Step Up: How to Discipline as a Step Parent

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You ask your child to pick up his room, and you get a huge sigh and a roll of the eyes. What do you do next? Ask again? Give him an ultimatum? Ignore the attitude and hope he’ll get to it? Disciplining children is one of the hardest things parents have to do, and in a blended family situation, it just gets even more complicated.

Children of divorce not only have to deal with going back and forth between two different households, often with different rules, they also have to deal with at least two – and sometimes three or four – parents and all of their expectations. Here are some tips to help minimize the power struggles in your blended family household.

• Be clear on the rules. Sit down at a time when all the children are there, and go over the expectations of the household. It’s a good idea to write down the rules and consequences and post them in a common area so everyone is on the same page.

• Be consistent. It might be hard to punish a child that you only see every other weekend, but if you also have children who live with you full time, they will pick up on those inconsistencies. “If you encounter resistance, explain to the child, ‘We want to treat you as we would treat any other child here,'” recommends Dr. John Simpson, a psychologist at Presbyterian Samaritan Counseling Center in Charlotte.

• Be ready for the “you’re not my mother/father” retort. “Take that option off the table from the beginning,” says Simpson. “You can tell the child, ‘I may not be your biological parent, but I love a parent of yours, I’m being supportive of them, and I care for you.'” Remember, it’s your home too, and you’re not powerless to take action and discipline the children when necessary. If you don’t, you will only wind up feeling frustrated and discouraged.

Karen M. Alley is a freelance writer and Web editor for Piedmont Parent, Charlotte Parent’s sister publication, and is proud to be part of a blended family.