10 discipline laws for step parents

May 17, 2017
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    Surveys constanly reveal that the main cause of arguments in first marriages is money, but that the main cause of arguments in a second marriage is stepchildren. Here is our advice to help you through this potential minefield.

    Related: My daughter hates her step father

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  • Take it slowly
    2 / 11 Take it slowly

    Resist the urge to get the topic of discipline sorted out as soon as you move in with your spouse. There will be plenty of time for you to get involved in raising you stepchildren.

    Everyone needs time to adjust – you and the children – so don’t rush into things. It may take weeks, or months, to get to know each other and to build up trust.

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  • Let the biological parents take the lead
    3 / 11 Let the biological parents take the lead

    You’re the stepparent, and it makes sense to let your spouse be in charge of discipline, at least in the early stages.

    Your partner knows how to handle the children best. Even if you have different ideas about discipline and think you could do it better, stand back, watch and take a back seat.


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  • Discuss discipline with your spouse
    4 / 11 Discuss discipline with your spouse

    You’ll have much more success with discipline when you and your spouse share parenting values and have the same ideas about how the kids should be managed.

    Listen to each other, swop ideas and then decide on an approach to discipline that you will both be able to apply with confidence.

    Related: When couples have different parenting styles: 5 ways to resolve

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  • Have confidence in yourself
    5 / 11 Have confidence in yourself

    Disciplining other people’s kids is much harder than setting behavioural limits for your own, partly because you don’t know your stepchildren as well, and also because you don’t want to rock the boat. Rest assured, however, that you will do a good job and that they will eventually accept you.


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  • Use positive discipline
    6 / 11 Use positive discipline

    When you start to get involved as a stepparent, make sure you have a positive approach that recognises and reinforces good behaviour, instead of focusing on the kids’ negative actions.

    Ideally, you should find that it involves giving significantly more reward than punishment.

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  • Don't expect too much too soon
    7 / 11 Don't expect too much too soon

    It would be wonderful if you meshed instantly with your stepchildren, and that you all immediately feel at home with each other.

    While that can happen, it’s much more likely that they’ll be cautiously distant at the start. Having realistic expectations will help you avoid disappointment.

    Related: When parents have different parenting styles

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  • Don't criticise the absent parent
    8 / 11 Don't criticise the absent parent

    Even if you think (and possibly know) that the absent parent was not a very good parent, you should still avoid criticising them in front of your stepchildren.

    They almost certainly still love both biological parents, and want to remain loyal to them both. Your negative criticism could push the kids away from you.

    Related: Explaining the absence of his father


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  • Don't start off strict
    9 / 11 Don't start off strict

    Some stepparents think they should start by being authoritarian with their stepchildren, and then ease up later on. That method usually fails, however, mainly because overly strict parenting encourages the kids to be resentful.

    By the time you do introduce more relaxed rules, family relationships may already be strained.

    Related: 5 ways to discipline children without caning or hitting

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  • Don't give in to everything
    10 / 11 Don't give in to everything

    Giving in to everything Of course you want your new stepchildren to love you and welcome you into their family, and you may think that giving in to them will win you their affection.

    That’s a mistake. If you let them set the rules, they will quickly lose any respect they had for you.


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  • Don't assume it's personal
    11 / 11 Don't assume it's personal

    The fact that you are the stepparent means that the children have experienced divorce.

    Sometimes, they will take out their anxiety and negative feelings on you, not because they dislike you, but because you are there and they know you won’t reject them. Don’t take their challenges and negative comments personally.

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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