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Should Stepparents Discipline Their Stepchildren?

Happy Stepfamily

Parenting is never easy, having a blended family with biological children and stepchildren makes parenting even more challenging. As families are blended new challenges arise and the family has to define new roles and responsibilities. Finding the right balance can be extremely difficult.

When you first bring everyone together, kids are trying to figure out their place where they belong and if someone else is taking their space especially if they have to share their room. For children, the entry of a new stepparent can create loss and change. Being loyal to the stepdad or stepmom can cause guilt feelings. A child may believe they are being disloyal to their biological parent. They may feel especially guilty and responsible if the biological partner is alone and does not have a significant other. Allow your child time to grieve. While a new marriage can be happy, it is also the end of the previous family dynamic. It can be very difficult for children to accept the new family system and to come to terms that their parent has a new partner.

As you are trying to blend the family, it is important to remember that you cannot force and rush this process. The step parent relationship needs time to develop. As children are learning to adjust and accept the new family system, the couple faces their own challenge of finding the time to spend with one another. After all, this is a new experience for the couple as well.

Stepparents often think they can jump in and begin the disciplining. As a new stepparent it is important to establish a relationship with your stepchild. Allow the biological parent to do the disciplining at first. If you both have children, you may have different rules and ideas on how to discipline. It’s important to come together and create the same rules for everyone in the family. Most importantly, the couple must be on the same page and in agreement with how to discipline and set consequences and work together as a team. If the biological parent is not available, they can certainly let the family know that the stepparent is in charge while they are away. Disciplining should not be harsh in any way. It is more important to establish a bond with your stepchildren than it is to discipline.

Stepparenting can be challenging primarily because stepparents usually try too hard to make it all work. Give it time and be patient and understanding. Listening and validating how your children feel can make a big difference. Try not to convince them how great your partner is and how great it is to have stepsiblings. Allow them to digest all the new changes and accept the new family on their own.

Below are some tips that may be helpful:

  • First build a friendship with your stepchild;

  • Give your stepchildren space to be alone and with their biological parent;

  • Alone children to grieve;

  • Recognize everyone in the new family system is adjusting;

  • Leave the discipline to the biological parent. Within time as you build trust and respect, you will also gain more authority;

  • Listen and validate their feelings;

  • Do not force or rush the process;

  • Remember to be a family.

At the Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, we have a team of licensed professionals available day, evening and weekend hours. We specialize in working with families and meet with the entire family to resolve differences and disagreements. Visit us at or Facebook or call 908-322-0112.

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