How To Discipline Step-children

A rise in the number of divorces and second marriages means there’s no such thing as the ‘typical’ family anymore. And finding a new partner later in life often means accepting their children into your life too. Building a new family isn’t always easy and the step-parent/step-child relationship is well known for its many challenges.

When it comes to house rules and behaviour, there may be times when you feel you need to discipline a stepchild. But how you manage the process can have a big impact on the success of your relationship with your partner’s children. In the early days of a new relationship, it’s best not to assert your own rules. Instead, you may find it’s better to compromise and go with the flow. After all, the children are going through a period of adjustment and so it’s probably not the right time to try and introduce new rules. It’s natural for children to try and push boundaries when there is a major change in their life, so try to be sympathetic even if they are badly behaved.

While it’s important not to be too heavy-handed as a step-parent, it is still important to communicate consistent messages. As a step-parent it can be tempting to adopt an overly lenient approach in a bid to make the kids like you, but this can cause problems later down the line. Instead, follow the lead of the child’s parents and provide back up when needed. Let them do the disciplining but make it clear that you support your partner’s decisions. For more advice about building a great relationship with your step-children, visit your family therapist.

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