This is the last part of my four-part series on "Allowing Children To Run The Show". I trust that by the time you have finished reading this last part you will have much greater confidence in tackling the issue of discipline. If you have found these tips helpful, you may also like to purchase one of the booklets of my 4 booklet series - SONJA'S STEP BY STEP SERIES - entitled "The Challenge of Discipline". To find out more about this booklet and my other resource materials, just click here.
CHILDREN WHO MAKE THEIR STEP-PARENT’S LIFE A MISERY:
When children are allowed to make the stepparent’s life a misery, nobody wins.
THE BIO PARENT constantly feels caught in the middle, never able to please either party. THE STEP-PARENT feels unsupported, stressed, unhappy and constantly wondering whether the price they are paying for remaining in the relationship may simply be too high. THE CHILDREN who are allowed to divide and conquer in such a way will at best feel insecure about the fact that they have such great control, and at worst will be on a power trip that their bio parent may live to regret. They will grow up with a sense of entitlement that says: “I am more important than anyone else. I go after what I think I deserve, I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and…. I always get what I want”. As can be imagined real life does not function like this nor does it support such expectations. The child whose bio parent chooses to not put a stop to their behaviour because they were too uncomfortable with ‘rocking the boat’, or they were afraid to impose limits for fear of losing their children's affection, or they lived in terror of their children's threats: "I'll just go back to mum's", WILL eventually pay a bitter price.
I acknowledge that standing up to one’s child – especially in a step-situation - can be scary, heart-wrenching, difficult and even overwhelming. All the same I believe that it is essential to the child’s emotional wellbeing and the parent’s ability to build a new and satisfying family life with their new partner. It will also outweigh by far the heartbreak that often is the outcome of a parent’s lack of responsible action.
The effort that is required of a parent is as follows:
§ Lots and lots of talking with their children.
§ Doing all it takes to really know what makes their children ‘tick’ – explore their children’s thoughts and feelings and pay close attention to their behaviours.
§ Refusing to live in denial such as ‘if I close my eyes to their behaviour, it will pass’, ‘time will take care of it’ etc.
§ Addressing difficult issues as they arise.
§ Holding on to their heart when their children say such things as: “I hate you””, you don’t care”, “you always take your partner’s side” etc…..
§ Engaging in ongoing open and honest communication with their partner.
§ Being willing to hear their partner’s side of the story when difficulties arise between them and their children.
§ Not going into ‘self-defence mode’ when their partner tells them about issues to do with their children.
§ Consistent willingness to negotiate and actively work towards solutions.
§ Developing patience and being able to delay gratification.
The benefits to the children:
Whilst the benefits to the children may not be immediately obvious they are many, such as the child learning the following:
Trust - If my parent says that he or she will do something, they can be relied on to do it.
Emotional safety – My parent does not abdicate his/her responsibility.
Acceptance – Sometimes I – just like all other human beings - have to accept things whether I like them or not.
Healthy boundaries –
§ My parent does not expect me to make decisions which I am not equipped to make.
§ My parent clearly differentiates between what is my responsibility and what is theirs.
§ My parent does not shame or blame me when things are difficult between me and my step-parent. Instead they clearly let me know their expectations and limits and are not afraid to enforce them
§ My parent cannot be manipulated, scared into or bullied out of enforcing the limits they’ve set for me.
Reasonability - My parent’s expectations are neither unreasonable nor undoable.
The power of choice – My parent does not coerce, manipulate or threaten and instead makes it clear that I have the power of choice.
Responsibility – My parent demonstrates that choices come connected with the responsibility of accepting their outcomes.
Security – The limits imposed on me keep me safe and secure.
Kindness and firmness – My parent role models the fact that kindness and firmness are not mutually exclusive.
Love – My parent role modes daily that love is stretchable and never exhausted by the quantity expended.
PS. BE AWARE THAT EVERYTHING I HAVE ADDRESSED IN THIS TOPIC IS BASED ON THE PREMISE THAT BOTH PARENT AND STEPPARENT HAVE THE CHILDREN’S BEST INTEREST AT HEART.