House rules are extremely important and many couples don’t do this, especially in the beginning, because they say it will get resolved if it needs to be.
As soon as a couple thinks they are going to be serious in making their relationship last, before they commit to moving in together or, if they have moved in together, before any long term changes have started, to sit down and have those conversations. Have conversations about who’s going to discipline the children. Ideally, it should be the biological parent, especially when talking about pre-teens and teenagers, it’s even more important.
Talking about what is appropriate for children to do, house rules. Are we going to treat every child equally especially if you have children who are of the same age but from a different family? How do you deal with the way you raise your children?
So there are a lot of things to come into consideration when you’re coming together as a step family. That doesn’t happen when you are in a nuclear family because as the kids grow and mature, you adapt your family to these different stages in life. You make up the rules as you’re going along with these children.
When it comes to discipline, most often, it should be the biological parent that handles the discipline. That really depends on the age of the child and it depends on the kind of relationship you have with a child.
Ideally in the beginning, it should be the biological parent. As you mature and grow this relationship and what I mean by this is you build trust. You do things together and you get to know one another and then you can step into the role of being more of a disciplinarian.
This can get really crazy because if a stepmom disciplines her own children and not the step children, then there may be conflict between the children. Mom’s children might say, “Well how come you’re disciplining me but you’re not disciplining this one?”
That’s where you really need to become a team. This is where communicating with your partner, with your spouse is key to making this work, and it’s not always easy. What needs to be done here is meetings with your partner and meetings with the kids.
The rules should be done by the couple. Negotiated and discussed by the couple, and then presented to the kids and have a discussion around the consequences and what happens. You would be surprised how the kids will come up with their own consequences to some of their own behaviors.
When the kids come with their own consequences, they will own up to it and they will more readily accept the discipline being done because of that.
Then the couple in front of the kids says, “We are agreeing that this is what should be happening.” So the kids see you as a united front. That’s why it’s important that both of you agree in front of the children about what is appropriate behavior, what is acceptable and what are the consequences of those behaviors if they’re misbehaving.
When they go to school and there’s a teacher, they know their teachers are not their parents. And when that teacher gives out a punishment for something that’s not done, the kids understand there are consequences.