Being the stepparent 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; however, 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 preventive maintenance. In other words, there are some things that you can do so 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 preventive 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 mom and dad are working together as a team; there is not a power struggle 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 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. 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. It also helps relieve their insecurities about you and your husband’s relationship, and how they can play you against him.
The next preventive 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 go 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 not going to be ready for bath time, and getting ready for bed gets sidetracked by the box of toys in their room. Your child needs to know 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 pick them up, or take them by the hand and tell them its bath time. Then, put them in the bath, or walk them to their room and put jammies on and put them in bed. There should be no asking, no long drawn out conversations trying to win out over a three-year-old. By doing this, you have removed many obstacles and opportunities for the child to fail and the need for discipline and consequences; you have 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 do it. And, you have just added many, many minutes back into your day so 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 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 my parents meant what they said. If I acted up in church and they said, “You’re gonna get it when you get home,” 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 also appreciate how they also disciplined me in private.) The important part of this is they said it and then they did it. This was especially important as a teenager. I didn’t push my limits very often, because 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 strategies in place that would help them to feel more secure. If you will do these things, you might not have to walk on so many eggshells!