Let’s face it, our StepKids really don’t need another reason to hate us!
Trying to be the boss of them, is essentially giving the StepKids the perfect stick to beat us with!
I wouldn’t attempt to discipline anyone elses children, it’s totally inappropriate. If any of my friends kids are getting on my nerves, I just do what any other normal person would do – and pretend I’ve got plans later in the day and get the hell out of there! Let them deal with their kids in private, away from my suffering ears…
You can’t do that with your StepKids though can you? Chances are you all live together as one beautiful blended family, and your partner really needs your support against these tiny Terrorists!
Unfortunately we can’t just pop off and come back later every time there’s a dispute at home (we’d never be in the house!) we signed up to this madness when we got involved with their parent, so we also know it’s our wifely duty to help in the most appropriate way we can…
Too much “Bad Cop” from us though and we’ve lost the StepKids respect, and likewise, too much “Good Cop” and we’ve also lost their respect!
We don’t want to be perceived as being harsh and mean, or weak and a pushover either! Getting the balance right in these situations is undoubtedly tricky.
With biological kids it’s different isn’t it – we may occasionally snap at them, or react in a way that on reflection, could’ve been handled better. But that’s ok, because natural kids love their parents unconditionally straight away, no questions asked and vs versa. These occasional fallouts in the heat of the moment, are usually quickly forgiven & forgotten and everyone just moves on with their lives…
Not with StepKids though! Oh no. You better believe they will hold onto that little gem for years and throw it back in our faces at literally every opportunity! It shall NOT be forgiven, and it will most certainly NEVER be forgotten!
The only way to avoid it, is by not getting directly involved…
I had a melt down at the airport once after our family holiday. A full week of pulling the StepKids apart, dealing with mega strops and fighting, and at the very final hurdle, as the bickering continued, I finally lost my shit!
I shouted a load of expletives, span on my heels, got in a taxi and went home. I just left my husband and StepKids waiting for our luggage, staring after me, open mouthed…
We can all laugh about it now, it was an isolated incident, but at the time the kids were not happy with me at all, and understandably so – this is not helpful behaviour and sets a bad example.
But my God it felt good at the time! It was the most peaceful and satisfying taxi journey I’ve ever had, after what was without doubt one of the most stressful “holidays” of my life. It took me weeks of grovelling and bribery before the kids would move on from it and stop stone walling me though…
Trust, loyalty, love and respect is already hardwired into biolgical children’s brains where their natural parents are concerned, they’re born that way – it doesn’t really need to be earned, just maintained as they get older.
This is absolutely not the case with StepKids, earning that shit as a StepMum takes time and hard work. We need to keep proving ourselves, over and over again and throwing buckets of love at them – merely in an attempt for them to accept us in their lives, never mind anything else!
In their eyes, just because we’ve shacked up with their Dad, this does not mean we’ve automatically got the right to discipline them, they’ve got their Mum and Dad for that already – it isn’t our job, and quite right too.
It’s important the kids know the rules though, it’s unfair to expect them to be perfectly behaved all the time, they’re only human and that’s impossible for the best of us! But at least by knowing what’s expected of them when they are with us – they stand a better chance of achieving them.
When we all blended together when the kids were young, we sat down at the dinner table and agreed what was important to each of us. We encouraged the kids to take the lead agreeing our Family Rules, and they volunteered the best ideas – “respecting privacy, using manners, telling the truth….”
So we got the kids to write down the Family Rules for us, then we all signed the bottom of it and put it in a frame! I’ve still got it somewhere, along with a host of other brilliantly embarrassing stuff for when they start bringing GF’s & BF’s home…
When they’re young some of the rules may be – “don’t punch each other, make your beds, brush your teeth, learn to piss in the toilet rather than on the floor….”
As they get older of course these Family Rules will change. Hopefully!
You may instead agree, “set chores for pocket money” or “no phones at the table, no sneaking in pissed after your curfew…”
What became apparent when we started doing this, was that there were some differences in terms of what they could do at ours vs at their Mums, perhaps we wanted them to go to bed a bit earlier for example, they were small things, but as long as it was reasonable – we kept with it.
Essentially, your house, your rules! That’s what happens after a divorce and that’s ok.
There is however, a big difference between not getting involved with the actual disciplining of the children and compromising our own personal boundaries…
No one on this Earth – man, woman, child, boss or bonkers ExWife has the right to treat us or speak to us like shit. In these situations it is perfectly reasonable to explain, in no uncertain terms, in a calm and considered way – that it is unacceptable behaviour and won’t be tolerated. If we let this slide too many times, we unassumingly set a precedent for how we let others treat us. No thanks! We’re not cool with that…it’s nice to be nice.
To his credit, Charming is ace at tackling any bad behaviour from the kids, and ensuring a reasonable punishment is given out – more importantly that it’s stuck to and we don’t cave in.
If we don’t see the punishment through, it’s basically a pointless exercise, but that can be really tough when you’ve got cute ‘puppy dog’ eyes pleading with you, paying you lots of compliments and promising to be on “very bestest behaviour”. But stand strong soldier, it’s for their own good!
Charming also always makes a point of consulting with me in terms of what is a fair punishment – usually in front of the kids, after they have received their lecture from him, and when they have stopped making so much noise about it. Demonstrating to the kids that he values my opinion and that we work as a team.
When they were little, we would ask the kids what they thought a suitable punishment would be – and more often than not they would say something pretty reasonable (no IPad, PlayStation or some chore or other) so that’s what we agreed. We found that if the kids felt it was fair and had been decided by them, they were less likely to kick off and just accept their fate!
Now they are older, we will all sit together, as calmly as possible after the event, talk it through and agree something with them in pretty much the same way.
Charming is basically the enforcer – the official bad guy! He makes sure the message is delivered & understood. I just aim to be fair and try to see both sides of the argument, speaking up for the kids at times if I think the punishment is perhaps a bit too harsh for the crime!
There have also been plenty of times when they were small, when Charming sent them to their rooms for being naughty – and the little monkeys sneaked out, found me, and asked me to speak to their Dad to try and set them free!
And I did – of course Charming knew what was going on, but it was nice that they wanted my help in those situations, and it goes some way to building trust if they feel you’ve got their back.
So when it all kicks off between the kids, they’re fighting each other, crying to get their own way, threatening murder if the Ipad isn’t shared immediately, or refusing outright to eat lasagna, despite it being their favourite meal 3 days ago…
Grab a strong G&T, take a physical and emotional step back, and let your partner be the villain for a bit!
There are few perks to being a StepMum, and not getting your hands dirty with the disciplining is most certainly one of them…