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  • Who disciplines in your family? Do you each take on any of the kids, or do you manage it differently? How do the kids respond to each of you?
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 29th January 2008
  • I'd have to say that I am play more of the bad cop role but my husband does discipline as well. He just has more patience partly because he shows up at 5:30 and has 2 hrs with them vs. me I have had a good 11hr run already.

    When I do discipline with the my husband always supports me. We both feel it is soooo important for children to see a unified front. Our children respect us - well for the most part anyway.
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by on 29th January 2008
  • we both do. at first i left it up to my husband because I didn't feel like I had the right to discipline my step-daughter. gradually it became necessary for me to also be in on the disciplining. particularly since she is living with us and sometimes he isn't home and I don't want to have to bombard him with what she has done the second he walks in the door.

    We were having lots of respect problems and attitude problems. We sat down this weekend and made a list of family rules (be respectful, follow directions without having to be told multiple times, keep room picked up). The breaking point that made us actually have to sit down and do this was because I ask her to get ready for bed...she rolled around on the floor of the living room (she's 8 btw). I asked her again to get ready for bed...she rolled around on the floor some room. I got upset and told her (using a strict tone of voice) it was time to get ready for bed and to stop doing other stuff. She told me that I didn't have to have such an attitude which is something we've told her before. At which point I held my tongue. Got my husband and told him that we needed to discuss respectfulness with the kiddo. So, now we have rules and consequences and they are posted on the fridge where they can easily be referenced.

    She's 8 and she's got the attitude of a teenager already...
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jenni on 29th January 2008
  • <b>Momof2</b>: Hey, there, and thanks for dropping by! I absolutely agree with your comment on the unified front. It is very important.

    What I didn't make explicit in the question is that I'm referring to the more loaded dynamic of the blended family, where the children come with the parent into the marriage, and there may be none at all that are joint products of the two of you. Then the question is: do you discipline his kids, does he discipline yours? How do the children respond to the "YOU'RE not my parent!!"

    Depending on the age/characters of the children, these can be pretty treacherous waters!

    <b>Jenni</b>: The thing about being the step-mom (or dad) is that you're not a built-in to their lives, you're an add-on. This can give them the impression that toeing the line with you is optional in a way that it isn't with their bio-parent.

    Add to that the hesitancy of steps to be authorities over their partner's children, and you have a recipe for just the sort of situation you found yourself in last week!

    Like you, I avoided disciplining his kids at first. They were making all sorts of adjustments already, and were being told by their mother that they didn't have to listen to me, just to their dad. (She has since changed her tune, probably because she's now dating seriously, and he has kids! The shoe is not so comfy on the other foot...)

    Fortunately, my husband was in the middle of a career change and was in university, so he was around a lot. By the time he was back to work, the children had made many adjustments, and were far more willing to accept my role as yet another parent-figure in their lives.

    We have also used the "rules-on-the-fridge" technique. It's good to have them written - no doubt about what they say!, and when they're posted, whoever enforces them is simply abiding by the public contract. It's not personal.

    Even now, though, after more than ten years together, I will still defer the more complex issues to him, and he to me. (Things like "I'm worried about her new friends; they seem like they're into questionable stuff." We'll talk about it privately, but it is the bio-parent who addresses the child.) Everyday stuff, like "time to do the dishes", "stop teasing your brother", we each deal with -- whoever happens to be closer!
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 29th January 2008
  • I don't have nearly as much stepmothering experience as MaryP does , but my husband and I operate in a similar fashion with his kids, who are with us part-time. (My son's older and out on his own, and that's yet another dynamic...)

    When we first moved in together, I would discuss issues involving the kids with their father, but generally kept my mouth shut about addressing anything with them directly. When I did, it was usually because their dad wasn't around to see what was going on, and I'd speak in his name. After their dad and I got married I got more comfortable about dealing with things myself - probably because I had "official" step-parent status at that point, and therefore more authority. (That's probably just my take, though - I don't think it really made, or makes, much difference to the kids, since I have yet to experience one of my biggest worries - hearing "I don't have to listen to you. You're not my mom.";)

    On big issues, I do think it's up to the bio-parent to deal with the child. I'll discuss things with my husband and support him, but I think it's more important for him to get on the same page with their mother than with me in those cases. On smaller matters, I've become much more outspoken, especially when I notice misbehavior before their dad does. The funny part is that despite the big worry I mentioned, I actually get less backtalk and more prompt responses from the kids than their dad does.
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 29th January 2008
  • My step-daughter hasn't pulled the "You're not my mom" line on me yet. I worry one day she will and I'm not sure how I'll respond. My prepared response is: "You're right, I'm not your mother, however I am the adult and you will listen to me." or something like that. It sounds good in theory. I imagine I'll actually just walk out of the room and tell my husband what she said and probably not be involved in whatever discussion they have about it (by my choice not either of theirs).

    To some degree she doesn't listen as well to me as she does to her dad but I think that actually has more to do with our personalities than our relationship to her. She knows that I won't really start getting upset until I'm asking her to do something for the 3rd time. She knows that her dad will get upset if he even has to ask twice.

    Also, her biomom really helped make the transition for me to come into her life. Her biomom has had a serious boyfriend that came into their relationship with 2 kids and they've had 2 more kids together. So her bio-mom had the experience of becoming a step-mom already. Plus it helps that her bio-mom knows I would do anything for my step-daughter.
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jenni on 29th January 2008
  • Florinda: What you describe is pretty much exactly how we deal with it, too. You just said it more concisely than I'd managed!

    Jenni - I think if/when she does pull the "you're not my mother" (and we'll hope she never does!), your prepared response is the best. My strong feeling is that you should say it - THEN talk to your husband about it.

    Sounds to me like you might take a page from your husband's book - he expects her to listen the first time. I don't think you have to get upset or angry when she doesn't: but I do think you need to take action immediately. What that action is will depend on what's at issue. But I believe calm, firm action is better than anger. If you have to "get mad" to make things happen, you'll spend a lot of time being mad. Who wants that?
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 30th January 2008
  • MaryP - Somehow, it doesn't surprise me that you and I have a similar approach to this.

    Jenni - I have to concur with MaryP's point. Kids - step- or not - need to learn, the sooner the better, that they need to do as they're asked before they push the parent to the point of anger. If that happens, they've got more power than they should have, and won't take your word as seriously as they should.
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 30th January 2008
  • Yikes - I am SO the disciplinarian in our family. I used to blame my husband ("you make me be the bad guy";) and then I realized that it's in my nature to discipline. If anything, I've found that I need to be less prone to "jump" when one of the kids is doing something they shouldn't. Breathe in...breathe out...

    On the whole "you're not my mom" topic, none of my kids have pulled this on me yet (although I'm not convinced they haven't wanted to...), but my "in my head" response is "Yep, you're exactly right, I'm not. But right now, I'm in charge, so not listening is not an option."
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by shanita257 on 26th February 2008
  • Jenni, Florinda, Mary P - I'm so impressed with all of you. How do you do it? (That's not a rhetorical question ).

    From very early on I took on an adult role with my to-be-step-kids. A lot like an aunt would; and I would have probably preferred to keep it that way. But their dad was gone a lot at the time and 90% of visitation was just me and the boys so I had to quickly step into the stepmom role. It was so hard at first because I didn't have him around to show me how things were done before or what rules they'd already lived by, etc etc. So we (the kids and I) fumbled around a lot and defined our roles over time. During that time period rules changed a lot, as we all adjusted.

    I don't have any of my own kids yet so the bottom line is: when Dad is not around I am the sole disciplinarian while the boys are with me; and when Dad is around we share that responsibility and back each other up 100%. I do find that in some situations they respond to me quicker and with less drama. But at the end of the day he's their Dad and, at least in my mind, that gives him more authority and more leeway(sp?) and they will always love him back unconditionally. (Insert self-doubt here).
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Norma.P on 28th February 2008

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