How should a stepparent handle discipline?
First, come to an agreement with the biological parent that establishing rules for individual children will not be the “job” of the stepparent. Instead, it will be the job of the biological parent. Children are concerned about who has power over them. When the biological parent is making the rules specific to them (curfews, allowances, bedtimes, etc.) children see that as normal, familiar, and expected – even though they still might not like the rules or consequences.
Second, stepparents should have their own house rules that apply to all those in the household. There should be no question that stepparents are in charge whenever they are with the children, whether they are applying the biological parent’s rules or the house rules.
What are the other important roles of a stepparent?
- Always be looking out for the well-being and safety of the children.
- Have fun with the children and let them know how much you enjoy them.
- Make sure there are times when the children are the center of your attention.
- Be involved in the children’s lives and encourage them in their activities.
- Teach the children new things and allow them some independence.
- Expect respect from the children.
(See “Why Grandparents Are Important” for more about how stepparents).