Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DISCIPLINE - Is It A Dirty Word?

Let's be quite clear that in stepfamilies the issue of discipline can be an extremely difficult one and therefore can cause a lot of confusion and anxiety. I cannot tell you how often I hear from disgruntled re-partnered mums and dads about their partner - "s/he is sooooooo tough on MY kids but when it comes doing anything about his/her own, s/he just turns to jelly and lets them get away with murder".

The reality is that we all have a deeper understanding and a closer connection with our own children than with someone else's. For instance: You may feel sorry for Jason (own child) when he says that he can't take the garbage out because he's got a splitting headache, but suspect Tom (partner's child) of just being lazy and lying when he uses a similar excuse. You might let Sally (own child) get away with temper tantrums thinking, 'poor thing, she's just upset about something' whilst feeling enraged about Karen’s (partner's daughter) rudeness when she forgets to say "thank you" for something you may have done for her.

Is this fair? No, but it's really rather normal. Does the fact that it's quite normal make it right? No, it doesn't....and that is one of the reasons it is imperative to understand the meaning of discipline. Having understood the true meaning and purpose of discipline it is easier to apply the same rules to both bio-and stepchildren.
In my book to discipline means to teach, demonstrate, lead, guide and encourage children towards being emotionally whole, loving and caring individuals. Yes, disciplining a child, or anyone for that matter, also means letting them experience the negative consequences of their inappropriate action. I am not suggesting that this is easy. It requires determination, commitment and perseverance. It requires patience, your partner's support and an unwavering faith that what you sow today, you will reap in the future.

Points to remember about discipline:

* Is a teaching and guiding process.
* Provides a child with a sense of safety and security.
* Shows a child that you care.
* Engenders responsibility and self-control.
So, to discipline means to take your responsibility as a (step)parent seriously and to take the trouble to do what it takes to help tem grow into responsible and capable adults.


A. Establish rules and consequences
B. Communicate these rules and consequences to your (step)children
C. Enforce the rules through the use of consequences

Now, lets have a closer look at these steps:


How do you feel when you find yourself in a situation in which you do not understand the rules or expectations? Not terrific, right? You may not know how to behave, feel out of place, feel insecure, worried about 'doing the wrong thing'. Well, your stepchildren will feel the same way unless you and your partner let them know the rules in your home and enlighten them on the expectations you have of them.

Before you can communicate rules, however, you need to be clear on what they should be. This makes it essential to make time with your partner to work out what it is that's important to both of you. In that process you may find that you differ in your opinions. Should that be the case, now is a good time to work this out between you. You can only provide a united front (an essential component in step-parenting) if you've talked about, agreed, or at least compromised on these issues.
Discipline should be designed to set your (step)child up for success, not for failure. This makes it really important to decide on rules that can be readily obeyed, aren't too stringent, aren't too many in number and, above all, are appropriate to the child's age.

Points to remember about rules:

* Create order and predictability.
* Are extremely important as they provide your (step)children with structure and emotional safety.
* Prepare children (step-and bio) for the world beyond your front door.
* Need to be age-appropriate, achievable and be kept to a minimum.
* Should be explained kindly, simply and clearly.

As well as being in agreement on the rules that govern your home, you also need to agree about suitable consequences should these rules be broken.
Consequences need to be easily understood by your (step)children. They need to be appropriate to the child’s age, should be fair and applicable to the individual. A useful negative consequence can be the removal of a child’s privilege, such as watching TV, staying at a friend’s house or the cancellation of a special outing. The older the child the more important it is to link the consequence to the broken rule. For instance, a negative consequence for an adolescent who has abused his or her curfew time, could be the requirement to spend the next night, he or she had planned to go out, at home.
Points to remember about consequences:

* Need to be age-appropriate.
* Should be as closely linked to the child's misdemeanor as possible.
* Should be applied as immediately after the rule is broken as possible.
* Should never be unreasonable or unduly harsh. 

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