultimately, the goal here will be to learn from one another; but, initially you must start by understanding one another’s views on discipline.  Here are a few questions to start the conversation:

 

  • How were you disciplined as a child?
  • Do you consider yourself a strict disciplinarian? Or not so strict?
  • How do you correct behavior that is not acceptable?
  • Do you have any discipline techniques that work really well with your children?

What other questions would you add to this list?

Do you have suggestions on how to start this important conversation about discipline?

Next post, I’ll discuss dealing with discipline discrepancies and setting expectations for discipline in your blended family.