Discipline in a Blended Family: 5 Things That Kept Us from Divorce

BY: - 20 Sep '16 | Blended Families

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This article is part of a 3-part series to help and support couples in stepfamilies from the pain and hurt that many families face.

Discipline can be a point of contention in a blended family. And those differences in parenting styles can literally make a couple split if you don’t take measures to build strong relationships and to ensure that your marriage bond is strong.

A Rocky Start

When Lamar and I were engaged, I got my first glimpse of this stepfamily dynamic. We had an argument about how I disciplined my kids. I can’t even remember exactly what we argued about, but I remember he said the word “ridiculous,” and he also said the words “You need to….”

I was so angry with him. I was hurt. I was insulted. I thought: “The nerve of him. He doesn’t even have kids, so how dare he tell me how to raise mine.”

Blended Family Discipline

I almost threw my rings at him and wanted to tell him to #$%^&*%^&*%^&. But thank God I didn’t. I shudder to think that some other woman would be getting this good loving right now instead of me

I have to admit. It was very hard to see someone else discipline my kids. I was a single mom, and I did all of the disciplining at my house. And his style of discipline was very different than mine. I thought that he was a lot stricter than me. And deep down, I was thinking, “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 was wrong. After we had kids together, I found out he is just stricter than me on certain issues.

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, but I would be lying….But what I can say is that our relationship is stronger than ever. And we have been going strong for more than 11 years now.

Here are five things we learned about blended families that literally helped to save our marriage from divorce:

1. Communicating

I can’t stress this enough. We really had to talk about our styles of discipline. We had some very tough conversations, and some tears were shed. But after I told him how I really felt and after he explained how he really felt, we were able to make some progress. Don’t let anger and resentment build up. Please talk to each other, make a plan, and come to an agreement about how you are going to discipline the kids.

2. Compromising

Don’t assume your style of discipline is the right way and that your partner’s style is wrong. There is more than one way to raise a child. Learn to compromise with each other and be flexible. Since I am the biological parent, we defer to my parenting style for the most part, and Lamar supports me in my decisions. But there are definitely some occasions where I need to consider Lamar’s views.

3. Sticking Together

We had to form a united front and support each other. This meant no more arguing and disagreeing in front of the kids. There have been times where I had to literally bite my tongue. I don’t always agree with how Lamar handles things. And I am quite sure he feels the same about me. But we talk behind closed doors. We do not disagree with each other in front of the kids or extended family.

 

4. Building Relationships

You need to work on building strong relationships in the family. Discipline cannot take place if the relationship is not strong with the kids. According to Ron Deal, therapist, author and blended family expert:

“Early on, biological parents should continue to be the primary disciplinarian to their children while stepparents build relationships, trust and respect with the stepchildren.”

But how long does it take to build relationships?

Blended The Unspoken Truth About Stepfamilies DVD or Stream

The average stepfamily takes five to seven years to form a family identity.

Just knowing that fact actually relieved some of pressure on our family. Because when your family doesn’t blend right away, you automatically think you are doing things wrong. Knowing that it’s normal for the family to take some time to come together makes you feel like you are not as bad off as you think, and it definitely puts things into perspective.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 5 Ways to Prevent Blended Family Challenges From Breaking Up Your Marriage. Don’t give up on your marriage because of stepfamily issues. You can get help and this is the first step plus it’s free! Click here to download your FREE eGuide.

5. Opening Our Doors

We were struggling behind closed doors, and we didn’t know where to turn. And part of it was that we really didn’t want to share what was going on in our family. But once we started opening up to other couples and once we started looking for help, we realized we were not alone.

Over 40 percent of married couples with children (i.e. families) in the US are step-couples (at least one partner had a child from a previous relationship before marriage…) (Karney, Garvan, & Thomas, 2003)

Once we started opening our doors, we were able to find other couples who have overcome some of the same challenges we were facing. We heard how other couples structured a system for discipline that worked well in their house. And we learned incredibly useful tools from professionals experienced with our problems. Thank God! We were able to get the help that we needed to turn things around for our family.

And that’s the best piece of advice I can leave you with. If your marriage is suffering and if your blended family is struggling, open your doors, talk to other couples in blended families and get the help you need to address the challenges you’re facing in your blended family.

The bad news is that the divorce rate is 50 to 60 percent for couples in stepfamilies. The good news is that you decrease your chances of divorce by 30 percent when you get the help that you need for your family. (Stanley, Amato, Johnson & Markman,2006)

And that’s exactly what we did. We got the help, and it literally saved our marriage from divorce.

(NOTE: When it comes to stepfamily issues you are not alone. Our film for stepfamilies, Blended: The Unspoken Truth About Stepfamilies gives a transparent look at the challenges that stepfamilies are facing and shows you how to overcome them. Filled with insight from America's top stepfamily experts you can't miss this. Click here to see the trailer.)

About the author

Ronnie Tyler wrote 496 articles on this blog.

Ronnie Tyler is the co-creator of BlackandMarriedWithKids.com and co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing. The proud mom of 4 has been selected by Parenting Magazine as a Must-Read Mom and is one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Bloggers.

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Should Stepparents Post Pictures of Their Stepkids on Social Media?

BY: - 21 Sep '16 | Blended Families

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I was surfing through Instagram when I discovered this: a picture of Russell Wilson and his stepson baby Future.

First Day of School for this Champ! #Blessing

A photo posted by Russell Wilson (@dangerusswilson) on

Cute, I immediately thought, the little man is growing up. But then I started scrolling through the post’s comments. And I can’t say I was surprised that some people would hate on the picture (as Internet hate comes with the territory in public platforms), but I was surprised by the perspective of some.

While the majority of the commenters were positive, a few saw the picture of stepdad Russell and baby Future as a direct insult to the biological dad (rapper Future). Some saw the photo as disrespectful, insinuating that the public display of parenting was pitting him (Russell) against the biological dad (Future).

tweets

But that led me to wonder, should stepparents exercise more sensitivity in these areas, especially when it comes to social media? So I asked around. I asked my husband, friends, family, etc., what they thought about the issue. Should there be a protocol for how stepparents interact with their stepfamily online as it pertains to respect for the biological parent?

Well, let’s just say their responses varied.

For the most part, it was the men who thought the photo was distasteful. They saw the first day of school picture as a milestone event, and documenting that event with the stepdad, given the history between the two exes, was a slap in the face. They didn’t see a problem with a stepfather taking part in those moments of a kid’s life, but they didn’t think it was appropriate for the stepfather, especially a new stepfather, to post it to social media (and especially without the mother in the photo).

On the other hand, most of the women were in agreement that posting the photo was totally cool. Russell Wilson and Ciara are married now, so Russell has a legitimate place in baby Future’s life as his stepdad. That means as a loving, parental figure in baby Future’s life, he should be able to share in those hallmark experiences just like the biological parents.

After hearing out both sides, I was still unsure. So I decided to ask a blended family expert. And here’s what I got:

  1. You should encourage every opportunity for the stepparent to bond with the child—and participating in those big moments in a child’s life will have an enduring impact.
  2. Stepparents are a part of their children’s lives, whether the biological parent agrees or not, so stepparents should be encouraged to share in those moments with their stepchildren.
  3. Biological parents should remove their ego from the equation. Are you just mad that someone else stepping up in a parental role to your kids? Or is it an insecurity on your part? Biological parents should be happy (in fact, grateful) that their kids are receiving love from another key figure in that child’s life. You should see nothing wrong with the extra love.
  4. The blended families should be aware of the situations that could cause contention in co-parenting. They should have conversations with the biological parent to discuss boundaries, such as posting pictures of the children to social media. Sometimes, it’s best to avoid an argument or something that could sour the co-parenting relationship.
(NOTE: When it comes to stepfamily issues you are not alone. Our film for stepfamilies, Blended: The Unspoken Truth About Stepfamilies gives a transparent look at the challenges that stepfamilies are facing and shows you how to overcome them. Filled with insight from America's top stepfamily experts you can't miss this. Click here to see the trailer.)

BMWK, do you agree? What’s your stance on stepparents posting pictures of their stepkids on social media?

About the author

Nina Hemphill Reeder wrote 71 articles on this blog.

Nina Reeder is the assistant editor at BMWK. Reeder is a professional journalist, who has contributed for publications and outlets, such as Ebony magazine, AOL.com, Marriott Hotels and more. She has also worked as the senior editor at Upscale magazine, a national lifestyle/entertainment magazine.

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