A Reader Asks:
My husband and I have a true-to-life “Yours, Mine and Ours” blended family. My children from my previous marriage are better behaved then the children that he had with his ex and the children that we’ve had together. How do we get on the same page when it comes to rule setting and discipline?
Take a deep breath, ahhhh.
The first step to a peaceful situation is to let go of the “blended” in your family and just be a family. Your husband and you love each other and you’ve decided to join your family and become one solid unit.
It’s important to unshackle yourself from the “yours” and “mine” mindset for two very important reasons:
1. The two of you, as parents, won’t look at all of your children equally, therefore an unintentional bias will take hold of your family and consistency will be a struggle from child to child.
2. Your children will believe that there is a difference between them, and will have difficulty moving past the “you’re not my real brother” frame of mind. Step-sibling rivalry will brew and swell where love and appreciation should grow.
The second step is to have a heart-to-heart with your husband about rules and discipline in general. Keep the blame game out of your conversation, or you risk driving a wedge smack-dab in the middle of your partnership. Talk about the things that concern both of you and come to a mutual agreement about what your rules will be and how you will consistently enforce them.
The third step, which will be met with moans and groans, is that you should have a family meeting with all of your children present and deliver the rules and consequences clearly. Allow the children time to share their feelings, but quickly re-direct the conversation if a finger-pointing match begins. Be clear that nobody is to blame, but you both feel that you need to establish concrete rules and expectations for everyone.
Finally, you both must be consistent. All of your children will respect your guidelines if they all absolutely have to follow them. If someone violates a rule, which eventually will happen (children will be children), make sure that you follow through with the aforementioned consequences.
If something major happens, and I mean major, like stealing from a store or fighting at school, swiftly follow through with a temporary consequence until the two of you can discuss a proper punishment for the situation together. For example, tell your daughter that she is grounded from her phone and leaving the house and that you will discuss the full consequences with her dad when he gets home.
This establishes that you are parenting as partners and have equal input and authority. It will also show your husband that you respect him as a parent, build your skills in co-parenting and the icing on the cake is that the “yours” and “ours” will naturally disintegrate.
Blending two families into one isn’t an easy undertaking, but it’s possible to do with love, patience and understanding. Once you’re parenting as equal partners, your whole family will follow suit and familial bliss will be your reward.
Jessi Arias-Cooper is the senior writer and assistant editor for Advice4Parenting.com. She is a work-from-home mother of three boys and has been married for long time. Jessi co-owns Profitable Prose, with her husband, Brock. If she had time for hobbies and interests outside of parenting and keeping house, they would be jewelry making, baking, watching bad B-movie horror flicks and creative writing.