Blended-Family Parenting Guide

In opening the door to an influential parental relationship with a stepchild, trust, love and emotional attachment are essential. Once these things are established, an adoptive parent or stepparent can effectively guide and even discipline a child. As an old adage puts it: Rules without relationship leads to rebellion. The best stepparents have a firm grasp of this notion and use it to foster healthy relationships.

While authority can indeed exist without a bonded relationship, this fickle relationship does have limits. For example, your manager can tell you what to do, a cop can pull you over, and teachers commonly instruct students in the classroom. Yet, none of these previously mentioned authorities get obedience out of a deep admiration or out of love. In most cases, a stepparent without a loving relationship with the child is just like these previously mentioned authorities, simply imposing boundaries.

It’s vital for stepparents to acknowledge these limits and borrow power from the child’s biological parents as early as possible in blended families. If the stepparent oversteps the boundaries of their role, it can kill the fickle relationship along with any authority they may have developed thus far. As a result, it’s imperative stepparents establish themselves as authority figures, while the bonding magically happens with the child. Continue reading to learn more about parenting stepchildren with a few tips from your Tallahassee family law attorney.

Can I Use That Power for a Minute?

Stepparents can take infinite notes from babysitters. At first, babysitters come in without any real relational authority with the child. The children do not know the baby sitter, probably doesn’t like them, and definitely has no need for them. However, when the baby sitter and the child begin to get to know each other, they can possibly form a very special bond over time. During this transitional or getting-to-know you period, the babysitter must borrow power from the parents to manage the children.

Babysitters Borrow Power

Babysitters can take away the child’s privilege, put them in time-out, and even declare when it is bedtime all because the parent has passed their power onto the baby sitter. The entire notion of “the babysitter is in charge while the mommy and daddy are away” encomposses this theme. This notion empowers the babysitter to establish boundaries for the child and even impose consequences that are entirely owned by the parent. However, if the parent or biological parent is not able or unwilling to own and reinforce these boundaries, chaos will ensue.

The Emerging Stepparent

Stepparents looking to gain authority with a child must follow the same pattern as the baby sitter. In the beginning, the stepparent must act as an arm or extension of the biological parent. The stepparent can set boundaries, enforce consequences, and even say “no.” However, it’s important to understand that these initiatives are not being done on the stepparent’s authority. Simply put, all of these initiatives must be based on the borrowed power of the biological parent. Stepparents must continue to use this borrowed authority with the child until their own loving relationship is fostered, nurtured, and matured with the child. In the end, this relationship will open the door to more authority and influence with the stepparent.

When families decide to “blend” and create stepfamilies, the process is rarely smooth. Children can resist the change, while parents can become irritated when the new “blended” family doesn’t function like their previous family did. It’s important to keep in mind that new families require adjustment for everyone. Although the work ahead may be tiresome, grueling, and even frustrating, the reward is truly great and undoubtedly worth it.


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