Being the step parent in a marriage is like walking on eggshells … especially in the area of discipline. I raised my children with a wooden spoon to the backside when needed. Dan didn’t use swats to discipline his children. So how did we figure this out? Well, let’s just say hindsight is 20/20.
You and your husband may never be on the same page of parenting, but I would like to give you some ideas for preventative maintenance. In other words, there are some things that you can do so that you remove temptations and situations where disciplining would have to come into being. Personally, I think that is kinda smart!
Let’s first talk about SECURITY as a preventative maintenance strategy.
Let your children see your husband and marriage as your priority. Security comes from knowing that their home is safe and their parents are in love. Security comes from knowing that mom and dad are working together as a team – there is not a power struggle that the children can play one against the other. Let your children see you hugging, kissing … whispering something into hubby’s ear and then smiling, touching his arm and holding his hand. This may cause fits of giggles and comments of ‘oh gross,’ but the security in their hearts and minds is priceless.
I’m going to assume that you have already been building your marriage and home on the foundation of Christ – if not, I would encourage you to seek what this looks like through a local church or Dan and I would be more than happy to work with you. When your first foundation is Christ and then you set your marriage firmly on that foundation – it is unshakable. That kind of security in a child’s heart and mind will deter much acting out and misbehaving based on their insecurities about you and your husband’s relationship and how they can play you against him.
The next preventative maintenance strategy is simple – BE THE PARENT
Be the authority. I see minutes turn into half hours and even longer as moms and dads ‘negotiate’ with their children regarding bath-time, or time to eat or going to bed. We want to be kind and gentle parents so we end up asking our children, “are you ready for a bath?” or we may say, “it’s bedtime so go get ready.” If the children are playing or otherwise engaged, of course they are going to not be ready for bath time and getting ready for bed gets side tracked by the box of toys in their room. Your child needs to know that you are ‘the one in the know,’ the ‘go-to,’ the ‘buck stops here’ parent. So instead of asking your child if they are ready for the next item on the agenda, just go and get your child and hold them in your arms or take them by the hand and tell them it’s bath time and then put them in the bath – or walk them to their room and put jammies on and put them in bed. No asking … no long drawn out conversations trying to win out over a 3-year-old. You have just removed many obstacles and opportunities for the child to fail and the need for discipline and consequences. You have just removed the power struggle or the idea that they even have a choice. You have removed the opportunity to get frustrated with your child when they have not complied with your first or second request. This also teaches the child many things: When mom says we are doing something … we just do it. And, you have just added many, many minutes back into your day so that maybe you can have a chance to put your feet up after chasing children around all day.
The last strategy is to FOLLOW THROUGH.
Follow through with your ‘threats.’ How many of you have been in a store and told your child that if they didn’t stop acting up you were going to give them a swat or take away their candy or not let them have the happy meal toy … or whatever? How many minutes are wasted with this three-ring circus? My trust and security as a child came from always knowing that my parents meant what they said – they followed through with what they said. If I acted up in church and they said, “you’re gonna get it when you get home,” then when we got home, they sent me to my room and told me they would be in shortly. Sometimes I got a lecture but most times I got a swat. And I know I deserved it! (By the way, I appreciate how they also disciplined me in private) The important part of this is that they said it and then they did it. This was especially important as a teenager. I didn’t push my limits very often … I knew the result. There was that trust and foundation already built. I’m hoping you will do that with your children too.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child alongside of love, is trust. Don’t let them doubt you … don’t let them think you can be played or swayed. Colossians 3:21 says, “Do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Wow … think about how many times our children may act out just because we have not set some strategies in place that would help them to feel more secure, know that we are diligent parents and they can trust what we say. If you will do these things, you just might not have to walk on so many eggshells!