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Discipline in a Blended Family: No Room for Assumptions

Photo Credit: Andrey Kiselev

Photo Credit: Andrey Kiselev

Today I read an article on TheRoot.com, My Husband’s Too Hard on My Daughter.   It really pulled at my heart strings, partly, because I can relate to the subject matter. And, also because there are so many people out there that are dealing with issues in their blended families and they don’t know where to turn.  In this particular article, a reader sent in a question to author and Life Coach Demetria Lucas:

“I don’t like the way my husband disciplines my 9-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. He doesn’t speak down to her or hit her or anything, but he seems unnecessarily hard on her sometimes by taking away her electronics or TV access for long periods of time or restricting her activities excessively. He doesn’t have any children yet and insists that he would discipline the children we have together the same way, but there’s no way to tell because, again, we don’t have children together. I asked him to let me handle any discipline from now on and told my daughter that would be the case. I was trying to solve the problem, and instead it started a big argument with my husband. I want to respect my husband, but I also want my daughter to be treated fairly. What do I do?”

Overall, I agree with the advice that Demetria gave the reader which is that this woman and her husband need to communicate and show some solidarity in front of the child,  and they should compromise and find a middle ground.

When I read the question, it reminded me of my own personal experiences with a blended family.  I had two kids when Lamar and I got married.  And at first, it was very hard to see someone else discipline my kids. As a single mom, I did all of the disciplining at my house.  And to top it off, I thought that Lamar was a lot stricter than me.  Deep down I thought,  “Is he hard on my kids because they are not his kids or is he hard on the kids because he is just stricter than me?”  Well, it turns out that he is just stricter than me on certain issues.  But that really did not sink in until after we had more kids together.

Now that we have some years behind us, I would love to say that everything is just perfect and we are just one big happy family the Brady Bunch.   I would be lying if I said that.   But what I can say is that our relationship is stronger than ever.   And the biggest thing that I’ve learned along the way about blended families is that there is no room for assumptions:

  • Don’t assume that just because your kids liked your new spouse while you were dating, that they will be OK with the marriage.  Ask your kids how they feel about the marriage so that you can address their concerns.
  • Don’t assume that you will be one big happy family right away. It could take upwards of 5 to 7 years for a family to “blend” or maybe never.  So if things aren’t going smoothly right away, don’t think of it as the end of the road. Just know that things will take time, have patience, and be ready to put in some work.
  • Don’t assume that your spouse (the step parent) is the bad guy.  Your spouse is going through these growing pains along with you and your kids.  This is going to be a learning experience for everyone.
  • (Step-parents) don’t assume that you should automatically discipline the kids.  The step parent should bond with a child and build a relationship with the kids before trying to discipline them.  This does not mean that there should not be consequences for breaking the house rules or for being disrespectful.  Create the rules for your new family and home, have a family meeting and review the rules and the consequences for breaking them.
  • Don’t assume that  you are headed for divorce. All families have challenges. So, you just need to figure out how to deal with the challenges that are specific to blending a family.  Find some  tools and resources that are geared towards strengthening blended families and utilize them.

Please share with us some tips that you have learned from your blended family experiences.

More Husband Wife Life on Babble:

5 Ways I Had to Grow-up After Getting Married

23 Ways to Keep The Butterflies in Your Marriage

Warning: 8 Things You May Be Doing to Squash Your Spouse’s Dreams

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